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Saturday, 11 October 2014

Rogan Yalua Soquili, known as Fast Horse, was insistent
as he stood triumphantly outside the circle of twelve Native
American women. Their rapt attention fixed on the
Cherokee métis medicine man, they sat in their ceremonial
garb. Rogan placed his hands on the strong, capable
shoulders of Blue Wolf, a Shoshone woman near his own
age of forty-five



“Make it happen,” he declared, his voice booming.
The Sierra Nevadas in early June took on a shadowy,
menacing aura as midday thunderclouds grew above them.
Rogan looked around gleefully. They were nestled within
the Eagle’s Nest, his compound built high in the mountains,
on a cliff. The wooden walls provided them sanctuary as
they stood on the hard-packed earth. It was the perfect
place to carry out their task. The air around them leaped
and throbbed with living energy.
In the center of the women’s circle, a light feathery mist
began to gather. It moved counterclockwise, never touching
any of the participants. Rogan watched, mesmerized, as
the wispy cloud became darker and began to resemble a
doughnut whose hole was closing. Cauliflower-like towers
grew upward from the sluggishly swirling clouds, and when
flashes of lightning occurred, Rogan’s jaw dropped in awe.
Surely, the ceremonial Storm Pipe and these women were
connected to the most powerful magic he’d ever seen.
Excitement coursed through him.
The women chanted as one, their voices rising and falling
as the thundercloud built with the whipping wind. Rogan’s
hair fell across his face, but he didn’t feel it. His eyes were
on the cloud invoked by the sacred pipe Blue Wolf held in
her hands. With each chant, the intensity increased and the
thundercloud turned more malevolent, eventually shooting
skyward to thirty thousand feet. It was coming from the pipe;
Rogan could see the energy flowing out of its bowl.
As he stood behind her, he dug his fingers into Blue Wolf’s
sturdy shoulders. The rhythmic chanting ebbed and flowed,
ebbed and flowed. The very pulse of the building storm
responded to the women’s voices, which rose in a powerful
crescendo.
Rogan’s order echoed throughout the cedar structure on
the side of the mountain. Standing in the west, the position
of death, he kept his firm contact with Blue Wolf’s elk skin-
covered shoulders. Like a bolt of lightning, heat and
electricity coursed through his hands, leaped up his arms
and shimmered throughout his tense body. Keeping his
knees slightly bent, Rogan closed his eyes, took a deep
breath into his abdomen and then slowly released it.
The thundercloud manifested by the pipe and the women
was inspiring to Rogan. He’d never seen anything like this.
Oh, he knew ceremonial pipes were powerful, but to create
a mighty thunderhead in a matter of minutes…that was
awesome. Lightning continued to radiate from the dark,
churning mass far above them. Most of the electricity,
millions of volts, was held within the cloud. Rogan knew that
the powers involved with the pipe would not allow any of it
to harm the circle of women. It would be contained within
the building storm overhead.
Rogan gazed around at the seated figures. Their knees
touched one another to maintain physical contact. In doing
so, they became the container for the Storm Pipe’s power,
and helped direct the energy and the building of the
thunderhead.
Blue Wolf lifted a very old pipe made of catlinite, its red
bowl glowing in her hands. The smooth, polished oak stem
was decorated with small seed beads depicting a
thunderstorm with a lightning bolt. She began to sing a
ceremonial song to invite the lightning that flashed above
them. Her hands grew hot and felt as if they were burning;
they were merely responding to the power amassing
through the powerful ceremonial pipe.
The women gripped one another’s hands at the right
moment, as the electrical charge within the churning clouds
swirled, growing in strength. The two sitting next to the pipe
carrier each placed a hand on her waist, for Blue Wolf
needed her hands free, to hold the pipe upward in
supplication.
Her voice rose and fell, like a howling wind moving within
the circle. She felt Rogan grip her shoulders more tightly
with anticipation. He couldn’t hold the pipe himself, for the
ceremonial object belonged only to women. If he touched it,
he’d die instantly. He could focus the energy, however, and
direct it to whomever he envisioned in his mind.
Today, the vice president would die. Blue Wolf smiled
inwardly as she sang from her heart and soul.
Their song became more strident, in accord with the energy
unveiling itself before them. The Storm Pipe felt almost too
hot to hold any longer, but Blue Wolf focused, as she had
been taught. All the women in the circle felt the same heat,
she knew. They held the pipe’s energy, carrying the power,
just as a womb cradled a growing baby.
Rogan smiled inwardly as he maintained his grip on Blue
Wolf’s shoulders. She was trembling physically now. The
building energy made her sweat freely, as it did him. Her
singing changed in pitch, and at that moment, Rogan
pictured the vice president’s face in his mind. Focus! He
must focus one hundred percent.
Dizzy from the gathering, spinning energy, Rogan was
trembling so badly he collapsed to his knees. As if he were
a lightning rod, an electrical current leaped and flowed
through his hands, up his arms and through his body. That
was Rogan’s mission as he understood it: to ground the
power of the Thunder Beings that trod restlessly across
Father Sky. He began to slip into a deep, altered state as
the chanting continued. It was all Rogan could do to stay
mentally connected.
Stealing the Storm Pipe had been the key, he thought with
satisfaction. His body was vibrating now, so fast he felt as if
he were shredding apart, cell by cell. Too powerful an
energy could make a person vanish into thin air. It wasn’t
happening to him due to the great strength and long training
of these twelve women, he knew.
Sweat poured down his tense, kneeling form. His deerskin
shirt and breeches were soaked through. Then Blue Wolf
moved her arms and pointed the pipe eastward, toward
Washington.
Now! he screamed to her mentally. Visualizing the face of
the vice president, Rogan issued his final order. Force the
pipe to release its charge now, Blue Wolf! Now!
He was unprepared for that very thing happening. As the
release was triggered, a flash of light occurred, and he was
flung six feet backward. Scrambling to his hands and
knees, he looked around, stunned. The sky remained
turbulent. Angry purple-and-gray clouds still churned above
them. But already the thunderstorm, created by the twelve
women’s intent, with the help of the pipe, was beginning to
dissipate. Had the ceremonial pipe done its deed?
FBI AGENT DAVID COLBY WAS standing next to Vice
President Robert Hiram when an incredible wave of heat
surged like a tsunami through the large office. His boss,
Mort Jameson, was in the middle of his daily report when
the bulletproof window began to glow like sun-scorched
rocks in a desert, followed by an earsplitting boom. Thrown
off his feet, Colby slammed into the wall and was knocked
semiconscious. The agent heard the vice president
scream. Momentarily blinded, Colby slowly crawled to his
hands and knees, disoriented. Automatically, he pulled the
revolver from his shoulder holster beneath his dark suit
jacket.
As Colby staggered to his feet, sweat trickled off him. He
felt as if he was in a steam room! Mort Jameson was
groaning and trying to sit up. That’s when Colby noticed the
vice president lying flat on the carpeted floor, mouth open,
eyes staring sightlessly toward the ceiling.
Beyond the massive cherry desk, the window was still
intact. There’d been no sound of a bullet being fired, only
that deafening boom. What was going on? What the hell
had just happened? The agent holstered the gun.
“Colby! Call for backup!” Mort yelled as he stumbled to his
feet and ran over to the unmoving vice president. Dropping
to his knees, he yanked the man’s tie loose, then pressed
his fingers against his neck. “No pulse! Get help!”
Colby lurched. His ears were ringing, so much he could
barely hear the shouted orders. Why wasn’t everyone piling
into the room? The door was still shut.
Confused, he grabbed the doorknob. Surely someone had
heard the awful booming sound? He swore he’d seen a bolt
of lightning lance through the only window in the office.
Saliva dripped from the corners of Colby’s mouth as he
yanked open the door. He had little control over his body.
Unable to stand, the FBI agent called for help and medical
personnel, then sagged against the jamb.
His eyes were blurred and unfocused now, his legs
quivering uncontrollably. As his muscles gave way, he
slowly sank to the floor.
“THE VICE PRESIDENT IS dead,” Dr. Scott Friedman
announced to the small group of men in business suits.
“From what I can tell, it was a heart attack. An autopsy will
be performed shortly and we’ll know for sure.”
“My God,” Mort muttered, wiping his face with a linen
handkerchief. The knot of men stood in a room adjoining
the vice president’s hospital suite.
Mort’s frown deepened as he glanced at Agent Colby.
Thirty-three years old and one of his best agents, the man
was pale and shaken. In fact, after examining him, the
doctors had told him to stay in the hospital because he was
weak and disoriented, but Colby had steadfastly refused.
“This is…such a shock,” the President’s press secretary,
Burt Daily, stammered. “What are we going to tell the
media?” He kept his clipboard and pen poised as he
scanned the group.
Mort Jameson glanced at the head of the CIA, Bucky
Caldwell, and then at the Chief of Staff, Rodney Portman.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, General Myron Klein, a
marine, looked grim. “The doctor said it was a heart
attack,” Mort repeated.
“But…” Daily looked around the group “…the vice president
didn’t have a history of heart trouble. The man had low
cholesterol, for chrissakes! He’d just had his annual
physical two weeks ago. At fifty, he was healthy as a horse.
Do you think the American public is going to believe this?”
“I don’t have the answer you’re looking for,” Friedman told
them. “I’m just as puzzled over his death as you are. The
autopsy will reveal more. I gave the vice president a clean
bill of health.” Shrugging, he added, “His heart just gave
out.”
“Agent Colby?” Mort zeroed in on the man. Colby had the
face of a lean wolf on the prowl. His gray eyes were
focused, the irises large and ringed in black.
Colby shifted his attention to him. “Yes, sir?”
“Escort Dr. Friedman from the room, please?”
“Yes, sir.” When he gestured toward the door, the doctor
took the hint, said goodbye and left. Colby made sure the
door was shut, then turned and walked back to the
cloistered group.
“Something hit us in that room, sir,” Colby stated, giving
each man present a serious look. “I felt heat, burning heat,
building up seconds before that bolt of lightning, or
whatever it was, struck the vice president. At first, I thought
it was a summer storm. But we had blue skies and
sunshine. From what I can tell, it wasn’t weather induced.”
Mort grimly nodded. “I need your help, gentlemen. I had the
very same experience Agent Colby did. There was
tremendous heat in the room. It hurt to breathe in that
superheated air. And then—” Mort clapped his hands
together “—there was a tremendous booming sound,
something you might hear right after a lightning bolt struck
close to you. The sound still has my ears ringing.
Something came through that window, but the window’s still
intact. Somehow this bolt killed the vice president, and it
knocked the hell out of me and Agent Colby in the process.”
He rubbed his jowls and studied the other men in the circle.
“You got any ideas?”
“No,” the CIA director, Caldwell, said, “but I have my agents
combing the room with the most sophisticated gear
available. We’re trying to discover what the hell went down.
Was it an act of terrorism or an act of God? I’ve got agents
talking to the weather service gurus to find out if lightning
can strike out of a blue sky and leave a window unbroken.”
General Klein, built like a short but powerful pit bull, lifted
his green eyes to the group. “Gentlemen, I’d be looking for
a more concrete explanation. It was an attack.”
“Jesus,” Daily whispered. “You’re standing here telling us
this was a terrorist attack?”
“It’s possible,” Mort snapped, irritated by the press
secretary’s whining demeanor. “You think we like what
happened? Or the implications? If whatever it was can
strike the vice president dead on the spot, whoever or
whatever could do the same to the president. Which is why
he and his staff have been put into hiding until we can figure
this out. None of the ramifications are lost on us, believe
me.”
Caldwell held up his hand. “Look, everyone stand down.
We’re all shaken—badly shaken—but we’re working on this
as fast as humanly possible.” He glanced at his Rolex. “I
expect to have preliminary results in about thirty minutes.
You’ll all be privy to whatever we find.”
Colby said, “I believe we’re dealing with something
sophisticated.”
“Russian?” the press secretary asked, his face pained.
General Klein growled, “Either that or terrorists have
suddenly gotten ahold of the most advanced laser
equipment known. The Russians have developed them for
defensive purposes. Star Wars technology scared the hell
out of them, and they put their focus on weaponized
development as a way to counter what we’re doing. Lasers
are capable of this kind of destruction. We know that
Russia was preparing to mount these on their satellites out
in space.”
“Yes,” Caldwell said in a strangled tone, “and they’ve been
testing their version of SDI in the Pacific against our military
aircraft off and on the last two years. We have five blinded
pilots in different military cargo aircraft who were targeted.
We can’t prove it, of course, but the Russians are the only
ones who have this kind of know-how and technology.”
“Laser technology is ready to be used,” General Klein
agreed wearily. “And all fingers point to them.”
“Could it be other terrorists, though?” Daily insisted. “We
know that the Russian labs in Moscow were looted six
months ago. President Kasmarov never said what was
stolen by the Chechens. Could it have been their laser
equipment? Could they have gotten that stuff into our
country unseen? Used it against the vice president?” He
gave them all a desperate look. “My God, if that’s so…”
Holding up his hand, Mort said, “Don’t go there yet, Burt.
We need time to do a thorough investigation. Right now,
we’re all treating this as an attack from an unknown enemy.”
Shaking his head, Burt scribbled some notes on his
clipboard. “The American public will panic if that’s what has
really happened. Lasers loose in the country! My God…”
Chief of Staff Rodney Portman stirred and opened his
hands, which had been clasped tightly in front of him. “Look,
gentlemen, we all have our work cut out for us. I’m going to
put in a call to the Russian ambassador about this,
discreetly, of course. We have no proof they did anything.”
He sighed and added, “I’ll make some preliminary forays
with the ambassador and be back in touch.”
Klein snorted. “I’ll tell you what. You should, in the strongest
terms possible, issue a communiqué to Kasmarov and let
him know that he’s in our gun sights.”
Gray eyebrows raised, Portman gave the man a thin smile.
“Diplomacy is a must here, General. You realize that. We’re
not going in with guns blazing. We don’t have proof—yet.”
“I don’t need any,” Klein said. “No one in the world has
advanced laser weaponry except those sons of bitches.
This is them or the terrorists, and my hunch is it’s Kasmarov
pushing his weight around. The president has put us at
Defcon Three. And we’re staying there until this gets sorted
out between all of you.”
“Dammit.” Daily groaned mournfully and shook his head.
“Go lie to the American public,” the CIA director ordered
the press secretary. “Heart attack. Pure and simple. No big
deal.”
“Got it,” Daily agreed, his voice grim as he scribbled more
notes on his clipboard.
“Our job,” Mort told the group, “is to protect the president
from any future attack. So, if you’ll excuse me, gentlemen?
We will remain in touch with one another to unscramble this
debacle.”
Colby followed his boss out of the room. He was still feeling
out of sorts, the dizziness assailing him off and on. He
made sure he was near a wall whenever possible so he
could reach out and stabilize himself. Something was
wrong, but what? Was it really the Russians? Why would
they do this at a time when Kasmarov had his hands full
with internal problems of his country?
“Director?” Colby called as they walked out the doors of the
hospital into the dusk. “I’m going back to the vice
president’s office. I want to see if our team has come up
with any clues.”
“Good idea, Agent Colby. You sure you’re up to this? You
look like hell warmed over.”
Grinning tiredly, Colby said, “I’m a lot better off than the vice
president, sir. I’ll be fine.”
“Go for it.” Mort smiled and walked down the sidewalk to an
awaiting black limo.
Colby avoided the flock of reporters still hovering around
the E.R. doors on the other side of the hospital. He reached
the parking lot, opened the door of his dark-blue Toyota
hybrid Camry and climbed in. Sitting there, he took a
couple of deep breaths. Whatever had happened in that
office had made him feel spacey, dizzy and out of his body.
It was hard to focus, to stay grounded.
Rubbing his eyes tiredly, Colby realized he was lucky to be
alive.
CHAPTER TWO
DORIS RED TURTLE, a medicine woman of the Cheyenne
nation, scanned the circle of elderly women. They all sat
without expression, even though the eight-sided hogan,
windows open, was stifling as the Arizona summer sun
beat down upon it. They had gathered in the Navajo nation,
at a special place among the red sandstone monoliths near
Monument Valley.
The medicine woman’s brows, thick and white with age,
drew downward. “Rogan Fast Horse murdered the vice
president of the United States four days ago. That is why I
issued a plea for all of you to come here. He’s sworn to kill
others in the president’s cabinet, and then the president
himself.”
“Why should we care if he kills them?” Sparrow Hawk, an
Apache medicine woman, spoke up. Her hair hung in two
thick, gunmetal-gray braids. She wore a knee-length, blue
calico gown, and cradled a pipe bag made of elk skin in
the crook of her left arm.
Doris held the flashing black eyes of the Apache. “This is
no time to thrash over the history of what whites have done
to our nations. Rogan is a threat to all people, no matter
what their skin color or gender.” Her gravelly voice dropped
lower in warning. “As you know, two years ago, Rogan stole
the Storm Pipe from the Hokahto, Blue Heron Society, of
which we are all members. He acquired this sacred
ceremonial pipe by murdering our sister, Cora Thunder
Eagle, who carried it.”
Doris grimaced and added, “Rogan killed her daughter’s
husband, Hal, as well. This is not news, of course.
“We were all worried what he’d do with this pipe. Sell it to a
collector? Try to use it himself? But why would a man want
a woman’s sacred pipe, which can only be handled by one
of the sisters? Men can never access that power, no matter
how hard they try. We all wondered what would happen.
Well, now we know what he was planning to do with it.”
The women, who ranged in age from sixty to almost a
hundred, all nodded in agreement. There were twelve of
them present, representing a dozen Native American
nations. Each medicine woman had been chosen, trained
and appointed ambassador to this supersecret and sacred
pipe society.
Doris looked to her right, her gaze settling on a tall, thin
Navajo. “Agnes Spider Woman, who is our oldest member,
will speak now. Grandmother?”
Agnes gave a slight smile of acknowledgment, her light-
brown eyes watering, the lids sagging heavily at the
corners. Her gaze moved slowly in a clockwise direction
around the assemblage. Each medicine woman sat cross-
legged on Navajo rugs that Agnes had woven by hand
during her long life. Beneath the colorful rugs, the red clay
was hard-packed, a reminder that Mother Earth lived with
them in harmony. The rocks represented her bones, and
the soil, her flesh. The only door to the hogan was open and
a slight breeze entered, easing the stifling conditions.
There were two small windows, one in the west and one in
the south, that were open to allow a breeze. “Thank you, my
sister Doris Red Turtle.”
Like Sparrow Hawk, Agnes cradled a ceremonial pipe in
her left arm, for the Navajo nation. Veins stood out
dramatically beneath the coppery skin of her hands. She
moved her arthritic fingers gently across the beaded
deerskin pipe bag that carried it. “Greetings, my sisters. I
had asked Red Turtle, who is a powerful voice among our
nations, to bring you here.” Her voice was reedy but still
strong for her age as she exclaimed, “May the Great
Mystery bear witness to our plight and give us direction to
change it.”
Slowly lowering her birdlike arm, she said, “Rogan Fast
Horse, a Cherokee métis medicine man from Nevada,
plotted to steal a pipe from our Blue Heron Society. He
made his intentions clear many, many years ago, but we
gave his threats little attention. Our mistake was in not
taking him seriously. We know there are some arrogant,
power-hungry medicine men among the nations. Few, but
they are there. Usually, they are blowhards, with no action
behind their threats or bragging.”
Looking down at the pipe bundle in her arm, the beading of
which showed a great blue heron standing near water,
Agnes shook her head. Then she gazed around the circle.
“Our society was created so long ago that we have no way
to know how old it really is. Doris and I figure it may have
begun three thousand years ago. We are nations with oral
history, not a written one. And from all I have been told, the
Hokahto Society is very, very old.”
Lifting her hand, Agnes gestured around the room. “Each of
you carries a sacred ceremonial pipe from a time long ago
that has come to you in the present. Each of you was
specially chosen to represent your nation here, because
you have a good heart and a good way of walking. Each
pipe carried in this room represents Mother Earth, Father
Sky, our sun and moon, in some way. Each is different. But
each functions in harmony with the others to create a
connection for all our relations.”
Agnes paused to wipe the corner of her thin mouth with a
white cotton handkerchief. She patted her lips with a
trembling hand and tucked the handkerchief away once
more. “According to tradition, only women can be members
of the Blue Heron Society. Each pipe created was to be
cared for and used by a woman. Only one of the sister-
hood may open up the pipe bag, look upon the medicine
object within, hold it and connect it to the stem for use. We
are charged with working with the pipe to inspire life and
harmony upon our planet for the good of all beings.”
The breeze strengthened and the slanting sun brightened
the shadowy space where they sat. Agnes welcomed the
cooling breeze and silently said thank-you to Father Sky
and the wind spirits. “Each of the pipes has tremendous
power that has been gathered over time. That is why a pipe
carrier is always chosen with the greatest of care. Each
pipe is capable of positive deeds, or can be ordered by the
carrier to wreak death and destruction.”
Pulling out her handkerchief once again, Agnes dabbed at
her watering eyes. “The Storm Pipe was given to the
Lakota people. Not only has Rogan Fast Horse stolen it, we
now know what he’s going to do with it—kill others. A month
ago, I heard gossip from a young woman from the Crow
nation. She said she’d heard that Rogan had vowed to use
the pipe to destroy the white man and his government.”
Shrugging her bony shoulders, Agnes SpiderWoman said,
“It was gossip, and I don’t like tattling about others. The
woman who told me was a good person with a good heart,
but it was still gossip. Yet looking back, I know I should have
listened and not dismissed her claims so lightly. It was the
Great Mystery’s way of warning me.” Agnes’s mouth turned
downward. “And I did not listen.”
Silence hung heavy in the heated hogan. Finally, Sheila
One Feather, of the Crow nation, spoke up. Her square
face was deeply lined from eighty years in the mountains of
Montana. “Rogan is a two-heart, Grandmother Agnes.
None of us here likes gossip. We all know the danger of it.
You cannot blame yourself for not listening. We’d all have
done the same.”
There was a faint murmur of agreement from the group.
Kate Little Bird of the Iroquois nation spoke up. Her eyes
flashed with fire. “Let’s face it—Rogan has stalked power
all his miserable life! He’s bent on vengeance against
anyone—red or white. Is that not so, my sister?”
Sadly, Agnes agreed. “Rogan killed one of us to steal the
Storm Pipe. We all felt that, since he was a man, he could
not use it. But he has found a way to do so.”
Kate scowled. “How could he use the pipe? It will only
awaken and respond in the hands of a woman. I do not
understand this. Do you?”
“Yes,” Agnes said wearily. “This same young Crow woman
told me that Rogan had gathered twelve women to aid him.
He taught one of the twelve how to awaken the pipe and
use it. With these women willingly cooperating, he was able
to control the pipe for his own evil ends. I am ashamed of
these women, for they are no better than Rogan. They seek
power that is not theirs to use. They are all two-hearts.”
“Power,” Kate Little Bird said, “is an aphrodisiac to those
who have none. We all know that.”
“Power is earned through walking in balance and harmony,”
Doris Red Turtle stated. “It cannot be stolen, nor can
shortcuts be taken to work with such power.”
“Yet,” Agnes said, “that is exactly what has happened here.
Rogan knew he couldn’t touch the Storm Pipe himself, or
force it to work for him. So he’s spent the last two years
seeking and finding twelve women who thirst after power
like he does. Rogan assembled a team of medicine
women to support his goals and vision. We all thought that
the Storm Pipe would eventually resurface and we’d get it
back. I didn’t dream that Rogan would devise something
like this. None of us did.”
“Do not blame yourself,” Doris advised the older woman
gently. “When the pipe was stolen, we all felt it would return
to us sooner or later. Ceremonial objects are taken all the
time by those who seek power that is not rightfully earned,
or theirs by heritage or training.”
“Humph,” Agnes muttered. “We all thought since it was a
woman’s pipe, it would be rendered impotent in Fast
Horse’s hands. We underestimated him.”
“No one has ever done this before,” Kate said. “How were
we to know? Or guess?”
Again, there was a murmur of agreement from the group.
All shared in the blame.
Blotting her eyes, Agnes murmured, “Sometimes it is
beyond whoever walks the Red Road with a good heart to
plumb the depths of a two-heart, to discover what evil they
carry or the plans they create. This is one of those times.
We do not think like them and are incapable of such
diabolical misuse of power. But we are all paying for it, and
so is Mother Earth and all our relations. That is why we
must act.”
CHAPTER THREE
AGNES SPIDER WOMAN RAISED her thin hand and
looked around the hogan at her sisters. “The daughter of
Cora was to become the next woman to carry the Storm
Pipe. This is as it should be. Since she was nine years old,
Dana Thunder Eagle was being trained by her mother to
step into her shoes as a ceremonial pipe carrier when the
time was right. When Cora was murdered, and Dana’s
husband, Hal, was as well, the young woman went wild with
grief.”
“That is only natural,” Doris said, shaking her head over the
violent deed.
“Of course,” Agnes agreed. “Dana is like a granddaughter
to me, as you all know. She is Lakota and Navajo, a
beautiful young woman filled with such love and care for
others, a true pipe carrier in every sense of the word. When
she was twelve years old, I gave Dana a personal pipe to
train with—the Nighthawk Pipe, in preparation for carrying
the ceremonial Storm Pipe. Dana accepted the honor and
responsibility, as I knew she would.” Smiling fondly, Agnes
wiped the corners of her mouth once more. False teeth and
old age made her mouth water constantly. “We need to
contact Dana and ask her to come home and fulfill her
destiny.”
“How?” Doris demanded, scowling. “How old is she? In her
twenties?”
“Yes, twenty-nine.” Wiping her lips, then clutching the damp
handkerchief in her thin hand, the elder added, “Dana left
the Rosebud Reservation after the murders because both
sets of her grandparents were dead. She was crazed with
grief. I tried to convince her to come and live with me, but
she refused, and disappeared. But I sent out the spirit of
the pipe I carry to keep in touch with her. She lives in Ohio
right now and teaches first graders at a school near
Dayton. It is her way of dealing with her loss of the two
people she loved most in the world. Children are nothing
but love, and that is where Dana has found refuge…until
now.”
“Of course,” Sparrow Hawk muttered, “the murders were a
terrible blow to all of us. At first we didn’t know who did it.
Over time, we were able to track down the culprits—Rogan
and his lead woman, Blue Wolf.” She tightened her right
hand into a fist. “I wish I could pray for their deaths. I’d do it.”
Doris gave her Apache friend a gentle smile. “As a
ceremonial pipe carrier, you are charged with walking the
Red Road with a good heart. None of us can use the pipes
we carry for anything but good for all our relations.”
“I know,” Sparrow Hawk growled, opening her pudgy,
callused hand. “But I will tell you that, in my heart of hearts, I
have dreamed of taking their lives for what they took from
the Blue Heron Society and from Dana. It is not right.”
Nodding, Agnes said, “No, it’s not right, and now it is time
to right wrongs. But to right them in a way that the Great
Mystery would approve of. We cannot lower ourselves to
lies, deceit, theft or murder, as others choose to do. As
pipe carriers, we are the symbols of all things good about
those who walk the sacred Red Road. We are role
models.”
“I see a gleam in your eyes, Agnes,” Doris noted, grinning.
“What plan have you hatched under that messy hen’s nest
of white hair?”
Chuckles echoed throughout the hogan. Indeed, Agnes’s
white hair did resemble a tangled nest. With arthritis in her
joints, she could no longer braid it, much less comb out all
the snarls.
Raising her white eyebrows, Agnes gave a toothy smile.
“Hens lay eggs. A nest is rich with ideas.” She blinked her
watery eyes. “Besides, the dozen hens in my coop think I
am one of them now. They come up to me, clucking in their
language, and I talk back to them.”
More chuckles sounded.
Agnes felt the tension in the hogan begin to melt. She didn’t
mind making a joke about herself to ease it, and shift
attention momentarily from the awful reason why they were
gathered here. Humor was most needed in the direst of
times.
“We must get Dana to come home,” she stated. “Then I will
ask her to retrieve the Storm Pipe from Rogan and his
women. This is something she must do. She was in line to
receive it.”
Shifting restlessly, Sparrow Hawk said, “But does Dana
have the heart to do this, Agnes? Rogan is savage in battle
and gives no quarter. If this woman has not been fully
trained in the ancient ways, how can she combat him?
Instead of facing the deaths of her loved ones, she ran
away, and has remained out of touch with you. I don’t find
that very courageous.”
“I hear your words, sister.” Agnes looked down at the
knotted handkerchief in her hand. “But I helped deliver
Dana. She was born on November 17.”
Sparrow Hawk grimaced. “So?”
Doris reached over and patted Sparrow Hawk’s arm. “In
case you did not realize it, Rogan was born the exact same
day and month as Dana.”
“Oh.” Sparrow Hawk gulped. “I did not know. Well, this
changes things.”
“Oh, yes,” Doris said in agreement, “it changes everything.”
She directed her attention back to Agnes. “They are twin
souls.”
“Indeed, they are. Mirrors of one another. One has a good
heart, the other is a two-heart—a person of darkness who’s
chosen an evil path to fulfill his needs.” Agnes lifted her
head and said proudly, “You should have been at Dana’s
birth. Her grandparents were there as well. Everyone was
so excited. Because I was there to help with the birth and
had been adopted into the family, I assisted in the delivery.
When Cora went into the final stages of labor, a
thunderstorm came rolling out of the west. I watched from
the window as the sky grew black with approaching thunder
beings, the spirits who create these powerful storms. Each
time Cora cried out, lightning would flash across the sky,
followed by a clap of thunder that shook the house like a
dog shaking off fleas. And when Dana slid into my hands
and took her first breath, a bolt of lightning was hurled by a
thunder being. It split the huge cottonwood that grew fifty
feet away from their door. I stood with my adopted
granddaughter in my hands as the blinding light filled the
house, bathing all of us with his radiant presence. Dana did
not cry. She did not whimper. As I looked out the window, I
saw the cottonwood tree cleave in two and fall over.”
Rubbing her chin, which was sprinkled with white hairs,
Sheila One Feather groused, “Well, there you go, Agnes.
Even then, the thunder beings were telling you that as Dana
was born, another of equal power was being born. It
doesn’t matter that the year of birth is different. When two
people are born on the same day and month, there is a
connection between them. A sacred cottonwood splitting in
two means two of something.” Her thick, bushy brows fell.
“Now we know who the other one is. Rogan Fast Horse.”
“Yes, yes,” Agnes said, nodding her head. “As I stood there
drying Dana off, before handing her to her mother, I didn’t
realize what the thunder beings were trying to tell me. It
didn’t dawn on me until recently.” She touched her head. “A
little slow, this one.”
Laughter again permeated the hogan.
“Rogan was born in Kentucky. Dana was born at the
Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota,” Kate Little Bird
mused. “Otherwise, they are twin souls bound together in a
spiral death dance.” Her full lips puckered and she looked
around the circle. “Only one will survive their confrontation
with one another. We all know that. I have seen other twin
souls born, and every time, one of them dies early. Usually
in a violent or tragic event. And it may or may not be due to
the twin causing the death but they will meet and the Great
Spirit will decide who lives and dies after that.”
“It is a battle between the light and darkness,” Doris
reminded them. “And no one can foretell the outcome.
Dana’s heart must be pure and powerful in faith in order to
overcome Rogan’s dark ambitions.”
“She is the daughter of the Blue Heron Society,” Agnes
declared. “It is in her blood, in her heart, to help Mother
Earth and all her relations.”
“Well,” Sparrow Hawk grumped, “Rogan has plenty of
power now. What’s to stop him from using the Storm Pipe
again? A ceremonial object used for centuries accrues
tremendous power. In the wrong hands, such a pipe could
be directed to send a lethal blow. But even a ceremonial
pipe must have time to recharge after such a feat. Most
take six weeks, at least, after unleashing all their power.”
“True,” Agnes agreed. “I know the Storm Pipe. It will be that
long before she can be used again by Rogan.”
“I hate the fact that one of our precious pipes is being
misused like this,” Doris muttered. “They are our most
powerful ceremonial tools, which is why the choosing of a
pipe carrier takes so long. Years of watching a person,
gauging their heart and intent, to ensure the pipe is used
only for good, never for evil. Once the connection between
carrier and pipe is established, the spirit within must obey
the new owner. In this case, Rogan must have had Blue
Wolf connect with the pipe, for he cannot.”
“That’s right.” Agnes sighed and wiped her mouth once
more. “It is up to us to stop him and retrieve that pipe for our
society. Dana is charged with doing this, whether she
knows it or not.”
“And is she trained in the art of war in the other
dimensions? Is she physically fit for such a mission?” Kate
Little Bird inquired.
“Let me sing you a song that has always been with the
Storm Pipe. Perhaps it may answer some of our
questions.” Agnes cleared her voice and began to sing in a
wobbling soprano.
“Come to me, pipe who works with the storms
I am your friend, I am your friend
Come to me, pipe of the storms
I am your friend, I am your friend
Wind mixes with fire, and Mother Earth cries
I am your friend, I am your friend
Pipe of storms, fire of the sky
Come to me, come to me
Thunder walks, the wind screams and blood flows
Come to me, come to me
Blue heron lies dead, iron hand moves, and the nighthawk
rises
Thunder and iron hand join battle, fire holds the key
Come to me, come to me….”
The energy in the hogan throbbed as Agnes finished the
sacred ceremonial song linked to the Storm Pipe.
“Fire holds the outcome,” Sparrow Hawk said. “That could
easily mean nuclear annihilation for all of us!”
Patting the pipe bag she carried, Agnes said, “That is one
possible way to interpret this song. I prefer to think that
Dana Thunder Eagle will have the ability to work with the
thunder beings, who bring fire in the form of lightning, in
order to destroy Rogan and bring the Storm Pipe back to
us.”
Sheila One Feather groaned. “Agnes, you live in a world of
dreams. Few who have aspired to work with thunder beings
are alive! For their power is as great as a nuclear blast. No
human can physically withstand the surge in order to
harness it for use.”
Shaking her head, Sparrow Hawk insisted, “No, fire means
a nuclear war, not lightning, in this song.”
“What choice do we have, my sisters? Do we sit here
deciding that the sacred song of the Storm Pipe makes us
paralyzed with fear?” Agnes voice lowered with scorn. “I
say we contact Dana and get her to help. You forget that if
the thunder beings choose to work with and through her,
they will protect her from their power and fury. She would
become an open conduit for them to send their energy to
Rogan and his followers, but she herself would remain
unharmed.”
“Wait, wait!” Sparrow Hawk held up her palm. “What do you
make of this ‘iron hand’ in the song? What does this have
to do with the outcome?” She looked around at the group.
Doris cleared her throat and gave Agnes a significant look.
When the older woman nodded, Doris told them, “I have the
answer, my sisters. Agnes is aware that one of my
grandsons, a Cheyenne Lakota, carries the name Iron
Hand.” She held Agnes’s gaze. “I believe that my grandson,
Chase Iron Hand, will work with Dana to secure the Storm
Pipe from Rogan and his women. And Chase has strong
ties with you, Agnes. You, as our leader, are charged with
getting him to help us in our dilemma.”
“You are right,” Agnes said. “Chase is a member of the
Blue Turtle Medicine Society, a group of men and women
who are powerful psychic warriors and healers. He is not
only trained in the art of warfare and protection on the
energy level, but he’s also just recently left Delta Force and
the U.S. Army.” She gave them a narrowed look. “Chase is
the ‘iron hand’ referred to in the song. As I speak, he is up
on a bluff on my reservation crying for a vision.” She lifted
her head, her voice becoming strong and clear. “He came,
unannounced, to my hogan a week ago. He asked me to
prepare him for a vision quest. His time in the army has left
him wanting. He came home to hear what the Yei, our gods
and goddesses, have decreed that he become from this
time onward. Chase Iron Hand is a man of honor, with a
military education and training. I can ask him for his help.
Who better to pair with Dana in this effort?”
Sheila One Feather snorted. “Indeed? Does Chase know
what he’d be getting into?”
“No,” Agnes said pertly, “but he will soon enough. And so
will Dana.”
CHAPTER FOUR
DANA MOANED IN HER SLEEP and tossed the sheet
aside. Brow wrinkling, she shifted to her stomach,
stretching her arm toward Hal’s side of the bed. The dream
that gripped her was the same one she’d had two nights in
a row. In it, thunderclouds smudged out the dusky light,
looming closer and closer, like angry brooding faces. A chill
moved down Dana’s spine and she rolled onto her back,
dragging her eyes open.
Vaguely aware of the sweat trickling between her breasts,
she pressed her hand against her cotton gown.
“Hal?” Her voice was thick with sleep. Husky with hope.
No…he’s dead. Two years ago, her mind whispered back
to her. Tears formed in Dana’s eyes and she shut them
tightly. How long was this cycle of grief and nightmares
going to last?
The bedroom was silent. It was June in Ohio, and she
purposely had kept the window near her bed open. The air
cooled her overheated skin, and Dana focused on the
crickets chirping happily outside the window. Now and then,
frogs croaked. The natural sounds soothed her fractured
state of confusion, grief and loss.
It was more than missing Hal. She missed her mother, too.
Groaning, Dana tried to escape the questions that often
haunted her. Had Cora and Hal suffered terribly after being
attacked? Had they died slowly? What were their last
thoughts? Panicky ones, probably. Rubbing her moist eyes,
Dana flopped onto her back and stared up at the darkened
ceiling, those questions like knives assailing her heart and
gut.
As she rested her arm across her closed eyes, loneliness
snaked through her. The only thing that helped assuage this
overwhelming pain was the personal pipe she carried.
Reaching out, she found the deerskin bag that lay on the
pillow next to hers. Hal’s pillow. He was gone, but the
Nighthawk Pipe had given her solace on nights like this.
Pulling the pipe bag to her breast as she rolled to her side,
Dana closed her eyes, tears matting her lashes.
“Nighthawk, help me. I hurt so much,” she whispered, pain
making her voice hoarse. “My heart feels as if it’s going to
burst with loneliness.”
Dana felt a warmth begin to emanate from the long,
rectangular bag. From the spirit that lived within the pipe,
she knew—the one she had bonded with when she was
young. The spirit answered her plea and sent waves of
healing warmth into her heart. Holding the pipe bag
securely against her, Dana mentally gave thanks for this
unconditional love.
Like rivulets, the warmth spread from the center of her
chest outward, flowing throughout her body. With the
healing energy washing through her, Dana felt an incredible
sense of peace and wellbeing. Nighthawk’s love was
dissolving her fear and her anguish.
Dana released a tremulous sigh. Sleep would come now,
and with it, escape from the awful feelings that had
inhabited her since the loss of her mother and Hal.
Cetan, the Lakota word for Nighthawk, had been her friend,
teacher and companion since she was twelve years old.
Twenty-nine now, Dana never took for granted the energy
the pipe had, the power from the Great Spirit that flowed
through it to her. It was always a miracle, and she felt
humble and grateful to have such a comfort in times of
great suffering. Her mother had taught her that the ancient
ways would always sustain those who walked the Red
Road of the heart. Now, Dana’s faith in those beliefs was
healing her bit by bit from the terrible trauma that had
occurred two years ago.
Cetan was her best friend, a spirit companion on the
unseen levels, and had supported her through this
tumultuous time. Dana gently squeezed the pipe bag where
the head of the pipe rested in a white rabbit-fur pouch to
protect it from being broken. I love you so much, Cetan.
Thank you and the Great Spirit for sending me this healing
energy. I don’t know what I’d have done without your help
and love.
No less than I love you, Cetan replied telepathically.
Dana smiled tenderly as she snuggled into her goose down
pillow. When the pipe spoke to her, it brought feelings of
love and nurturance, plus a rich texture of other emotions.
Over the years, Dana had come to realize that mental
telepathy was more than a concept. When a pipe was given
to a human being, an energetic umbilical cord of trust and
love was forged between that individual and the spirit within
the red, carved stone.
Cetan possessed marvelous powers of healing. It was a
pipe of purpose; anything Dana had requested of it over the
years had been granted. Sometimes, Dana had allowed an
ailing person to hold the pipe bag, and miraculously, Cetan
would send the healing energy of the Great Spirit to the
patient. Dana had witnessed many beautiful moments of
healing and cure with Cetan’s help.
A pipe carrier was there to serve her village. Since the
White Man had come to Turtle Island—North America—the
bands had been disbursed. But those who knew Dana was
a personal pipe carrier sought her out and asked for help.
Dana understood the privilege and responsibility of being a
pipe carrier, and she always smoked the pipe for each
person who requested that she do so. Connecting through
ceremony and prayer to the other worlds, she could help
direct special energy to that person, place, animal or thing.
Her clients were always grateful and would contact her
afterward to tell her of the wondrous changes in their
condition. All Dana asked of them in return was to share
food, blankets or clothes with those who had less than they,
as payment for the pipe’s services. Pipe carriers never
took money for what they did; they were emissaries of the
Great Spirit, and all requests were met with compassion
and love. Dana needed no personal reward, for just being a
pipe carrier was a reward in itself. She took that
responsibility seriously.
Another sigh slipped from her lips as she spiraled down
into oblivion. The wings of Cetan beckoned her…. Dana
knew what would happen as she nestled in the soft, warm,
downy feathers: sleep, blessed sleep without dreams or
nightmares, would come. Just to sleep deeply, undisturbed,
was a great gift.
This time, though, was different. As Dana slept, she did
dream. But this was no ordinary dream. In it, she watched
the purple color of dawn approach. Soon, Father Sun would
rise—a sacred moment she always absorbed with joy.
Dawn was one of the most powerful times of the day.
Out of the red-violet dawn, a dark shape came, flying
directly toward her. The wings of the bird were curved and
long. Dana watched in fascination as the winged one drew
closer. Her heart beat in anticipation, not fear.
As the great blue heron materialized from the shadows, a
strange sense of elation soared through Dana. The red-
and-gold colors of sunrise were filling the sky when the
blue-gray water bird called to her.
Come, Daughter! Ride upon me! I will take you west.
Come, mount me and we will fly together!
The heron cocked its head, its black eyes sparkling with
life. In the dream, Dana moved forward to mount its broad
back. Without fear, she settled astride the bird and gripped
the soft feathers of its long, thin neck. The great wings
flapped, and Dana felt the power of the heron thrumming
through her as it turned and began its journey toward the
southwest. Where were they going? A sense of adventure
and happiness filled Dana.
The landscape changed remarkably beneath them. Dana
gasped as she recognized the red desert of the Four
Corners area. It was the Navajo Reservation, where her
adopted grandmother lived! How many times had she
come here to visit Agnes Spider Woman? So many,
especially when she was a child growing up. Every year,
her family had driven from South Dakota to Arizona to visit
her Grandmother Agnes. How Dana had looked forward to
those warm, happy visits.
As she saw the red desert dotted with juniper, cypress and
piñon trees, an ache started in her heart. An ache of
loneliness for her grandmother, who loved her fiercely.
Since the murders of her mother and Hal, Dana had run
away, and hadn’t once gone to visit Agnes. No, like a
coward, she’d run east and immersed herself in teaching
children, trying to forget her pain, to forget her past….
The heron flew over an eight-sided hogan, built of long
timbers with mud in between. It was surrounded by tall,
mighty cottonwoods to give it shade from the brutal summer
heat. Dana instantly recognized the box canyon with its red-
and-white sandstone and limestone walls. This hogan was
where Grandma Agnes lived. And standing outside, in a
long, dark-blue cotton skirt and long-sleeved red velvet
blouse, and a heavy necklace of turquoise and silver, was
her adopted grandmother. She was waiting for Dana.
The heron landed gently. Dana slid off the bird’s back and
she thanked it. Turning, she saw her grandmother smiling
warmly, her arms opening.
“Grandma!” Dana cried, and she ran up the red clay slope
to where Agnes stood.
In the dream, Dana felt her grandmother’s thin, strong arms
wrap around her. As soon as they embraced, Dana began
to cry—deep, wrenching sobs welling up from within her.
Agnes murmured her name and, with one trembling hand,
gently caressed her hair. She understood Dana’s grief.
For the first time since Cora and Hal’s death, Dana felt
totally loved and protected. She had had to be so strong
after their deaths. All the paperwork to fill out, all the
meetings with the county sheriff, the detectives…It had
been an endless nightmare of ongoing pain for her. No one
knew who had killed them. They still didn’t know. That
bothered her all the time.
“Grandmother…” Dana pulled back from her embrace to
gaze at her. “It’s so good to see you again. I’m so sorry I
didn’t come home after…well, after.”
“Grandchild, do not worry,” Agnes whispered, smiling into
Dana’s eyes. “I understand. What is important is that when I
asked you to come, you did. That is all that matters.” She
touched Dana’s wet cheeks, her fingers shaky. “Tears are
good. They are cleansing and healing. You keep crying.
Better out than in.” She gave Dana a luminous smile.
Stepping back, Dana held her grandmother’s thin, worn
hand. “Are you all right?”
“Of course. I have come to you in your dream to ask you to
visit me. When you awake, you must pack and drive out
here immediately. I need your help, and will tell you why
once you arrive.” Agnes held Dana’s startled look. “You will
come, won’t you, Granddaughter?”
“Of course, Grandma. I promise.”
“Good. Come to my hogan. Be here by the full moon.”
“I’ll be here, Grandma. I will come home.”
As soon as Dana whispered those words, she felt herself
spiraling downward. The scene with her grandmother
dissolved. Accustomed to the sensation, Dana knew her
astral body was coming home to her physical form….
Sunlight slanted through the open window, filling Dana’s
bedroom with brilliance. She rolled onto her back, her arm
still wrapped around the pipe bag. Gently, Dana placed it
on the pillow again. The dream was alive and vibrant within
her. Sitting up and sliding her feet from beneath the covers,
she wriggled her toes on the thick, dark-green carpet.
Outside, a robin was singing melodiously. The sky was
light-blue and cloudless, the breeze fragrant with the scent
of flower blossoms. The world looked different to Dana as
she stared wonderingly out the window. It was 8:00 a.m. on
a Saturday morning…and the vivid dream became a wake-
up call.
Running her palm across her purple duvet cover, Dana
closed her eyes and allowed the full beauty of the dream
and of her grandma’s love to shimmer through her. Her
heart opened like a flower, and she drew in a tremulous
breath. Home. She was going home. Agnes had asked her
to come visit.
As she opened her eyes, Dana felt relief from the guilt
she’d carried since the murders. Her grandmother had
asked her to come and stay with her. Instead, Dana had run
like a coward and hidden in the white man’s world.
The familiar odor of burning sage came to her. Oh! How
she loved the smell of ceremonial smudge, being wafted to
cleanse her of any negative thoughts and feelings. Dana
could sense her adopted grandmother in astral form
nearby. Even though she couldn’t see her with her eyes,
Dana felt her loving and powerful presence. She had been
taught astral travel at an early age. It was an easy way to
visit a friend or loved one anywhere, in the blink of an eye.
The sage was her grandmother’s calling card. A welcome
one.
Lifting her head, Dana looked around her small bedroom.
“I’m coming, Grandma. I’m coming home to you….” she
said aloud.
Dana could swear she heard her grandmother’s cackling
chuckle, felt her hand rest gently on her shoulder. The
sensation was comforting. Strengthening. For too long,
Dana had been off the reservation, disconnected from
Mother Earth and all her relations. She’d run to the empty
world of the white man instead.
Not happy about her choices, but knowing she couldn’t
change the past, Dana slowly got to her feet. The warmth of
the sun embraced her as she walked to the curtained
window. Seeing the robin singing in the Jonathan apple
tree made Dana smile.
Her grandmother was near. She could feel her standing at
her side, her arm wrapped lovingly across her shoulders. A
sharp longing to be back on Native American land plunged
through Dana.
There was such a difference in energy, living on a
reservation versus in the mechanized world of whites.
Indians still had an invisible connection, like an umbilical
cord, between themselves and the land. Mother Earth
pumped energy and love into the “children” who were still
attached to her. As a result, Native Americans cared for
and honored the earth. They gave daily prayers of gratitude
for being alive, for being nourished and fed. They were
reverent toward their true mother, for without her, no one
would be alive.
“Yes…” Dana whispered, her throat suddenly closing with
tears. “I’ll leave today, Grandma. I’ll call the school and get
someone to fulfill my contract.” As a teacher, she would
miss her children. Dana felt badly about that. Right now,
she needed healing and help. “I’m coming home, back to
where I belong.” Even though she was born and raised in
South Dakota, the southwest was her favorite place to live.
Many times in the past, she’d spent wonderful moments
with Agnes in Arizona and had come to call it her real home
over time.
As she turned from the window, she noticed something on
the carpet. Frowning, Dana padded to the end of the bed
and picked it up. It was a blue-gray feather—a feather from
a great blue heron.
How she had missed the daily magic and synchronicity in
her life. Gazing at the feather as she straightened, Dana
understood that the dream had been more than just a
pleasant experience. The great blue heron was her
grandmother’s spirit guide. And Agnes had sent her here to
call Dana home.
Caressing the feather with her fingers, Dana understood
the gravity of the invitation. Finally, after a two-year-long
dark night of the soul, she was going home….
CHAPTER FIVE
“I’VE BEEN EXPECTING YOU, Chase Iron Hand. Enter.”
Agnes waved into her hogan. Although not related to him,
he had visited and lived with her as a young boy. Chase
saw Agnes as his adopted grandmother and she loved
being that for him. He had just come off the bluff after a four-
day vision quest, and taken the sweat lodge that must
precede his speaking about his vision with her. Sunlight
lanced in the doorway where he stood, awaiting her
invitation.
He was dressed now in a white cotton shirt, the long
sleeves rolled up to just below his elbows. The jeans he
wore hugged his strong, powerful body. Agnes was
pleased to see that Chase wore the black buffalo horn
choker around his thick neck, an abalone disk attached to
it. She had given it to him as a departing gift when he was a
young man about to go to West Point Military Academy.
Chase’s military short black hair, still damp from the sweat,
gleamed with blue highlights. He had obvious Indian
features, a square face and high cheekbones, and a
restless gaze constantly moving around to check out his
territory. Golden cougar eyes. Agnes was pleased with
Chase’s alertness. It was what had kept him alive during his
years in Delta Force.
Turning to prop the door open to welcome in the morning
air, Chase smelled the wonderful fragrance of sage. He
knew that each morning, as the sun rose, Grandmother lit
the sage in a rainbow-colored abalone shell, stood in her
doorway and sang the sun up. The white smoke was
healing and uplifting in a spiritual sense. It got one clean
and in harmony for the coming day.
“Come sit.” Agnes gestured for her tall, well-built young man
to sit on a red-black-and-white wool rug she had woven fifty
years earlier. She watched as Chase moved with the
boneless grace of a cougar to settle opposite her, legs
crossed. She accepted the dried, wrapped bundle of sage
that he handed her. That was a sacred calling card,
regardless of nation—a gift of sacred sage from one party
to another. It was a sign of respect.
Searching Chase’s eyes, Agnes saw that the four days of
the vision quest had exhausted him. But that was the point
of a quest: to wear down the physical body and mind
enough so that the Great Spirit could talk to the supplicant’s
heart in dream language.
When Agnes handed him a cup of steaming sage tea in a
chipped blue pottery mug, he took it with a slight nod of his
head. Chase had not eaten nor drunk anything in four days.
Agnes watched as pleasure wreathed his coppery face, his
eyes closing slightly as he sipped the fragrant, life-infusing
tea. Sage cleansed a person physically, mentally,
emotionally and spiritually. It was one of the most powerful
members of the plant kingdom.
“This hits the spot, Grandmother,” Chase growled. “Thank
you.” He savored the medicinal taste as the tea trickled
down his gullet into his shrunken stomach and brought him
back to life.
Pleased, Agnes lifted a beat-up copper teakettle and
placed it nearby so that Chase could drink all he wanted. A
person coming off a vision quest was dehydrated, no
question. And sage tea was the perfect way to replace lost
fluids. “I’m glad.”
Without hesitation, Chase drank two more cups of the tepid
tea. After pouring a fourth cup, he looked over at the aged
woman, whose shoulders were drawn back with
unconscious pride. “I’ve missed sage tea,” he admitted, his
voice raspy. “I’ve missed a lot, I think.”
Even in her nineties, Agnes Spider Woman was beautiful.
Elegant. Chase wondered if he’d ever find a woman who
had these inner qualities that shone through like sunlight, as
they did in Agnes. At thirty years of age, he had given up
hope of finding such a woman, convinced he had only bad
luck with the opposite sex.
“You needed to leave the reservation to find yourself,
Chase. There is nothing wrong with that.” Agnes spoke
gently, seeing pain cloud his golden eyes momentarily. “We
each have a journey we must take. And there are many
tributaries to the Red Road, paths that we are called to take
from time to time. Joining the army to feel your way through
the white man’s world was one you had to take. I
understand this.” Agnes watched Chase nod, his mouth
twisting in a grimace. His face was deeply weathered by
time he’d spent in harsh outdoor elements. Agnes knew
that Delta Force was a very specialized unit whose
members trained hard physically. That showed in Chase’s
forearms, where the muscles jumped each time he lifted the
cup of sage tea in his large, callused hands.
“Tell me of your vision,” Agnes entreated, folding her hands
on the dark-blue velvet skirt she wore, her legs crossed
beneath the fabric.
Chase wrapped his hands around the warm mug as it sat
on his left knee. Closing his eyes, he allowed the vision to
congeal before him once more. “I saw a great blue heron
come flying out of this thunderstorm that was stalking me,
Grandmother. And at her side flew a nighthawk. Lightning
danced around the three of us, and I was sure I was going
to be struck by it. The heron landed in front of me, a
lightning bolt in her beak. The nighthawk landed next to the
heron. Before my eyes, the nighthawk turned into a beautiful
young woman.” Chase opened his eyes and grinned
boyishly at his composed teacher. “She was a looker,
Grandmother. Black hair and the most startling cinnamon-
colored eyes I’d ever seen. They were the color of fresh,
reddish-brown earth plowed up after a hard winter.”
Agnes nodded. “And did this young woman speak to you?”
“Yes,” Chase murmured, sipping the tea. “She asked for my
help. I said how can I help you? She told me to go to the red
rock country where you live, and meet me here on the next
full moon.” Chase frowned. “And then the woman turned into
you, Grandmother.” Shrugging, he said, “That was the end
of my vision.”
“A good vision,” Agnes said, pleased.
Chase waited. It would do him no good to press her for an
explanation of his vision. Patience was one of his strengths,
so he waited. Outside, he could hear the merry chirp of a
robin, and farther away, the trilling of a cardinal. He had
hearing like a cougar, which was his spirit guide.
“I must tell you a story.” Agnes filled Chase in on the Storm
Pipe being stolen from the Blue Heron Society two years
earlier. When she mentioned Rogan Fast Horse, she saw
Chase’s eyes instantly narrow with rage. His mouth thinned,
as if he were struggling to hold back a barrage of toxic
comments. Oh, she could feel Chase’s reaction, and
because she was clairvoyant, she saw the angry red colors
swirling in his aura, confirming his reaction.
Flexing his scarred fist, Chase waited until Agnes finished
telling him the full story. Then silence fell in the hogan.
Taking in a deep, ragged breath at last, Chase expelled it.
Agnes tilted her head to one side, like a bird listening for a
worm.
“Just before I went to West Point, I met Rogan at a
powwow,” Chase told her. “He cheated in the bow and
arrow competition to win. I saw him do it. And so did the
elders who were the judges. When they announced him as
winner and not me, I challenged Fast Horse, because I
wasn’t going to let him get away with it. The elders were
wary of his sorcerer’s powers. Afraid that he would harm
them or their families if they didn’t let him win.”
“But you weren’t afraid.”
“I was, Grandmother, but I also knew what was right. In that
instant, I felt as if the Great Spirit had chosen to work
through me because the elders were too afraid to confront
Rogan about his cheating.” Looking down at his hands, his
blunt nails and the thick calluses that covered his palms,
Chase said softly, “There was a knife fight.” He touched his
brow with his index finger. “I cut Rogan across his forehead.
He bears the scar to this day. I won the knife match and he
swore to curse me, to be my mortal enemy until the day I
died.”
“Powerful words to invoke.”
Shrugging, Chase looked around the shadowy confines of
the hogan. The woodstove was in the center, the metal pipe
leading up through the top of the mud-and-timber roof.
“Rogan doesn’t know humility. I taught it to him that day. I
won the match and the rewards. I knew he was a sorcerer,
but I also had faith that the Great Spirit would protect me
from Rogan’s rage.”
“Did he?”
“Yes,” Chase said, a note of sarcasm in his deep voice,
“after four years at West Point, I volunteered and was
allowed into Delta Force for eight years.” He looked at his
right arm, which bore many small, puckered scars. “Other
than getting caught down in South America by rebels, held
prisoner and tortured for six months before I managed to
escape, I don’t think Rogan got to me.”
“He did not,” Agnes confirmed with knowledge and
conviction. “And I am sorry you had to suffer so much in the
army, Chase.” She gestured to his arm.
“It wasn’t fun,” he agreed grimly. Meeting her watery eyes,
he asked, “So Dana Thunder Eagle must go after Rogan
herself? I’ve fought him, Grandmother, and there isn’t a
woman alive who could do what you’re asking of her.”
“We of the society realize this. That is why the Great Spirit
sent you that vision. You are the other key to us reclaiming
the Storm Pipe.”
Chase allowed her words to filter through him. Closing his
eyes, he replayed the vision again in his head. Yes, she
was accurately interpreting the dream. Sighing, he looked
at her once more. Agnes sat there resplendent in her
agelessness, the sun touching the silver strands of her
flyaway hair. The lines in her face were a road map of her
life. Chase knew she was a tough old buzzard, and her
lean, thin body proclaimed her power regardless of her
age. Admiring Agnes for her strength and great, warm
heart, he offered, “Grandmother, I’m tired. I just left the
army. I’ve been fighting the bad guys for so many years.
Well, I’m just…tired.” Chase didn’t like admitting it, but he
was. Six months of daily torture had reduced him to a level
he never wanted to admit to anyone. And he needed time
to reclaim his tortured spirit, heal from the awful, daily
beatings, and try to become whole again.
“I understand,” Agnes murmured. Reaching out, she placed
her thin fingers on Chase’s arm and squeezed it. “That is
why you came home. Home to find your true calling. Dana
must be toughened up not only physically, but to tap into her
warrior side emotionally, mentally and spiritually.” Agnes
lifted her hand and poked her index finger in Chase’s
direction. “I need you to turn her into a warrioress, capable
of reclaiming the Storm Pipe.”
“You want me to teach her the art of war? That’s all? And I
won’t have to do anything else other than be her teacher?”
That appealed to Chase under the circumstances. Right
now, he was at a low ebb. The fact he’d allowed himself to
be captured by the rebels was humiliating enough. But to
be tortured and finally break, giving away secrets he’d
sworn never to divulge, was a blow that had broken his
spirit.
When he’d finally made his escape and got home, he’d left
the army, defeated and wounded on every level. He’d put
good men’s lives on the line because he’d squealed like a
pig going to slaughter. Chase wasn’t proud of himself. And
right now, he felt mortally wounded spiritually, which was
why he’d come back home to Agnes in the first place.
And now, both she and the vision he quested for were
asking him to reconnect with violence and war. Feeling as if
he could teach this woman was enough of a demand on
him. Chase didn’t even want to attempt to take on Rogan
right now. It just wasn’t in his spirit to do so. “I can train her,”
he stated. “But I won’t go with her to retrieve the pipe.”
Nodding, Agnes said, “Then that is enough.”
“I’m not a soft man, Grandmother. I’m hard. The training I’ve
had is brutal. I don’t know how to be gentle or cajoling.
Dana sounds soft. Unprepared. If I become her teacher she
may quit. Do you realize that she could walk away, because
she doesn’t have the heart or passion for this mission you
want her to undertake?”
“Choices are always before us.”
“The kind of training needed to ensure her survival against
Rogan will be harsh,” Chase warned grimly. “I won’t coddle
her, Grandmother. I can’t. You’re saying we have five weeks
to prepare Dana for this mission before the Storm Pipe has
recharged enough to kill again under Rogan’s direction.
Five weeks. That’s just not enough time.”
“It has to be,” Agnes declared. “You saw Dana in your
vision. I know she is a beautiful woman and I think you are
swayed by that. Beauty can be strong. A pretty face is not
always weak, as you assume.” Touching her blouse above
her heart, Agnes added, “In here, I know she has the
stamina and courage to answer the challenge you throw at
her.”
“So, weaver of people’s lives, when do I meet my student?”
Chase knew that Agnes had spider medicine. She had the
power to combine people and situations together when she
felt it best. Trusting her, he acknowledged that spider
medicine was like any other kind: good or bad, depending
upon how the energy expressed itself through the individual.
And Agnes was one of the purest-hearted people Chase
had ever known. He trusted her more than anyone else in
his world. His father had been a reservation policeman until
he was killed trying to stop a bank robbery. His mother had
died six months later of a broken heart, leaving Chase to
be passed around from one relative to another until he was
old enough to go to West Point. His time with his adopted
grandmother Agnes had left the deepest impression.
“Tomorrow, Dana arrives. She will come and you will
introduce yourself to her.”
Though he had his doubts, Chase said nothing, just
nodded.
“The two of you will work as a team here in the box canyon.
There is a small hogan farther up where you’ll stay. The
winter sheep hogan has everything you’ll require. Dana will
need your brawn and your cleverness as a warrior, Chase.
You will pass your experience on to her so that she can
confront Rogan and take the pipe back.”
Even though Chase had never met Dana, his protective
nature was already at work within him. Oh, he knew that
women could be warriors; he’d seen his share on the res,
growing up, as well as while he was serving in the U.S.
Army. Still, that didn’t erase the age-old conviction that was
alive and well within him: that women and children were to
be cherished, loved, protected and defended. Chase knew
he’d have to readjust this mindset to work Dana into a
tough, well-trained warrior. In five weeks. That seemed an
impossible time frame.
But when Chase saw the hope burning in Grandmother’s
eyes, he kept his worries to himself.
He did not want to disappoint his extended family,
especially this most sacred of women elders. He’d already
disappointed the U.S. Army, and humiliation still ran hot
through him. Clearly, the Great Spirit was setting him up for
another test. Perhaps by training this unknown woman, he
might salvage his pride, his manhood, and learn to live with
what he’d done while imprisoned in South America.
When Agnes passed some homemade fry bread to Chase,
and a bowl of fragrant lamb stew, he thanked her. Fasting
for four days had left him feeling like a hungry cougar.
Dipping the dark, whole-grain bread into the bowl filled with
thick chunks of lamb, onions, brown gravy and potatoes, he
said a prayer thanking all those who had given their lives so
that he might eat.
The moment he took a bite, Chase savored the flavors.
Yes, he was home. Finally. It had been a circuitous route,
he thought, as he swiftly ate to stop the gnawing in his
stomach. Restless, he’d left the res because he was
curious about the white man’s world. And he’d tasted it—at
West Point and for eight years after graduating. Now,
because he’d failed as a warrior, because he’d broken
under torture and interrogation, he’d crawled to Agnes, his
pride stopping him from going back to Grandmother Doris
on his home reservation. Instead, he’d come here to Agnes
on the Navajo reservation to reclaim his shattered spirit. He
hoped he would lead a productive, honorable life once
more.
As he ate the succulent lamb stew, Chase savored the
flavors of rosemary and marjoram. Each bite was more
than just a physical gift to his body, it was nourishment for
his wounded soul. Already, Chase could feel his battered
spirits beginning to lift.
A ray of hope threaded through him. He stopped eating for
a moment and felt the tenuous emotion touch his war-
ravaged spirit. Healing was taking place. Humbled as
never before, Chase finished his stew. Agnes was a
powerful medicine woman, and he knew she’d said healing
prayers over the food. And he was on the receiving end of
her loving hands and heart.
“This meal is wonderful, Grandmother. Thank you….”
Smiling, Agnes murmured, “I’ll get you another bowl from
the kettle. You’re hungry and too thin. You need to regain
the weight you lost, Chase.”
Watching the elderly woman slowly rise, with the elegance
of a great blue heron lifting her wings, Chase admired her
lean, graceful form. Agnes Spider Woman was a bright
beacon of hope in his life right now, and he was grateful to
have such a positive role model. He didn’t know how he felt
about Dana, and that would be a challenge to him. Women
weren’t his strong suit and never had been. Tomorrow, he’d
have to start dealing with one.
Ordinarily, Chase would have said he couldn’t do it, but with
the support and help of a powerful elder who believed in
him, he would try.
CHAPTER SIX
CHASE SQUATTED on the smooth red sandstone ledge
above the winter hogan. A nearby juniper hid his presence.
The sun was hot, beating down on his bare shoulders, and
he soaked it in like a man starving for life. He’d been six
months in a green hell where there was no direct sunlight.
Only rain, cold, and high humidity, all conspiring to break
his spirit.
His gaze swept down the escarpment toward the hogan
near the wall of the canyon. Restlessly, he sifted the fine red
sand through his scarred fingers. The grit felt good. He
liked having physical contact with Mother Earth. It was
comforting to him. A breeze stirred, moving along the
thousand-foot-high rock wall behind him, rustling the
cypress and piñon trees.
What was Dana Thunder Eagle like? He’d seen her face in
the vision, but he knew dream and reality could be very
different. He frowned pensively. He hadn’t told Agnes how
powerfully drawn he’d been to the woman in his vision.
Hadn’t been able to tell her. It would be his secret. He
watched the red grains of sand catch the sunlight, sparkle
and then drift to the smooth rock ledge he was sitting on. Of
course, Agnes could read minds, so he figured the elder
already knew. Maybe it wasn’t important. But it was to him.
Women had been a thorn in his side, not a pleasure. Oh,
he’d had plenty of one-night stands, had found sexual
gratification with a number of partners. But he’d never met
a woman who made his world stand still.
Snorting softly, Chase decided that his parents must have
had something very special that he would never experience
himself. They’d been so much in love. As a child, he’d
thought all husbands and wives had devoted relationships
like that.
He’d been wrong to think true love was the norm. Going to
West Point at age eighteen, Chase very rapidly got
ensnared in the dating scene. Everyone wanted to stake a
claim on the handsome red man who had broken through
the white-males-only barrier. Women danced around him
like butterflies, there for the taking if he wanted them. He’d
been like a beggar in a candy store, grabbing every beauty
who wanted to bed him. And for a while, he’d thought he
was in a sexual heaven of sorts. But by his sophomore
year, the one-night stands were becoming the same; the
faces were a blur and the act meaningless beyond selfish
gratification and release. Chase broke off the relationships
because they were emotionally empty meetings of body
only. He wanted more. Much more and never had found it
yet.
The wind gusted sharply, making Chase lift his head. The
sky was a blue vault with white horse’s mane clouds
stretching across it.
She was here. He sensed it. Dana Thunder Eagle had
arrived.
Grandmother Agnes lived at the mouth of this deep,
rectangular canyon. The winter hogan was invisible from
her summer home. Chase knew that Dana would spend at
least an hour talking with her adopted grandmother, to
receive her marching orders on how to rescue the Storm
Pipe. The elder would then send Dana up here, around the
bend of the canyon, to stay for the next five weeks. With
him.
The winter hogan was a lot smaller than the summer one,
making it much easier to heat during the biting cold and
heavy snows. The small potbellied stove was also used for
cooking. Navajos were practical about the extreme change
of seasons on their large reservation. Still, even though
Chase and Dana would sleep on opposite sides of the
eight-sided structure, it was a very scant space.
A red-tailed hawk shrieked as it circled the tabletop mesa
above the canyon. Chase followed the bird’s lazy spiral and
enjoyed seeing its rust-colored tail. Only an adult redtail,
five years old or more, had that eye-catching hue on its tail
feathers. Chase’s mind—and focus—went back to Dana.
What was she like? Did she have the right stuff to
undertake this deadly mission? Already, he was worried.
Five weeks was an impossibly short time to get Dana
ready for such a serious undertaking.
Immersed in his thoughts, Chase felt time disappear. He
understood that the magic of focus created this out-of-time
sense of being. It felt good to Chase, and familiar. And
before he knew it, he saw a tall, lithe woman in blue jeans
and a white blouse, her hair in long, thick braids, walking up
the canyon toward the winter hogan. She carried a red
canvas bag in each hand. On her back was a dark-green
knapsack. Even burdened as she was, she walked with
pride.
Instantly alert, Chase studied her minutely. Knowing he was
hidden, he felt the euphoria of a stalker and hunter as he
watched the woman draw closer. His heart began to beat
more strongly in his chest. Reddish highlights danced in her
hair as the sunlight caught and reflected it. There was a
deerskin pouch tied on the left side of her black-and-silver
concha belt. Chase knew it would contain a mixture of
sacred herbs that she would gift to the spirits of this place.
One always bade the neighbors hello, like a person inviting
another over for a congenial cup of coffee.
As much as Chase wanted to stay distant from this woman
who was supposed to save the Storm Pipe, he couldn’t. As
she lifted her head to scan the area, behind the hogan and
up on the sandstone skirt, where he hid in the shadows,
Chase saw a fearless quality in her wide, cinnamon-
colored eyes. There was a stubborn angle to her chin, even
though her face was smooth and oval. Her Indian heritage
showed in her high cheekbones. Her nose was straight,
with fine, thin nostrils, reminding him of a well-bred horse.
The horse image suited her, Chase decided, watching her
approach the hogan and set her luggage down. Dana was
perhaps five foot nine or ten inches in height, with a slender
figure. As she pushed open the wooden door, which faced
east, Chase noted that every one of her movements was
graceful, like those of a mustang.
Taking in a ragged breath, he remained still and watched
Dana disappear with her luggage inside the hogan. When
she returned minutes later, she stood outside the door and
took some of the sacred herbs from the pouch she carried.
Facing east, she raised her hand above her head and
slowly turned, stopping at each of the major directions until
she’d completed her clockwise circle. Chase saw her throw
the herbs into the air, the breeze catching and scattering
them.
Good. At least she knew protocol. But then, if she was a
personal pipe carrier being trained to carry an old and
powerful ceremonial pipe, Dana would automatically
contact the local spirits of a place. One never came to a
strange area without offering a gift and requesting
permission to stay. Omitting this critical step was
considered rude and wrong.
Chase knew Agnes had directed Dana to climb to meet
him, her trainer and teacher. As his eyes narrowed upon
her uplifted face, he felt her energy. Indeed, Dana was
beautiful. Just as lovely as she’d been in his vision. A part
of him groaned in protest, because he was drawn to beauty
like a honeybee to a flower in full bloom.
He watched patiently as Dana made her way up onto a
ledge of sandstone, and then to another. The walls of the
box canyon rose upward like a multilayered cake. Squatting
on the third level, Chase saw that Dana had rolled up her
sleeves, and her well-worn jeans couldn’t hide her
femininity. Her long legs seemed to go on forever. A slow
grin tugged at the corners of his mouth. Any man would be
proud to have her as his woman.
Just as quickly as the thought seeped into his mind, Chase
brutally pushed it out. This was business. All business.
Besides, Dana was a recent widow. There was no room in
her life for an emotional relationship. Maybe he could
remold her grief into a driving strength, and a motivation for
success in this mission. Perhaps…but that would mean
wounding her all over again, and Chase had no desire to
do that.
The afternoon air was filled with the scents of the desert—
the medicinal tang of the sagebrush, the sharp wine scent
of juniper in bloom and the warm, woody fragrance of the
nearby cedar. The blouse Dana wore stuck to her form,
outlining her full breasts and long torso. Her braids swung
rhythmically as she moved. Sweat made her skin glisten.
Her full mouth was set with determination.
Chase watched her come ever closer. Calling on his
cougar ally from the other dimension, he ordered him to
guide her to within a few feet of the juniper he crouched
behind.
Like a lamb being led to slaughter, Dana intuitively picked
up on his spirit guardian’s cajoling request. Trained
medicine people, via clairvoyance or clairsentience, could
usually detect a spirit guide, their own or another’s. That
was how they communicated with the invisible realms. And
sure enough, Dana turned and headed straight toward
Chase without knowing he was hiding there. She had a lot
to learn, he realized.
Dana blew out a breath of air, realizing how quickly she
was tiring from the climb up the rear wall of the box canyon.
Clairvoyantly, she’d seen a yellow cougar come out and
meet her. He’d greeted her warmly and asked her to follow
him. Sensing no negativity around the guardian, Dana
complied. It wasn’t an unusual request; all places had spirit
guardians, so she thought little about its greeting or
request.
Having lived not far above sea level for the last two years,
she felt the six-thousand-foot elevation of the desert plateau
taking a toll on her. Her breath rasped as she climbed ever
closer to a stand of juniper on the next tier of the sandstone
formation.
Somewhere in the back of her mind, Dana recalled
dreaming of this place. As a child, she’d come often to visit
Grandma Agnes, and had played hour after hour upon
these smooth red rock skirts. She’d been like a wild
mustang filly, and the elevation hadn’t bothered her at all.
Now it did.
But the warmth of the sun, the fragrance of the trees and
brush, all conspired to relax her after the three-day drive
from Ohio. Oh! How Dana had missed all of this—the
wildness, the freedom, the silence of Mother Earth
surrounding her. What had made her think she could ever
be happy in the Midwest? Dana frowned as she recalled
again how she’d run away like a coward after the deaths of
the two people she loved most in the world. Her adopted
grandmother was right: she needed to come home. To be
here. To live here once again.
This canyon had always been a place of joy and healing for
Dana. She used to play hide-and-seek with her friends up
here where the trees grew. Fond memories flowed back,
sweet as honey. The wide blue sky, the thin wisps of cirrus
that reminded her of threads on a weaving loom, and the
faraway song of a cardinal all conspired to dazzle her with
the intense beauty of the moment. She should never have
left. It seemed like such a stupid, knee-jerk reaction now.
Dana halted near the first juniper and slowly turned east,
toward the winter hogan. Gasping for breath, she pressed
her hand against her pounding heart. Perspiration on her
temples dampened strands of her hair. Home. She was
finally home. Back where she belonged. As she stood
there, embraced by a cooling breeze, and hearing the cry
of a red-tailed hawk, Dana felt much old grief sinking out of
her, flowing from her body and into Mother Earth.
Yes, the grief that had encased her was finally shedding,
like an old, worn snake skin. Closing her eyes, she took a
deep, cleansing breath into her lungs, and felt so much of
what she’d carried since their deaths miraculously dissolve.
Perhaps the biggest mistake she’d made was not staying
with Agnes. Her grandmother had pleaded with her to
come home, to live with her after the tragedy. Dana
regretted not having listened to the wise elder who loved
her so fiercely.
As she opened her eyes, Dana inhaled a new scent, one
unfamiliar to her. What was it? She lifted her chin, her
nostrils flaring as the wind brought a whiff to her once
again. It wasn’t unpleasant, and something about it stirred
Dana’s womanly senses, long dormant.
Chase rose in one smooth, unbroken motion. Like the
cougar at his side, he took three steps toward the woman,
who had her back to him. As he threw his arm around
Dana’s shoulders, his other hand gripping her left arm, he
laughed to himself. She was such easy prey!
The instant the steel arm clamped around Dana, she gave
a cry of surprise. That same musky scent filled her nostrils.
Her eyes bulged as she was jerked back against the hard,
unyielding plane of a man’s body, his powerful fingers
digging into her left arm.
Without thinking, Dana jabbed her right elbow into his
midsection. It felt as if her elbow had smashed into an
unforgiving metal wall.
Letting out a cry of surprise, Chase nearly lost his hold on
the woman. He’d expected her to be a rabbit, to stand
helplessly, squeal and surrender without a fight. Instead,
she’d fought back! Anger flared in him. It wasn’t anger
aimed at Dana, but rather himself. A grudging respect was
born in Chase as he expertly kicked her legs out from under
her. Not wanting to hurt Dana, he monitored the force with
which she fell to the smooth sandstone ledge, landing on
her belly.
Bringing her left arm up between her shoulder blades,
Chase carefully pressed a knee into the small of her back
while he held her head down with his other hand. He
tempered the amount of pressure he brought to bear on
her, and was surprised once more by her fighting spirit.
Dana struggled to escape. She didn’t scream, but tried to
twist free, lashing out with both her feet.
Sweat trickled down Chase’s temples as he leaned over,
his breath coming in gasps. “You made three mistakes,
woman.”
Dana froze. The man’s husky voice was so close to her left
ear it shocked her. The rock bit into her right cheek as he
held her head down on the sandstone. His voice was dark,
deeply masculine, and sent new alarms racing through her.
Dana was receiving mixed signals from her intuition now.
Confused, she finally stilled and stopped fighting. Who was
this man? Was he going to kill her? The thought
momentarily paralyzed her.
Chase felt the tickle of her dark hair against his mouth as
he whispered into her ear, “The first mistake was that you
didn’t pay enough attention to your surroundings.” Hard,
sharp gasps exploded from her lips. “Secondly, you
allowed me to draw you to where I was hiding, by sending
out my cougar spirit.” He saw her face drain of color, her
eye narrowing with rage. Good, she wasn’t a rabbit, after
all. “Lastly, a warrioress always has her ally guarding her,
but you didn’t send your own guide out to look for danger.”
With a grunt, Chase released Dana. He stepped back,
hands on his hips, and watched her with veiled interest.
Dana scrambled to her knees, breathing raggedly. Leaping
upward, she whirled around, wildly aware that her captor
stood only a few feet from her. When she met his narrowed
golden eyes, she checked the urge to run. She saw hints of
amusement in those large, intelligent eyes of his. He was
laughing at her! Fear turned to fury.
“Who are you?” Dana demanded, her voice low and off-
key.
Chase gestured for her to sit down.
Dana refused, glaring at him.
He forced himself to ignore her primal beauty, the way she
was crouched and ready to fight him all over again, if
necessary. “Sit. Your knees are shaking so bad you’re
going to fall down if you don’t.”
Grudgingly, Dana glanced down. He was right. She was
feeling terribly shaky from the adrenaline rush flaring
through her bloodstream. “How do I know you won’t attack
me again?” she retorted angrily.
She took a few steps away from this giant of a man. He
wore a pair of faded blue jeans, but no shirt, and his chest
was broad, massive and without hair. He was Native
American, no doubt about it. And powerful. Again, she saw
laughter in his eyes. He hadn’t made a move toward her.
Yet. Nervously, she wiped her damp palms against the
thighs of her jeans.
“I don’t make a habit of attacking or raping helpless
women. Sit down.”
Dana felt that same confusion overwhelm her once more.
This man had attacked her. Then he’d released her. Was
he her enemy? If so, why had he let her go? Her knees
buckled abruptly, and she threw out her hands, cushioning
her fall. Landing with a thump on the red sandstone, she felt
weak and vulnerable before this warrior.
Searching his tanned, square face, Dana felt a sizzling
sensation build within her and momentarily wipe out her
fear and uncertainty. Her first impression, of a cougar, had
been right. He had topaz-colored eyes that lightened or
darkened with his mood changes. His face was hard,
weathered by the elements. She couldn’t tell if he was a full-
blooded Indian; his nose was hawklike, his nostrils now
flared to catch even the faintest of scents.
The only hint that perhaps he wasn’t a killer appeared in his
mouth—the corners curved naturally upward. Her darting
gaze took in the powerful breadth of his shoulders. His
chest was massive, his arms tight and thick with muscles.
But he was far from musclebound; no, this man’s body was
taut, in shape and honed to perfection. The sunlight made
his copper skin glow with an almost unearthly radiance.
Dana blinked, unable to assimilate all that she saw and felt
around this man, who stood like a nearly naked god. The
jeans he had on were thin and faded from use. And he was
wearing leather Apache boots, with their distinctive curled
tip—designed for picking up snakes and hurling them off to
one side. That way, the wearer was not bitten, and the
snake lived to go about its business.
This man was indeed a cougar, coiled and waiting to leap
upon her at any moment.
A sour grin edged Chase’s mouth as he studied her.
“Who are you?” Dana said resentfully.
“Chase Iron Hand. Your teacher.”
Shock bolted through her. Grandma Agnes had said he
would meet her at the winter hogan, but she hadn’t found
him there. “You can’t be…” she choked out, all her bravado
dissolving. This man was powerful, physically as well as
energetically. There was nothing soft or vulnerable about
Chase Iron Hand. Dana could understand why he’d been
given such a name. Indeed, he was like a piece of forged
metal, far stronger than she would ever be.
Chase watched the fleeting emotions cross her stunned
face. Her skin had a golden sheen wherever the sunlight
caressed it. She sat with hands flat on the sandstone, her
legs crossed. “Grandmother told you to meet me,” Chase
informed her.
“At the hogan,” Dana snarled, anger once again replacing
her fear. She felt the terror begin to leak out of her and into
Mother Earth. “I thought—” She gulped, her voice
tightening. “When you attacked me, I thought you were the
same man who murdered my husband and my mother.”
Pain slammed into Chase’s heart. Damn! He hadn’t meant
to do that to her. He could see anguish in Dana’s wide
cinnamon eyes, which were now filling with tears. He
opened his mouth to apologize and then snapped it shut.
Right now she didn’t need his pity. She needed to learn
how to work through emotional pain and keep her focus on
the job ahead. “And if I had been, you’d be dead, woman.
You’re supposed to be trained to take back the Storm
Pipe,” he sneered. “And what did you do when confronted?
You didn’t think about how to escape.”
His words stung her. Gulping back her tears, Dana saw the
lack of respect he had for her. Chase was right: she had
failed to look for escape. Not exactly what a real warrior
would do.
“But then,” Chase added, “you have a habit of running away
when things get tough, don’t you?”
Pain over that truth gutted Dana. She hung her head and
placed her hands over her face. It hurt too much to speak.
Chase watched how Dana took his powerful words. She
could hide nothing from him. Part of him was delighted with
the discovery, but another part disdainful. Warriors showed
no feelings, no matter if they were in the worst pain or on a
natural high. He didn’t look too closely at himself, however.
After six months of daily torture, he’d finally surrendered to
the pain and given his enemies the information they’d
wanted. Was he any different from Dana? Unwilling to go
there, Chase hardened his heart against her and his own
hidden shame.
“So, you’re a coward and you ran,” he drawled.
Dana’s head snapped up. Rage tunneled through her as
she held his merciless stare. “Don’t give me that male
superiority garbage!”
“Call me Chase.” He held out his hand to her. “Come on,
let’s go down to the hogan, Dana. You’ve had enough for
one day.”
Staring at his outstretched hand, Dana saw so many little
pink scars on it that she recoiled. There was nothing warm,
comforting or nurturing about this man. Her teacher. Oh,
Great Spirit, he was her teacher? Dana had felt a lack of
confidence sitting before Grandma Agnes, as she’d asked
her to bring back the Storm Pipe. Now, in the shadow of
this mighty warrior, all the rest of her confidence fled.
Scrambling to her feet, Dana lashed out and knocked his
hand away. He laughed. It was like listening to the far-off
rumbling of her beloved thunder beings.
Chase Iron Hand was beautiful in a rugged way. But in that
moment, Dana detested him, because she had none of his
confidence or strength within herself. Without a word, she
scrambled down the sandstone wall and headed toward the
hogan. To hell with him! She wasn’t about to walk at his
side and chitchat, pretending nothing had happened. He’d
scared her to death! He’d made her think she was going to
die, as Hal and her mother had. Hatred toward him rose
within Dana as she hurried down the escarpment.
Chase grinned and watched Dana storm down the canyon.
Her shoulders were now thrown back with pride, her chin
jutting out at a very defiant angle. He eyed her
appreciatively as he followed, noting her hips swaying like
a willow tree in a summer breeze. Mesmerized by that
liquid motion, Chase felt a new trap—longing for a woman.
Again he squelched that need. It had no place here, for
sure.
There was a barbed wire fence on the last tier of
sandstone, a wooden corral nearby for sheep and goats
brought up to forage. As Dana bent to slip between the
strands, the barbed wire caught on the back of her blouse
between her shoulders. She was trapped. She tried to free
herself without tearing a hole in the material, and by the
time Chase arrived, he saw frustration in her features.
“Go on,” she snapped at him.
“I can help.”
“That’s the last thing I want from you! Get out of here. I’ll see
you at the hogan.”
Chase smiled briefly. Well, Dana was showing some pluck
now. “Let me help.”
She jerked her head, and Chase saw loathing in her furious
eyes. Good, he’d use that to train her with, too. He didn’t
take her anger toward him personally. No, the Indian way of
thinking was that the feelings a person had were his or her
own—not someone else’s. Why should he take
responsibility for how she felt?
Lifting her blouse, he delicately eased the barbed wire from
the fabric. “A warrioress knows when to ask for help, too.”
What the hell was he talking about? This was the second
time he’d made a reference to her being a warrioress.
Chase was crazy!
The brush of his fingertips on her back sent a tingling
feeling across Dana’s flesh. As soon as she was freed, she
slipped through the wire fence and hurried away without
even a thank-you. Gulping for air, feeling hurt winding
through her, Dana walked with resolve toward the winter
hogan. Right now, all she wanted to do was run—again.
Away from this coldhearted bastard. Away from her
mission.
CHAPTER SEVEN
AS DANA WALKED TOWARD THE hogan, she asked
herself, What did I get into? Grandma Agnes was so loving.
So nourishing to her starved and aching soul. This dude,
well, he was an irritating, stinging salt in her wounds!
Maybe this was a mistake.
Dana plowed on through the rabbitbrush, the yellow flowers
scenting the air. Mouth set, she felt fear. Only fear. Chase
had scared her to death.
Dana had thought she was being attacked, yet when she
stopped being such a drama queen long enough to look at
the experience, she had to admit Chase hadn’t hurt her at
all—at least not physically. Oh, he’d made damn sure she
got the message: that she was blind, deaf and dumb out
here in the wilderness.
Dana dodged several smooth, red boulders on the steep
slope to the hogan below. The wind was warm. The sun felt
wonderful on her body. Mulling about Chase Iron Hand,
Dana recalled a story her mother had told her as a child.
There had been a race of fierce male and female warriors
from the stars who had come to Earth to intermarry with the
red people. The race was very tall, muscular, powerful and
confident. Just like Chase. The star warriors had lived with
their people and shown them how to weave, make
weapons and defend themselves against invaders. Was he
one of them?
Chase was too rough and unpolished, more animal than
man, she decided. More wild than civilized. That scared the
hell out of Dana. No man had ever sharpened her
awareness of herself as a woman like he had in just one,
potent meeting.
Pushing open the wooden door to the hogan, Dana
stepped inside. She’d placed her luggage on the south
side of the structure. The smell of sacred sage and juniper
encircled her, calming and grounding. Some had been
burned earlier in an abalone shell sitting atop the
woodstove. Chase must have smudged the place, Dana
guessed.
Rubbing her perspiring brow, she felt her heart opening.
And with it came so much hurt and grief that she was
momentarily overwhelmed. Chase had been brutal. But
Dana was sure he would disdain her feelings and the hot
tears that swam in her eyes. Valiantly, she choked down all
her boiling emotions.
Tea…she needed some sage tea. Yes, that would help
soothe her raw, nervous state. She knew Chase would
come down soon enough. Dana didn’t want to be standing
here like an idiot when he arrived. Nervously, she went
through the motions of taking the teakettle off the stove.
There was kindling in a cardboard box, and she quickly
rolled up some pieces of newspaper. After putting them
into the stove, Dona located a box of matches. The fire lit
quickly, the dry kindling snapping to life. Dana added
several larger sticks and then shut the door.
As she looked around the quiet hogan, the peace of the
place infiltrated her tense state. Everything was simple. The
floor was hard-packed red dirt, swept clean and then
covered by several colorful, handwoven rugs. On the
southern walls were pine board shelves holding mason jars
filled with various herbs. On another shelf were weaving
items—a spindle, herbs for dying purposes and some
gathered wool wrapped around spindles, waiting to be
used this coming winter. On the western walls were several
shelves containing what Dana recognized as medicine
tools Agnes used in her healing ceremonies. There was a
yellow gourd rattle with a redtail feather tied by a leather
thong to the end of the highly polished wooden handle. A
fan made of golden eagle tail feathers lay next to it. Dana
didn’t go over to look at them. Medicine objects were never
to be touched except by the owner.
Turning, she set the beat-up old copper kettle back on the
stove, after making sure there was enough water in it. The
fire spat and crackled. Dana found a mason jar filled with
dried white sage leaves. She took a small handful and
dropped it into the kettle before replacing the dented lid. It
felt good to be doing something rather than waiting for
Chase to enter that open door.
Dana could feel him approaching. It was like sensing the
invisible pressure of a storm front moving through the area.
Steeling herself, she listened carefully, but couldn’t hear
him. The man was more cougar than human. No one ever
heard the approach of a mountain lion, either. Until it was
too late.
She took a deep, ragged breath and waited. When he
finally entered, like a silent shadow, her heart twinged with
fear. Chase was so tall that he had to duck his head at the
doorway. Dana guessed the lintel was six feet high, and he
was a good three or four inches taller. She tried to ignore
the beautiful play of glistening muscles as he straightened
and focused those golden eyes on her.
Though her pulse accelerated, Dana compressed her lips
and glared at him. She wasn’t going to let him scare her
again. Or catch her off guard. Yet, as Chase moved on into
the hogan, Dana couldn’t help gazing at his male body,
naked from the waist up. The scars on his chest told her
he’d participated in several sun dances up on a Lakota
reservation. For that ceremony, wooden pins were pushed
through vertical slits in the skin of a man’s chest or
shoulder. Leather thongs were attached to the pins, and the
sun dancer dragged buffalo skulls behind him as he
danced for days on end around the sacred cottonwood
pole in the center. The sun dance wasn’t for sissies, and
Dana’s admiration for Chase rose whether she wanted it to
or not. Any man who had completed a sun dance bore
deep scars on his chest or shoulder blades. They were a
reminder that he had the strength of spirit and the physical
endurance to show his faith to the Great Spirit.
Her own scars, Dana thought, might be invisible, but they
were just as deep and as hard earned. All people were
wounded, she knew. But some scars couldn’t be seen.
Staring at Chase’s broad, scarred chest, she wondered
what other wounds he had endured.
Chase sat down on a rug, legs crossed, his powerful hands
resting on his knees. “Sage tea?” he asked.
“Of course.” Dana tried not to sound tense and threatened.
She couldn’t read this man as she could others; it was as if
he had a wall up between them. When her back was turned,
she could feel his eyes like two hot poker points. Hands
trembling, Dana took a wooden spoon, pulled off the lid of
the kettle and stirred the bubbling tea. The pungent
fragrance of sage drifted upward and she inhaled,
absorbing its healing and calming nature.
Dana tried to ignore Chase, but that was impossible. She
went to the small sink near the door and found two chipped
white mugs. After setting them on the drain board, she
retrieved the kettle and poured tea into them. There was
sagebrush honey on a shelf above the sink and she
reached for it. Desert honey was delicious, and her mouth
watered in anticipation as she spooned a thick dollop into
each cup. Once she finished stirring them, Dana picked up
the mugs and turned around.
Chase took his steaming tea. The moment their hands met,
he felt her pull away. If he hadn’t wrapped his fingers around
the mug, she would have dropped it in his lap. He saw her
nervously lick her full lower lip.
“Sit here,” he told her, pointing to a place opposite him on
the earth-toned rug.
Stung by his curt voice and blunt order, Dana hesitated,
staring at the spot. It was much too close to him. She chose
another spot a good six feet away and slowly eased into a
cross-legged position.
After a few sips, Chase asked, “Did you bring the
Nighthawk Pipe?”
“Of course. As a pipe carrier, I go nowhere without it.”
“Did your mother leave behind any ceremonial tools for
you?”
The mention of her mother sent a sharp ache through Dana.
She gripped the warm mug more tightly and gazed at him.
Lowering his eyes, Chase stared down at the red earth
floor between the rugs. Ceremonial objects were powerful
instruments of their healing trade. He moved his gaze to
Dana once more.
“She surely had certain feathers, rattles and sacred stones
she worked with,” he pressed. Dana looked fetching in her
simple clothes, her hair mussed from the breeze, the black
braids eloquent testimony to the blood that ran richly
through her veins.
Frustrated with his abrupt statements and questions, she
snapped, “Of course she did.”
Meeting her blazing eyes, Chase stated, “For someone
who has such old and powerful tools, you don’t use them
very well or very often.” Pointing toward the canyon wall
they’d just descended, he added, “You didn’t even have an
ally protecting you from my attack. You’re giving away
power, woman.”
Stung, Dana growled, “Just who in the hell do you think you
are? First, you attack me up there.” She gestured toward
her puffy cheek, which had been held against the
sandstone. “You’re the one who should be apologizing for
hurting me! For scaring me to death! And you can wipe that
disgusted look off your face while you’re at it. I’m not into
judgmental people, so back off.”
“A warrioress never complains. She does not show her
pain, no matter how much she suffers. And she should
know the value of silence, of listening. You know none of
these things.”
“What are you talking about?” Dana began to hate the man.
He sat there nearly naked, dangerous to her female
senses, and yet supposedly her teacher. A terrible
combination. “Who are you to question how I walk the Red
Road or utilize the sacred objects passed on to me by my
mother?” Hot indignation welled up in Dana, something she
hadn’t felt in two years. She wanted to run from the hogan,
down the canyon to Grandma Agnes and tell her that she
refused to work with this Neanderthal who called her
“woman” of all things. The stormy look in his eyes scared
Dana and at the same time fascinated her. His mouth was
a thin line and the hard planes of his copper face gave no
inkling of what he was really feeling. Disgust at her, most
likely.
Sipping his tea, Chase allowed her husky words to
reverberate through the hogan. When Dana got her
feathers ruffled, she struck back. There was backbone
beneath that golden, dusky skin of hers. That pleased him.
The tea and honey were a good combination on his tongue.
Lowering the mug, Chase noted how she glared at him. Her
hands were wrapped around her own mug, tightly enough to
crush it.
“You are the only hope for the Blue Heron Society. Your
grandmother already told you that. You are young, strong
and possess the genes of your mother, who carried the
Storm Pipe.” Chase lowered his voice. “I will work with you
to prepare you on all levels for the tasks set before you by
Grandmother Agnes. That is, if you are brave enough to
take on this mission.”
Shaken, Dana dragged in a deep breath. The silence
between them became oppressive. She stared down at the
mug she gripped, her tea barely touched. Her hands were
soft and without calluses, unlike his.
“I’ll do my best,” she finally rasped. Looking up, she met his
narrowed golden eyes. For a moment, Dana allowed
herself to drown in their darkening depths. Mesmerized by
Chase’s blunt, powerful energy, she felt an invisible shift
within her.
Blinking, she disengaged from his stare.
“Rogan lives up in a fortress in the Sierras,” Chase began.
“He has a compound near Carson City, Nevada. The twelve
women who work with him are true warriors. They are
fanatical about keeping that ceremonial pipe for
themselves. These women have placed their lives on the
line to protect it and Rogan.”
“I’m not a killer.”
“No, but Rogan is. And his women will kill you if you don’t
know how to be stealthy and protect yourself. This is no
game, woman.”
“Dammit, stop calling me ‘woman’! My name is Dana
Thunder Eagle.”
She felt stung by Chase’s humorless smile. Now, he was
laughing at her, as a coyote would a hapless rabbit.
“Better to be called ‘woman’ than ‘child.’”
Drawing herself erect, spine taut, shoulders back, she said,
“My name is Dana.”
Shrugging, Chase murmured, “So be it.”
Something was wrong with her eyes. Or so she thought at
first. As Dana stared at Chase, she kept seeing another
face superimposed on his own. The visage of an old Native
American warrior seemed to overshadow Chase’s
scowling features. A chill snaked through her as she
realized her clairvoyance had come into play.
Having such a teacher or guide from the invisible
dimensions was rare, Dana acknowledged. Chase had to
be very special for the spirit of such a warrior to work with
him.
Though uncomfortable with her staring, Chase remained
still. He could feel Dana’s energy, like tendrils of light,
touching the hard wall of defense he always kept in place. It
was tentative. Gentle. Inwardly, he thirsted for the nourishing
contact.
He drew his brows together. “What Grandmother Agnes
has asked of you is not easy. Your life is going to be in very
real danger, Dana. Not only physically, but spiritually as
well. Rogan is a well-known sorcerer.”
That sent a chill down Dana’s spine. She knew about the
Other Side, where various dimensions intersected and
overlapped the physical reality of the here and now. There
were invisible realms that, to someone blessed with
clairvoyance, became highly visible. Dana had the ability to
perceive these other realities when she wanted to, but also
could shut them out when she didn’t wish to be aware of
them. “I’m no stranger to sorcery.”
“Rogan isn’t your everyday sorcerer,” Chase told her dryly,
finishing his tea. He set the mug aside and planted his
elbows on his thighs, his gaze on her. A strong woman had
no problem maintaining eye contact with him—or anyone.
Dana didn’t feel like such a woman, yet.
“I’m going to be your trainer on this mission, Dana.
Grandmother has asked me to toughen you up, teach you
how to defend yourself with and without weapons. I have
five weeks to get you ready for that climb up the cliff to
Rogan’s fortress. You must be stealthy, quiet, and
energetically invisible, so no one there knows you are in
their midst. Your job is to get that pipe back.”
“I’ll get it done.” Dana winced inwardly. She didn’t sound
terribly confident, did she?
She saw Chase’s scowl deepen. There was such censure
and disappointment in his face. Now, he was allowing her
to see what he thought of her. And it felt damned
uncomfortable.
“I won’t coddle you during training,” Chase warned. He
wanted to goad Dana, to see if she would handle his
scalding warning or run. She had to consider seriously her
vow to rescue the Storm Pipe. “Once you make the
decision to train with me, you belong to me—body, mind
and spirit.”
Clenching her teeth, she sneered at him. “No man owns
me. And you sure as hell aren’t going to, either.”
For once her voice had some fangs in it. That was good.
Chase knew, however, that anger would get Dana only so
far. “I’m training you just like I was trained. Nothing more or
less. Twenty-four hours a day, Ms. Thunder Eagle. For five
relentless weeks. There will be no rest. No days off. Nothing
is going to be easy. You’re soft and you come from the city.
You’re completely deaf to your surroundings. Your eyes
might be open, but you don’t see. And as for being trained,
I wonder just how good you really are. You should have
sensed me and you didn’t.” With a shake of his head,
Chase added, “You’re a runner, I know. When things get
tough, you stop trying to cope, and you run.”
“I’ve stopped running,” Dana said, her voice uneven. “And I
won’t run from this. I gave Grandmother my word.”
“And will you give me your word?” He raised his brows and
held her defiant gaze. “In our world, your word is your bond.
You fulfill it or die trying. You know the story.”
Yes, she did. Rubbing her chin, Dana said, “I give my word
to you, as well. You are my trainer. I accept that. I’ll do my
best. And I’m not doing this for you. I’m doing it for
Grandmother.”
Smarting beneath the dark, questioning look in his eyes,
Dana found Chase distasteful, threatening and
overwhelming. What did she expect in a trainer? She sat
there numbly, unable to answer the question. However, it
wasn’t someone like this—so hard that he felt like a
sledgehammer pounding against her bleeding, wounded
heart.
Her thoughts were interrupted when Chase rose in one
smooth, fluid motion, to tower over her. She grudgingly
stared up at him, sensing his utter masculinity, and trying
not to be affected by his hardened body. She took a gulp of
her cooling sage tea.
“Get up,” he ordered.
Dana found she didn’t take orders well. Still, she
remembered her vow to her grandmother—and to him. All
this was part of retrieving the Storm Pipe for her people.
Setting the mug aside, Dana unwound her legs and stood
up, making damn sure she left plenty of space between
them. Chase had an aura that throbbed with such vitality
and energy she almost felt buffeted by it. Rubbing her
hands on her thighs, she said, “What now?”
“Strip off all your clothes.”
CHAPTER EIGHT
DANA’S MOUTH DROPPED OPEN. “What?” The word
came out in a strangled tone of disbelief. Tensing, she
knotted her hands.
“I said strip.”
Panic arced through Dana. “Dude, you’re certifiable.
There’s no way I’m stripping for you or any other man,” she
said, nailing him with a look of outrage.
Chase seemed impervious to her reaction. His legs were
spread apart, as if he were a boxer getting ready to fight—
or perhaps ward off a coming attack. Yeah, she wanted to
strike out at his implacable features and those slitted
golden eyes.
“Did you forget your vow so easily?” he taunted.
“Standing naked in front of you wasn’t part of the bargain!”
Dana snapped. She took two steps back, glancing around
to make sure the door was open. She badly wanted to slip
past this giant of a man and make a run for it.
“Think again, Dana Thunder Eagle. A student has no rights.
Only her teacher does.”
Fingers folding into fists, Dana hissed, “No man owns me,
mister. You sure as hell don’t, even if I am your student!”
Her breathing chaotic, Dana felt the alarming threat course
through her already tense body. She crouched a bit, as if
waiting instinctively for this man to attack her. Would he rip
her clothes off her? The look on his face told Dana that he
could, and that frightened her. He’d unexpectedly attacked
her out on the escarpment, and she felt equally afraid now.
“I think feminism is dead, sister.” Despite his goading taunt,
Chase admired her guts. Dana was right—no man owned
a woman. In the old days before the white man’s arrival,
women had been equal partners to men, and most tribes
were matriarchal by tradition.
Lifting her chin, Dana held his flat, assessing stare. “I’m a
person and I’ll be respected as one. I have to learn certain
things from you, but that doesn’t give you the right to
humiliate me.” Gulping, Dana tried to force her breathing
into a steadier rhythm.
It was impossible. She felt Chase, sensed his aura and his
intent. He wasn’t going to let her get away with this. He was
going to strip her, of all things!
If Dana hadn’t been so shocked by his demand, she might
have been able to intuitively pick up some of his hidden
intentions toward her. Right now, she just felt a stream of
power aimed at her. Chase was going to have his way or
else.
Backing away, she moved toward the door. Tears flooded
her eyes. Modesty was a part of Dana’s life. She was a
private person, not one to give up anything about herself.
No way would she bare her body before this animal!
“Going to cry?” Chase asked. “Going to run like you always
do?”
Fury and terror sizzled through Dana. She halted midway to
the open door, where the blazing desert light flooded into
the hogan. Turning toward him, she snarled, “I’m not going
to cry and I’m not running.”
The first was the truth, the second a lie. Chase surely
realized that, too, and hopelessness flooded her. She
stood uncertainly, flexing her hands. Her feet, meanwhile,
itched to dash out the door and down the canyon to her
grandmother’s hogan, for protection from this monster who
wanted her soul.
“Running has been a way of life for you,” Chase growled.
Seeing the fear in her face, the way her body was tensed
and ready for flight, he said, “And you stopped yourself from
going out that door.” He pointed in that direction. “That’s
good. You might be afraid, but you’re not running now.”
Blinking, Dana felt herself becoming emotionally unstrung.
One moment, Chase was hard as a steel blade cutting
through her. The next, there was praise, even warmth,
emanating toward her. She felt them now, like an invisible
blanket wrapping around her. Instantly, her fear dissolved.
The desire to run abated.
Amazed, she straightened and forced her shoulders back.
Could she believe Chase had a soul and heart, after all?
Searching his hooded, assessing eyes, she decided that
he was sincere. Confused, she rasped, “I don’t know why
you’re asking this, your reasons for doing so. And I’m not
buying it.”
“A warrioress doesn’t question her orders.”
Anger sparked through Dana. “Then just what the hell would
a warrioress do in this situation?”
“Strip. She is a woman who is proud of her body, proud that
she is female. There is nothing she wants to hide, because
she knows how strong and confident she is. Her body is the
vehicle that carries her spirit in this lifetime. She treats it
and herself with respect and honor.”
Chase’s voice was dark and coaxing. Like a reverberation
of thunder in the distance, his words seemed to flow from
far away until they touched her heart. Carefully studying the
look in his eyes, Dana felt his truthfulness. She could find
nothing sexual about his statement, nor did she feel it. If she
had, she’d have been out that door in a heartbeat.
Chase was her teacher, but what was he trying to teach
her? Confusion warred with Dana’s natural modesty. She
had never stood naked in front of a stranger. It went against
her grain in a violent way.
Her thoughts churning, she realized she knew little about
this man. Was he playing mind games with her? To bend
her to his will?
She thought again of Grandma Agnes. Her grandmother
would never leave her in the hands of someone who would
harm her. That realization suddenly broke the paralyzing
fear that bound Dana. Finding her voice, she said, “I…
never thought of myself in those terms.”
“White women are trained to be ashamed of their body.
You aren’t white. You’re Indian. Be proud of your lineage.
Praise your body by bathing in the warming rays of Father
Sun during the day and in the cooling, healing light of the
moon at night.”
Chase saw Dana waver, unsure. “Why do I have to undress
before you?” she asked.
“I want to look at you.”
Heat stung Dana’s cheeks, and her gaze shifted. But then
she gathered up her dissolving courage. “Why?”
“Students don’t ask questions. They do as they’re
instructed. If I decide you should know, then I’ll tell you—
afterward. Trust me.”
Trust. A lump settled in her throat. Chase was so
pulverizingly male as he stood there, his copper skin and
the firm muscles beneath outlined in the dim light of the
hogan. Trust him? She eyed him for a long moment, mulling
over his words and gauging the look in his eyes.
Dana realized obliquely that, as a grade school teacher,
one of the first things she strived to establish with children
in her class was trust in her. Only, she didn’t ask them to
strip. No, her methods were far more subtle.
Chase wanted the ultimate sign of trust. This was an awful
way to test her. If she was to beg him to take back the
order, he’d laugh at that sign of her weakness. A warrioress
never showed weakness, Dana supposed, even if she felt
it.
A slight breeze entered the hogan and sluggishly stirred the
heated air. Finally, she made a decision.
“All right, if I have to strip, so do you. It’s all or nothing,” she
challenged.
A tight grin stretched across his mouth, as if he liked her
unexpected boldness. “Fair enough,” he rumbled.
Fear arced through Dana. She hadn’t expected him to
acquiesce so easily—or at all. She watched as his scarred
hand moved to the metal button at the waistband of his
Levi’s. Gulping against her constricted throat, Dana
realized her bluff hadn’t worked.
Her fingers shook as she placed them around the first
mother of pearl button on her blouse. Furrowing her brows,
she tried to concentrate on why she was doing this. It was
for her grandmother. For her people. And the Blue Heron
Society. Dana told herself there was no finer calling than to
help her people—and the world—survive something as evil
as Rogan Fast Horse.
Button by button, her blouse opened, until finally, her white
silk camisole was exposed. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to feel
Chase’s imperious gaze burning into her flesh. Dana
refused to look up at him. Leaning down, she untied her
boots and pulled them off. The wiry wool of the handwoven
rug where she stood tickled her feet.
Chase watched as Dana undressed, keeping her gaze
fixed on the floor. She slowly pulled her blouse off her
shoulders and dropped it. Then she tugged at the
waistband of her jeans and reluctantly eased them
downward. The material fell away, revealing her long,
curved thighs. She was, indeed, all leg. Well-developed
legs that held the promise of great endurance.
“You ride a horse?”
Dana’s head snapped upward at his quiet question. She
nearly fell over, one foot barely out of her jeans. Steadying
herself, she got rid of them. “Yes.” Right now, she wore only
silk boxer panties and the camisole. Crossing her arms
defensively across her breasts, she tried to steady her
breathing. Never had Dana felt more painfully vulnerable.
Chase had gotten rid of his Levi’s. Gulping, she tried to
keep her gaze away from his naked body. But it was
impossible. He wore nothing beneath his jeans.
Oh, Great Spirit! The black hair around his maleness
accentuated his potency as a man. Dana’s eyes scanned
down his hard thighs to his knotted calves and wide, broad
feet. A strangled breath churned in her tight throat as she
forced her gaze back up to his unreadable face.
She didn’t find laughter in his eyes. That was good. Right
now, in her nearly naked state, she couldn’t stand to be
made fun of by this man. And he seemed completely
oblivious to his own nakedness.
“How often do you ride?” Chase demanded.
“Three times a week. More,” Dana said, “if I get the
chance.”
“Your thighs show it. That’s good. Keep stripping.”
Chagrined, she tensed as he rasped out the order. Why
was Chase doing this to her? To humiliate or humble her?
To make her admit he was master and she was truly his
slave? All the possible answers grated against her feminist
mentality.
Clenching her teeth, Dana jerked off the camisole and flung
it aside. Off came the silk boxers. Glaring, she lifted her
chin, hating Chase. The breath was sucked out of her. His
eyes weren’t hard or merciless any longer as he studied
her in the thick, tense silence. Then he nodded briskly, his
gaze like fire scorching her naked flesh.
Dana tried to inspect him just as he was her. The rugged
planes of Chase’s body gleamed like polished copper.
Each set of well-developed muscles flowed smoothly into
the next. Her gaze flitted across his barrel chest, devoid of
hair, to the corrugated ridges of his abdomen. Trying to
avoid eyeing his obvious maleness hanging between his
hard thighs, she gulped convulsively. His masculinity was
daunting. Threatening. And calling to her.
Challenged by the fact that she could feel her nipples
hardening beneath his merciless gaze, Dana closed her
eyes. When would this humiliation be over? Every second
seemed to drag on like a slug crossing a dry rock.
She heard him move. Or had she? Lashes flying open, she
felt her breath hitch.
Chase had stepped to within a few feet of her. Had she
heard him, or just sensed the energy change because his
powerful aura had touched and integrated with hers? With
her heart pounding like that of a snared rabbit, Dana forced
her arms to remain at her sides and not cover her breasts.
Distrust warred with terror as Chase approached her, his
gaze critical and assessing.
As she focused on his body, Dana felt dizzied by his
presence so close to her. She could actually feel the heat
coming off Chase’s naked form. He seemed a wild animal,
barely touched by civilization. The scars on his body were
many and some made Dana’s stomach knot. These
weren’t all sun dance scars. What had caused them, then?
She noticed how some were pink and shiny, and so
relatively new compared to the puckered sun dance scars.
Chase cocked his head, perusing Dana as if he were
looking at a horse, and checking for conformation as well
as possible faults. He spotted a scar on her right shoulder.
“What happened here?” he demanded, pointing to it.
Dana stiffened as his callused fingertip lightly brushed the
area. She saw disgust leap into his eyes. Gulping, she
whispered, “When I was twenty, I fell off my horse. I
smashed against a barbed wire fence with my shoulder
before I hit the ground.”
Scowling, Chase kneaded the area with his hands, feeling
her muscles and assessing any potential problems.
“Stand still and relax,” he ordered when she tensed even
more.
Chase was so close. So male. Dana could smell the musky
odor of his body sweat, as well as the scents of juniper and
desert sand. Each time his fingers ran along the sheath of
her shoulder muscles, wild tingles radiated outward. To her
dismay, her nipples grew taut and erect. What must he
think? Dana felt heat spreading rapidly up her neck and
consuming her face.
“Muscle damage from it?” Chase demanded.
“W-what?”
Chase saw her nipples grow hard, ripe crowns in the broad
crescents of her breasts. He savagely destroyed the
sensual response that flowed unexpectedly through his
body. She was too skinny for his tastes, he told himself. All
skin and bone. He liked women with more flesh and
roundness.
She looked dumbstruck, so he repeated his question. “Did
you receive muscle damage when you hit that barbed wire
fence? What did the doctor say? Do you have full range of
motion with this arm?”
The moment he lifted his hands from the scar, Dana
whispered unsteadily, “I—never went to a doctor the first six
months.”
Staring at the curved, ragged scar, he kept his investigation
impersonal for her sake—and his. “It doesn’t look like
anyone sewed you up, that’s for sure. The corners are still
showing the tears. Why didn’t you see a doctor about this?”
How badly Dana wanted to step away from Chase’s
overwhelming masculine presence. It was impossible. “I—
uh—I didn’t have money at the time. I was going to college. I
couldn’t afford a doctor. I went home and put iodine on it
and just let it heal up on its own for six months.”
“A warrioress, regardless of the situation she finds herself
in, can think clearly. What would you do if I was Rogan Fast
Horse? He’d strip and rape you, Dana. And then he’d kill
you. Would you behave like this? Stuttering and
stammering? Or would you be thinking on your feet?
Looking for the first opportunity to escape his hold on you?”
Chase’s harsh voice snapped Dana out of her confusion
and fear. He had done nothing so far to indicate he was
going to make sexual advances. Blinking, she stared up at
him. “I’d want to be thinking…not be like this, of course.”
His mouth twitched. “You show weakness around Rogan
and it will get you nowhere but deep into trouble. Now, tell
me more about this shoulder.”
Dana couldn’t believe she was standing two feet away from
Chase discussing her old injury. They were naked, and
strangers to one another. Yet Chase acted as if being here
was the most natural thing in the world.
Lifting her hand, she touched her aching brow and tried to
focus. “There was a lot of damage. I remember the doctor
looking at it later. The surgeon said the muscles were
shortened because I didn’t go to the emergency room right
away and get the operation I needed. He said it was too
late to correct it with surgery.”
Grunting, Chase ran his fingers across the area once more.
This time, Dana didn’t flinch. Good, she was beginning to
trust him. If only a little. “The muscle is shorter than it should
be,” he confirmed, then moved his hand to her other
shoulder. “Yeah, much shorter than this one.” Damn.
“It doesn’t bother me.” Dana was relieved to be discussing
such an impersonal topic. A huge part of her was in shock
because he wasn’t leering at her, as many men might do.
“It may bother you as you get into the hard, physical
demands of this mission,” Chase growled. Looking down,
he saw a scar on the right side of her smooth, golden torso.
Dana’s belly was softly rounded, a good sign that she could
easily carry a baby. It was one of the most sensual parts of
a woman’s body, as far as he was concerned. Chase
stopped himself from going too far with that observation.
“Tell me about this scar.”
Dana looked where he was pointing, and some of her initial
fear abated. Chase was treating her like a horse, checking
her out from top to bottom, assessing her potential.
“Appendicitis attack when I was fourteen. It was removed.”
“Problems afterward?”
Dana shook her head. Her heart began to settle down just a
little. But it was impossible to ignore Chase on a sensual
level. She’d met few men who had the confidence he
displayed. “No, no problems. Not then, not now.”
Grunting, Chase stepped back and critically examined the
rest of her. He crouched down, placing both palms on her
knees.
Dana tried not to react, though the roughened feel of his
hands made her mouth go dry. As warm as she was, Dana
could swear she felt embers of heat emanating from his
touch.
Chase poked and prodded her knees, front and back.
“You’ve got damage to your right knee.”
Amazed he could know that, she looked down at him. “Yes.”
“Long ago?”
“A year.”
“Another horse accident?”
“Yes.”
Chase ran his thumb from her knee down her lower leg,
testing one particular ligament. He used enough pressure
to make Dana flinch.
“Ow!”
Jerking a look up at her, Chase said, “Is that all you can
do? Cry over each little hurt?”
Dana tried to pull her leg free of his grasp, but his fingers
tightened just enough to hold her in place. When she
stopped trying to get away, they eased their grip.
“That’s better,” he murmured. At least she had the
intelligence to know that if she continued to fight him, he’d
outlast her. Carrying on with his inspection, Chase slid both
hands down the smooth expanse of her calves. He fought
the sensual feeling and kept his body from reacting. This
was business, not pleasure.
Dana’s breathing came in gulps. The rough slide of his
fingers moving down her calves sent delicious waves of
heat up her body. Dana struggled to remain focused on her
anger, not the moistness suddenly collecting between her
thighs. How could his exploring touch evoke such an
intimate response? Closing her eyes, she prayed this
appraisal would end very soon.
“Lift your right foot.” Chase was pleased when she obeyed
quickly. After examining her long, slender foot, he released
it and unwound from his crouched position. He walked
around to her back. “At least you have good legs.”
“I suppose that’s a compliment?” Dana retorted, hating that
he was looking at her from the rear. Without warning, she
felt his fingers slide around her left ankle.
“Lift this foot.”
Gritting her teeth, Dana did so. What the hell had he found
now?
Chase studied her left foot and saw a pink scar running the
length of her sole, from the heel to her big toe. Frowning, he
gently ran his fingers along it. “How old is this?”
Pain flooded her and she jerked her foot away from him.
Chase seemed caught off guard as she whirled around and
faced him. Sudden tears jammed into her throat, and for a
moment, Dana couldn’t speak.
Chase slowly eased to his feet, his gaze digging
demandingly into hers. Dana opened her mouth to reply,
but nothing came out. Her embarrassment over her
nakedness receded as a widening pool of anguish filled
her.
“The scar,” Chase demanded, watching tears form in
Dana’s eyes.
“I—” She gulped. Forcing back the tears, she said, “Hal and
my mother had just been murdered. It was two days after
their funeral. I was at my mother’s home on the res when it
happened. I was exhausted. I hadn’t slept in four days. I laid
down on my mother’s bed and I dropped off, finally.
Something in the middle of the night made a noise. I was
disoriented, confused. I remember getting up, and I
bumped the bedstand. A water glass fell and shattered. I
cut my foot open.”
Chase stood there, protecting himself against her anguish.
“It’s done and in the past.” His voice hardened. “So this
scar is two years old?”
“Y-yes.” No tears. Dana swallowed them even as grief from
the murders threatened to overtake her.
“Any problems with it?”
“None that I know of. I did go to the hospital on the res and
the doctor sewed it up for me. He said I’d been lucky.”
Taking a ragged breath, Dana whispered, “I didn’t feel
lucky.”
Chase grunted in understanding. “Any other injuries that I
haven’t found?”
Shaking her head, Dana said in a low tone, “No.”
He went to shrug on his jeans. “Get dressed. We’ve got
work to do.”
CHAPTER NINE
GLAD THAT THEY WERE both clothed again, Dana
watched warily as Chase went to the south wall of the
hogan. His hands were beautiful, she realized, even if badly
scarred and deeply callused. Those hands had touched
her. Trying to ignore her reaction to the evocative
experience, she watched as he hefted a black canvas bag
and brought it back to where she was standing.
“First things first—good footwear,” he informed her gruffly.
“Grab that wooden chair and sit down.”
As Dana did so, Chase pulled out a pair of socks, and then
some leather boots.
“Try these on. Grandmother Agnes gave me your shoe size.
These are handmade by a friend of mine on the res, out of
buffalo leather. They’re supple and they flex easily. That’s
what you want, because you’re going to be scaling a three-
thousand-foot basalt cliff to reach Rogan’s compound.”
Dana first took the thick socks from Chase. Their fingers
met briefly, and she jerked back. He scowled at her
reaction. Too bad. Dana wanted no further connection with
him, because it made her feel confused, uncomfortable and
yet strangely aroused. As she pulled the socks on, she tried
to ignore Chase’s overwhelming presence. Hands on his
narrow hips, he stood there, waiting. Feeling his
impatience, she tightened her mouth as she tried on the
boots.
“They fit perfectly,” she said, a little awed. They felt like
warm butter poured over her feet. Running her fingers
across the ankle-high boots, she felt the softness of the
leather, the sturdiness of the nylon soles. She almost
recoiled in surprise when Chase crouched in front of her
and felt each foot, checking how snugly the boots fit.
Though she wanted to jerk her leg away, Dana resisted.
She could see the set of his jaw, the intensity of his golden
eyes as he ran his hands knowingly along the leather.
Trying not to react, she sucked in a breath and held it
momentarily. Why did he have to be so damn tactile? She
wanted no part of this kind of intimacy with him. For two
years, she’d been without a man, and now Chase had
crashed into her life, like an eighteen-wheeler Mack truck. It
wasn’t a pleasant feeling.
“No pinching?” Chase demanded.
“No…none.”
“Well, we’ll find out tomorrow morning,” he growled,
checking her left boot just as closely. “Charley Crow Wing
is a pretty damn good shoemaker. He usually nails it the
first time around, but in your case, we can’t take his word
for it. You’ll be climbing tomorrow, so we’ll find out pretty
quickly if they are a perfect fit or not.” Rising, Chase said,
“Get up.”
Though she obeyed, Dana didn’t like his terse orders.
Biting back a response, she watched Chase pick up
another black canvas bag, heft it to his shoulder and head
for the door.
“Let’s go. We’ve got work to do.”
Grabbing the straw hat that her grandmother had given her,
Dana settled it on her head. She shoved on a pair of
sunglasses, picked up her knapsack and slung it over her
shoulder. Then she hurried to catch up with Chase, whose
stride was twice as long as hers. They were heading up
into the box canyon again. The sun was hot, the breeze still,
as if the world were holding its breath.
As she jogged after Chase, Dana felt slightly winded. She
reminded herself that she’d lived near sea level for two
years, and her body needed time to adjust to the higher
altitude.
She glanced up at Chase as he climbed the slope ahead of
her. No question, he was a mountain of a man. Yet as he
wound around the rabbitbrush and prickly pear cactus
dotting the landscape, he made no noise.
When she drew even with him, Chase gave her a sidelong
glance. “What do you know of Rogan?”
“Only what my grandmother told me.”
“He lives in a compound surrounded by a stockade of pine
poles. The fortress sits on a shelf of igneous rock atop that
cliff I mentioned. He was smart to put his castle up there,”
Chase said, leaping up onto a ledge of smooth, red
sandstone, the first of many that rose like a staircase up the
wall of the canyon.
“Okay.”
“Your job will be to scale that three-thousand-foot basalt
cliff. Then you have to enter the compound undetected. Your
next task is to locate the Storm Pipe, grab it and get the hell
out of there. All without being noticed.”
“Okay…”
Chase cut her a glare. He seriously questioned whether or
not Dana could do any of that. In his heart, he knew she
couldn’t, yet he’d given Grandmother Agnes his word to
train her for just such a mission. Something deep and warm
moved within his heart. Dammit, the last thing he needed
was to care about her. Trying to see her only as a student,
with no emotional connection, Chase snapped, “Okay?
That’s all you have to say? Do you realize what the hell is
being demanded of you? How dangerous this really is?”
He jabbed his hand at the red sandstone wall that rose
above them. “If you don’t kill yourself in the climb, then the
possibility of being detected scaling that cliff is very real.
Rogan has a team of twelve women, all of whom are
metaphysically trained. You don’t think any one of them
couldn’t detect your energy signature there? They’re
cosmic guard dogs, Dana. And they operate real well in the
invisible realms, or Rogan wouldn’t have brought them into
his fold to work with the Storm Pipe.”
Stung, Dana snapped back, “I don’t know that much about
Rogan. And if his women are metaphysically trained, well,
so am I. I know how to cloak myself so my energy can’t be
detected.”
Snorting, Chase growled, “Yeah, right. Just like you saw me
waiting up here behind a juniper tree, ready to jump you.”
Anger surged through Dana. She was huffing now as
Chase effortlessly scaled the sandstone slope. He wasn’t
out of breath at all, while she was practically gasping as
she clambered to keep up with his long strides. Finally, they
reached the back wall of the canyon. Looking up, Dana
eyed the red-and-white layers of rock that reminded her of
a cake.
Chase dropped the canvas bag, opened it and pulled out
nylon climbing ropes attached with aluminum connectors
that he called carabiners. Rapidly, he went through the
numerous pieces of gear, checking them over as he told
her about them. There were titanium pitons to hammer into
the rock, angles, mallard wedge hooks, ibis hooks, cliff
hangar and grappling hooks. He showed her a wall
hammer, a drill holder and a rockpec, rapidly explaining
what each was and its use in a climb. The array of
equipment was dizzying to Dana.
“I’m going to put the climbing harness on you,” Chase told
her at the end of his lecture. “And then I’ll get my gear on.
Once we’re ready, we’re going to start climbing this wall—
hammering pitons into it, for starters.”
“What?” Dana stared at the black nylon harness he held in
his hands. “I don’t know anything about climbing. Can’t you
teach me some of the basics before we do this?”
“No. The Indian way is hands-on, in case you forgot that,
too,” he growled, motioning for her to step into the nylon
trusses.
Dana reluctantly got into the harness. Chase brought it up
to her waist and with swift efficiency locked her into her
climbing gear.
“Tonight, when we get back to the hogan, you’re going to
take this off and put it on until you can do it without looking.
You’re going to have to climb that cliff in the dark. There
won’t be a flashlight available or anything else that could
give away your position. So you have to know your harness
and how it works as intimately as you know your own body.
Got that?” He drilled her with a sharp look.
“Yes, I got it.” No wonder they called him Iron Hand. They
should have called him Steel! But Dana knew that the Iron
Hand family was a very old and prestigious one within the
Lakota nation. And steel had not been known about in
earlier times. Iron was the metal of that age. If they were all
like Chase, Dana thought, his family must be a warrior clan.
For the next hour, Dana absorbed the basics of climbing.
By then, the sun was low on the horizon, the canyon
swathed in shadows. Her arms hurt. Her joints ached.
Chase had demanded that she learn how to pound a steel
piton into the sandstone, and much harder limestone, with
the hammer. She’d then had to fumble with the nylon ropes,
put a carabiner on the piton and run the lines through it to
hold her. By the time they were finished, she was halfway
up the wall. Chase came down in a rappelling maneuver,
and told her to do the same. Finding that if she mimicked
his movements, she would be safe, Dana used her legs like
springs and pushed away from the face of the cliff. Coming
down was a lot more fun, and faster, than going up, that
was for sure.
She landed with a thud and her knees buckled. If Chase
hadn’t grabbed her, Dana would have fallen off the narrow
shelf. Gasping, she felt fear shoot through her. His hand
was like steel as his fingers dug into her shoulder and he
hauled her up like some lightweight doll. In seconds, Dana
found herself pressed against his hard, unyielding body.
“Let me go!” she said, flattening her hands against his
chest. His flesh was as hard as the look in his flashing
golden eyes.
“And let you fall?” Chase grinned tightly and held on to her
shoulder. There was something surprising and delicious
about this unexpected contact, he decided. He secretly
relished the crush of her breasts against his chest, the
pressure of her hip against his. There was no doubt that he
was drawn to her sexually. And that was one place he
simply couldn’t go.
“Grab on to that bush in front of you and I’ll release you.”
Quickly, Dana reached for a small rabbitbrush that grew
from between a layer of red sandstone and one of white
dolomite. Gasping for breath, her heart hammering, she
stepped back, her grasp on the bush keeping her from
tumbling off the shelf. Trembling badly, she gave Chase a
glare and faced the cliff. Never had a man made her feel so
feminine. Or so threatened.
Despite everything, she realized she’d like to tame this
hardened warrior. Was he tamable? Dana thought not as
she quickly readied herself to step down on a small
outcropping. Chase was already off the shelf and down
below on a wide sandstone skirt, waiting impatiently for her
to descend.
Once she’d joined him, Dana wriggled out of her harness.
Chase had already done so and put his equipment back in
the canvas bag. She scrambled to catch up, feeling slow
and bumbling in comparison. Heat radiated from his
powerful body as he stood above her, hands settled
imperiously on his narrow hips.
“You carry the bag down. You need all the workout with
weights you can get.”
Disbelief shot through Dana as she watched Chase leap
down the slope and head toward the winter hogan far below
them. The bastard! Zipping the bag closed, she fumbled to
pick it up. The weight was surprising. What the hell else did
Chase have in this bag? she wondered as she struggled to
lift it onto her right shoulder. Every joint in her body ached.
She’d injured her hands a number of times, trying to
hammer in the pitons. With her knees feeling weak and
unsteady, she started down cautiously, making damn sure
she didn’t fall. Within minutes, Chase had disappeared
beyond the grove of piñon and juniper below. Fine. She
wanted to be alone, away from that judgmental, bossy man.
Lips compressed, Dana ignored the beauty of the
shadowed canyon. But the fragrance of pine wafting down
from the rim was a sweet reminder that nature never
smelled bad the way people did. As Dana struggled down
the slope with her unwieldy load, she tried to convince
herself that Chase smelled bad, too. But that wasn’t true.
No, whether she wanted to admit it or not, his scent was
like a sensual perfume to her. And as she continued to
descend, Dana wondered about his personal life. Her
grandmother had said very little about him.
Well, Dana was going to find out tonight. They had to live in
that hogan—together—and she wasn’t going to be trapped
with a total stranger.
OVER A MEAL OF LAMB STEW that Grandmother Agnes
had sent up with them, Dana sat at an old pine table,
Chase opposite her. He’d wolfed down two huge bowls of
the stew, along with some fresh cornbread, saying nothing.
So much for a polished dinner partner. After finishing her
own stew, Dana set the bowl aside.
“I want to know who you are,” she told Chase.
His chin lifted, his gold eyes resting on her. Instantly, Dana
felt his power, his energy, move right through her defenses.
Feeling uncomfortable, she added, “Grandmother didn’t
say much about you. If I have to spend five weeks with you, I
want to know who I’m working with.”
Pleased at her demand, Chase pushed his empty bowl
aside. Taking another square of warm, homemade
cornbread from the plate, he slathered it with melted butter.
“I’ll tell you what I want you to know,” he agreed.
Dana wasn’t going to be put off by the warning in his tone.
She watched as Chase bit into the cornbread. Seeing how
his eyes gleamed, she figured he must really like it. Usually,
they were flat and hard.
Getting to know Chase a bit better would make her feel
less intimidated, she figured.
“I’m ex-army. I was a captain,” he told her. “I went to West
Point when I was eighteen and graduated four years later. I
put in my promised eight years afterward and here I am.
Back on the res.”
Raising her brows, Dana asked, “That’s all you’re going to
tell me?”
“It’s all you need to know.”
“That’s crap. You’re from a medicine family, the Iron Hands.
Are you trained in ceremony?”
“What do you think?” Chase popped the last of the
cornbread into his mouth, savoring the flavors. Dana looked
angry. Good.
“I think you are.”
“You’re right. My father taught me everything I needed to
know before he died.”
“You’re a pipe carrier?”
“Of course. Personal, only.”
That made Dana feel slightly better. Pipe carriers, personal
or ceremonial, were supposed to be role models, having
good morals, values and work ethics. Dana saw the parallel
to the knights of King Arthur’s time. They were supposed to
be honest, and never lie, steal, cheat or do anything to harm
others. They were there to protect anyone vulnerable. It was
the same maxim for a pipe carrier, who was expected to
utilize the pipe for the good of all their relations. A
ceremonial pipe carrier had an even weightier
responsibility: that of caring for the nation he or she
belonged to.
“Enough about me,” Chase said. “Here’s your training
schedule for the next five weeks. I’m waking you at 0400
tomorrow morning. You’ll get on those boots and you’ll run
for five miles. I’ll time you. When you return to the hogan, I’ll
make you a big breakfast, and you’re going to eat all of it
because food is fuel for strength. After breakfast, you’re
going to start lifting stones that I’ll have waiting for you. Your
shoulders and arms are weak. You need to build them up.
The rocks will be of various weights, designed to do that.
After an hour’s workout, you’ll go to the cliff wall and climb.
You’ll make it up to the top and rappel back down. I’ll time
you on that, too. At lunch, we’ll come back here and you’ll
eat heavy. You’ll rest for an hour after that, sleep if you can.
Then you’ll do a second five-mile run in the heat. When you
return, you’ll chop wood for the stove and then you’ll make
us dinner. By that time, you’ll be exhausted.”
“I’ll be dead. I can’t run five miles, much less ten.”
Shrugging, Chase pushed away from the wooden table. He
went over to the potbellied stove and picked up the
coffeepot. Getting two mugs, he set them on the table and
poured the boiling-hot coffee. “You will or die trying. I have
five weeks to get you in shape for this gig.”
The coffee smelled wonderful, but Dana’s gut churned as
she watched Chase put the pot back on the stove, away
from the main heat. It was hot in the hogan, even with the
door open, and dusk was falling. “I’ll do my best,” she
muttered, defiantly.
Chase reached for some matches and lit the few kerosene
lamps sitting on shelves nearby. The glow chased away the
gathering darkness. The smell of kerosene was faint but
present, so he opened a window to get rid of the odor.
Electricity and phones didn’t exist out here, nor any other
modern amenities. Turning, Chase dropped the spent
wooden matches into the stove, then grabbed the honey
from the counter and brought it to the table.
As he sat, he noticed the open defiance on Dana’s face.
Spooning some honey into his steaming coffee, he smiled
thinly. “You will stick to this schedule. It’s real simple. And
after the day’s routine, we’ll spend time each evening
working with your psychic development, to strengthen your
protective walls so Rogan and his team don’t feel you
coming.” Chase slowly stirred his coffee. “You don’t have a
choice. You have to do everything I demand of you or you
won’t be ready to steal the Storm Pipe back before Rogan
uses it to kill someone else.
“Right now, I’m sure everyone in the government is turning
over every scrap of evidence to try and figure out what
killed the vice president. Sooner or later, we can expect
they’ll figure out it wasn’t laser-weapons created by Russia
or some terrorist organization. I’m hoping we’ll have five
weeks of peace and quiet to get this mission completed.
That way, we won’t have the FBI snooping around on Indian
land, or sticking their nose into our pipe ceremonies and
other medicine.”
Nodding, Dana sipped her coffee. “I don’t want them nosing
around, either. White men don’t understand our world, our
beliefs or our practices.”
“Well, then,” Chase rumbled, “at least we agree on one
thing—we want white men to butt out of this mission. Let’s
hope like hell that the feds don’t get wind of what really
killed the vice president. If they do, it will only complicate
what we’re trying to pull off.”
CHAPTER TEN
“YOU’VE GOT TO BE JOKING,” David Colby said. He sat
behind his desk at FBI headquarters and stared at the
woman who’d just stunned him.
In her early forties, Annie Ballard was dressed in a
conservative beige linen suit. She seemed the
consummate professional.
“I told my superiors, Agent Colby, that you would have this
kind of reaction to me.” Annie smiled slightly. “Let me
repeat—I’m a CIA agent assigned to the nonexistent
Remote Viewing Department. If you take a look at my
orders, you’ll see that I’m a psychic and I’ve been working
on behalf of our country for fifteen years.” She handed him
the paperwork.
Controlling his reaction, Colby took the papers and quickly
read them. A psychic, of all things! It had been three weeks
since the vice president had been murdered, and no clear
enemy had been found. The Russians denied any
responsibility, and even though they’d had optical and laser
technology stolen, no Islamic terrorist group had come
forward to claim the heinous act.
As he sat up in his chair and set the papers on his desk,
Colby had no explanation for the murder, not the slightest
clue. Which wasn’t making anyone in government happy.
The military was jumpy. The law enforcement sector was on
high alert. The president remained in hiding and had not
come back to the White House. Now, because there were
no leads, they were sending him a psychic?
He tightened his jaw in disbelief. “Have a seat, Agent
Ballard.”
“Call me Annie. I’ll call you David unless you tell me
otherwise.” She turned and shut the door to his small, neatly
kept office. The opened venetian blind behind him allowed
in light and showed a July-blue sky, a strip of grass and
some white granite buildings nearby.
“Okay,” Colby muttered unhappily, watching as she sat on
the small leather couch to the left of his desk.
Opening a black briefcase, Annie pulled out a number of
sketches. She set them on his desk. “These are
impressions of the man who killed the vice president.” With
a long, thin finger, she tapped the corner of one. “My job
over at the lab is more wide ranging than just remote
viewing activity. I’m sure you’re aware of our department?”
“Vaguely,” Colby said, looking down at the top sketch.
“You’re quite an artist. Or did you have one of our FBI
artists render this for you?”
She shook her head, her dishwater-blond hair sliding
across her shoulders. “No, I did it. My mother is an artist. I
think I got some of her genes.”
“I don’t believe in psychics and all that mumbo jumbo.”
Colby sat back and stared into her large blue eyes. She
was about five foot six inches tall, rail thin, with triangular
features. She was pretty in her own way, and Colby saw a
wedding ring on her left hand. She didn’t look like a
psychic, more like an average working woman with all her
ducks in a row.
“This isn’t about you or me, David. The FBI has failed to
come up with leads on the killer. My boss asked me to get
involved. This is the face I kept seeing when I went into
meditation. Does he look at all familiar to you?”
Shaking his head, Colby said, “No. But I’ll run the sketch
and we’ll see if we get a hit.”
“Whoever this is, he’s very dangerous. He’s a natural born
killer,” she said grimly. Showing him another sketch, she
added, “I did remote viewing, and this is what came up.
This guy is in or around the Carson City, Nevada, area. You
need to run this against local criminals out there.”
“Okay…” he muttered, looking at the sketch. How the hell
could she get this kind of info? Colby didn’t ask, because
he didn’t believe. It was all hocus-pocus to him. What they
needed to break open this case was cold, hard, detailed
work. Uncover the details and the puzzle would explain
itself.
Annie pulled a third paper from the group and laid it on top.
She leaned over Colby. “This last sketch is the impression
of the weapon that was used to kill the vice president.”
Frowning, Colby studied the L-shaped object—a long,
vertical shaft with a much shorter piece jutting off at a
perpendicular angle at the bottom. “Doesn’t look like a
laser to me.”
“You’re not a laser specialist.”
Stinging beneath her softly spoken reply, Colby said,
“That’s true. So what is this? Do the science guys know?”
Annie stood and pushed her thin hair away from her face.
“They don’t have a clue, either. It’s like nothing they’ve seen
before. That’s all I got when I asked during meditation to
see the weapon that killed the vice president.”
“I’ll send a copy of this over to the laser specialist friend of
mine here in the building. Maybe he’ll recognize it.”
“I’ve already asked around the CIA, and my people say it’s
not a weapon they’re familiar with.”
Scratching his head, Colby took the papers. “Well, at least
you came up with something, even if I don’t believe in your
work.”
Grinning, Annie sat back on the couch. She retrieved a
clipboard and pen from her briefcase. “That’s okay, David.
You don’t have to believe in what I do in order for me to get
leads. I’m not interested in defending my abilities. I’m
interested in finding the killer and stopping him from doing
this again.”
She was right. Colby called his secretarial assistant, Joan
Stoneman, who quickly came and took the papers. They
would be distributed to the proper people for analysis within
the FBI. Colby privately figured no one else would come up
with any hits or help, either.
“Now,” Annie said brightly, “what lead have you
developed?”
Leaning back in his chair, Colby said, “Not a thing. I’m sure
you know that.”
“I know some of the information through my bosses,” Annie
admitted. “But there are other things I wonder if you’ve
analyzed or looked at.”
“Such as?”
“Well, unusual things, you know? Things that are out of
place for this time of year.”
Rubbing his furrowed brow, Colby said, “We’ve done a lot
of looking in the D.C. area and found nothing out of the
ordinary.”
“Can you swing your considerable assets to Carson City,
Nevada? Take a look at any anomalies around there?”
“Of course.” Colby decided that Annie Ballard, despite
being a psychic, was pretty grounded and sharp. He’d
expected a space cadet personality, but she was all-
business. Brisk and efficient, even. Impressed, he picked
up his mug and sipped the nearly cold coffee it contained,
then said, “I’m going to bite. Do you recognize this man?
Did you receive any other impressions about him?”
Annie shook her head. “No. As you may or may not know,
being psychic isn’t foolproof. I have good and bad days,
which is par for the course for any emotional human being. I
have good and bad reception, for whatever reasons. I can’t
control what I get, the depth or breadth of information. No
one is a perfect clairvoyant.” Annie shrugged and smiled.
“We get puzzle pieces, as I like to call them. Hints. And
hopefully, direction.”
“I see….” Colby wondered about the L-shaped weapon.
“My general level of accuracy is ninety-five percent, by the
way. What I get is solid intel.”
“And we’re all left to figure out what you’re getting, and to
interpret it accurately, right?”
“You got it. That’s the fly in this particular ointment.” She
grinned.
Leaning back and lacing his hands behind his head, David
murmured, “Okay, our bad guy is in the U.S., so we figure
he’s a U.S. citizen?”
“Why? He could be a terrorist operating in a cell out in
Carson City.”
“You sketched him as being darker skinned. A black?
Middle Eastern? Hispanic?”
“I saw his skin as brownish, or deeply tanned. He had black
hair, dark brown eyes. I don’t think he’s African-American.
One of the other two, perhaps.”
“Is he a terrorist?”
“I felt a fanatical energy around him.”
“And he’s operating out of the Carson City region.” Colby
leaned forward to make a couple of phone calls. He would
find out what terrorist suspects might be located in that part
of the country.
“We’ll find out pretty quickly what Homeland Security has,”
Colby said, “about any cell activity.”
“Good.”
“So what’s your next plan of action? More meditation?”
Colby figured he might as well go along with this charade. It
wasn’t his nature to hurt anyone, and Annie Ballard seemed
so genuine and caring that he really didn’t want her to know
he considered her work a blind alley.
“Well,” she said hesitantly, “I get intel at odd times, David. I
might be having coffee at Star-bucks and I’ll get a flash of
something. Or it’ll come through a dream. I have dreams
that tell me a lot more than what I receive up here.” She
tapped her temple. “I can’t control where, when or why the
information comes to me. Sometimes it’s just a hunch or
intuition. I follow up on it and then something synchronistic
happens to verify it.” She opened her hands. “It’s a
mishmash of information, like puzzle pieces most of the
time. I have to try and put the images together into some
coherent, understandable format.”
No kidding. But Colby kept that acidic thought to himself.
The whole thing sounded harebrained. A wild-goose chase,
for sure. “So, we just wait for the cosmos to contact you?”
“No, I’m authorized to take you to Carson City.” Annie
looked at the simple leather watch on her small wrist. “In
fact, we’re taking a flight out from Reagan National Airport
in five hours.” Looking up, obviously noting the surprise he
felt. “Enough time for you to tidy up your business around
here, go home and tell your wife you’re leaving, and then
pack a suitcase.”
“I’m divorced,” Colby said. “I live with a cat.”
“Ah, that’s why I saw a gray, long-haired cat around you.”
Stunned, Colby felt his eyes bulge momentarily. “Why…
Murphy is a long-haired gray Persian. How did you know?”
Chuckling, Annie wrote some notes on her clipboard. “I saw
it. But I didn’t know the cat’s name. I knew it was a he.”
“Neutered.”
“Thanks for the confirmation. With you being FBI, and your
buttoned-down look, I wouldn’t figure you for a cat man.
Most men are dog people.”
“I like cats because they’re independent.”
“Makes two of us. My husband, Phil, and I have four of the
curmudgeons. Oh, and we have a golden retriever named
Rocky, too.”
Scratching his head, Colby stood up and gave her an
uneasy smile. “I guess you’re going to have to convince me
that a psychic is what this case needs.”
“I’m ready to do that. But we have to get out to Carson City,
where I can get a whiff, I hope, of a stronger lead. The only
way I can do it is to be there. And since you’re the special
agent on this case, I need you along, too, in case we
stumble onto something. The CIA wants this case solved
just as quickly as the FBI does, for obvious reasons.”
“You’re right about that,” Colby grumbled. He walked
around his dark maple desk and opened the door. “I’ll talk
to my assistant and get a lot of balls in the air. Leave the
flight info on my desk. I’ll meet you at the gate, okay?”
Annie pulled out two airline tickets. She stood and dropped
one on his desk. “Done. See you shortly. By then, you
should have some info back on any known terrorist cells in
that area, and maybe a confirmation on that face sketch.”
She crossed her fingers. “I hope we get lucky.”
Smiling thinly, Colby stood aside as Agent Ballard walked
out the door, briefcase in hand. A psychic who hoped to get
lucky…
Shaking his head, he decided that doing something, even
this, was better than sitting at his desk empty-handed. If the
CIA had proved that psychics were useful enough to have
their own department, who was he to sniff at the idea?
Right now, his team had no leads, and he was hungry
enough to grab at mumbo jumbo.
CHAPTER ELEVEN
“IS THE PIPE STRONG enough yet?” Rogan demanded of
Blue Wolf.
It was before noon in the high Sierras, and they sat
opposite each other in the cedar lodge. As he awaited her
answer, he rubbed his hands together.
A scowl settled on the woman’s face. Blue Wolf was Crow,
a powerful medicine woman in her own right, which was
why he’d chosen her. But Rogan didn’t like her arrogance,
which was heightened by the fact that only she carried the
ceremonial pipe among the twelve women he’d selected.
“You know I work with the pipe at this time every day,” Blue
Wolf growled. In a protective gesture, she placed her hand
over the stone bowl. “I don’t like the fact that you come in
here unannounced. You jar me out of my altered state. You
cause stress on the pipe and me.”
Shrugging, Rogan said, “I don’t have time to dally. I’ve got
to drive down to Carson City and pick up supplies.” Who
did Blue Wolf think she was? He was the leader, not her.
Although, judging from the deep lines around her chocolate-
colored eyes, she was truly angry over his intrusion.
Blue Wolf shook her finger at him. “Next time, wait, Rogan. I
couldn’t care less if you drive down the mountain to get
food. That’s your responsibility.” She kept one hand over
the pipe head, which rested in her other palm. Rogan’s
gaze had never left it. Damn him! She didn’t like his
careless disrespect toward the powerful object.
Rogan scratched his head and gave her a lazy look. “So
answer my question! When will the pipe be ready to use
again?”
“It’s only been four weeks. We’ve never done this before, so
how do I know how long it will take to recharge?”
“You said you knew everything about pipes,” Rogan
reminded her.
“This one’s different! I can feel your impatience, but you’re
not going to push me or it to work prematurely. If we do that,
we could harm the pipe forever. Is that what you want?”
“Of course not.” He glanced around the dimly lit room, built
of cedar as the rest of the lodge. Rogan liked its simple,
clean design. The single-story building, a series of rooms
each about twelve feet wide, reminded him of a caterpillar
with segments. As a Native American connected deeply
with Mother Earth, he realized the design reflected nature at
its finest.
Rogan felt a glow of pride in the cedar shake roof and the
vertical panels of the lodge, which he had designed himself
many years ago. Each room had been thoughtfully laid out
before he’d constructed it. The altar room, where the Storm
Pipe was kept, was behind the meditation and prayer
room, where Blue Wolf sat. There was a foyer in front,
where cedar doors were carved with depictions of the
rising sun and the full moon. Rogan’s office was located
here, along with a general meeting room. Yes, everything
he’d done in the last seven years had been leading up to
this moment.
Savoring the fact that he’d managed to steal the Storm
Pipe, with Blue Wolf’s help, Rogan smiled to himself.
Things were progressing well. Still, he was jumpy and
tense. He knew the government would be trying to find out
who and what had killed the vice president. Rogan was
counting on the fact that the stupid white men on Capitol Hill
would never think of a pipe having such power, and would
overlook that possibility. Linear thinking would keep him
and his band of women safe from scrutiny.
Rogan grinned at Blue Wolf. “Yes, I am impatient. But with
good reason. I want to see the white men suffer. They killed
six million of us, on purpose. It’s payback time.”
Blue Wolf nodded. Rogan had to be spiraling into one of
his tirades, so she slipped the head of the Storm Pipe back
into its pouch. “Genocide, pure and simple,” she agreed.
“The army deliberately handed our people smallpox-
infested blankets, knowing that would wipe out an entire
village. There should be revenge. Six million of us were
murdered by them, by the white eyes.”
In Rogan’s mind, Blue Wolf looked like a mother holding a
beloved child. The pipe was cradled in the crook of her left
arm, her right hand resting gently overtop the two-foot-long
bag.
“Well,” he said, pleasure vibrating in his tone, “it has begun.
Every one of us wants to see this retribution. So what if
various chiefs of our nations have reviled me for my plan?
Twelve women are with me. Twelve of the most powerful
women from twelve different nations. I think we are being
guided by the Great Spirit to balance the scales of karmic
justice, so to speak. I’m glad to be a part of this.”
Nodding again, Blue Wolf said, “Every one of us supports
you in your vision, Rogan. Each of the women you have
chosen is either a medicine woman or in training to be one,
powerful in her own unique way. And we have seen what
the white man has done to our people. Being forced to eke
out an impoverished existence on a reservation is not right.
Even now, in the twenty-first century, the white man’s
government dismisses us and our concerns. They don’t
care if our children starve, or we lack proper health
facilities. Or education. No, they’re very happy to see us
continue to quietly suffer, as we’ve done since they forced
us onto reservations over a hundred years ago.”
“Well, that is about to change,” Rogan reminded her, an
edge to his modulated tone. He splayed his hand on the
handsome handwoven rug they sat on. The wool was
prickly and felt good to him. The rug had been designed
and made by a Navajo woman who’d spent hundreds of
hours on her labor of love. Only another Native American
could truly understand what the weaver had gone through,
could appreciate the untold hours she’d spent sitting before
her loom. White men usually overlooked the weaver’s
laborious efforts and would try to get a rug for as few dollars
as they could, once more stealing from Native Americans.
Nothing had changed as far as Rogan was concerned.
Well, it was going to now. Once and for all.
“You need to be patient, Rogan,” Blue Wolf chided. “I am
still learning about this pipe, its personality, its abilities, and
how long it takes to recover after doing such powerful work.
We have time. Let’s not rush things.”
Rogan rested his hand on his knee. “I feel things are
unsettled, Blue Wolf. Don’t you?”
“Why, of course they are! The federal government is in
turmoil. They can’t figure out who did this to the vice
president. They’re scared. They have no culprit. Of course
things are in chaos, and as medicine people, we are very
aware of that energy flux and flow.”
Chuckling darkly, Rogan said, “A disturbance in the Force,
to borrow from Star Wars. Now, there is a movie that deals
with what we’ve always known about. Only we call it the
Great Spirit, and we’ve been taught how to recognize it, tap
into it and utilize it.”
Blue Wolf allowed a faint smile to touch her weathered
face. “Little did Luke Skywalker and all the rest know what
he was portraying…. But we know, and that’s enough. The
white man’s government doesn’t understand our connection
with all the invisible energies. Yes, you’re right, Rogan, the
Force has bit Washington, D.C., in the ass. Serves them
right. It’s been too long in coming.”
Rogan had a narrow face with close-set, dark-blue eyes
that reminded her of a weasel’s. But then, she told herself, it
would take someone of consummate cleverness to bring
this particular plan to fruition. Just like the weasel, Rogan
was rarely seen in public. Oh, medicine people from all
nations knew him, but on the inner circle. No one had ever
heard his name outside of the res. And that was one of
many things he’d counted on as he brought his team of
women together to forge his vision.
Unwinding from his position, Rogan stood and gave Blue
Wolf a pleased look. “I’ll be back later this afternoon. I’ve
got the grocery list from Wanda Running Deer. Anything
special you need from Carson City?”
“Thank you for asking, but no.” Patting the pipe bag gently,
Blue Wolf murmured, “I’ve got everything I’ll ever need right
here in my arms.”
“Well, keep working with the pipe. I feel like we’re being
stalked, and I don’t know by who yet. It’s bothering me.”
“Stop worrying. It’s only your nerves, Rogan. There’s no way
the government is onto us.” Blue Wolf snorted. “They don’t
want to know that we even exist, so why would we ever be
seen as the threat?” Waving her hand, her voice wry, Blue
Wolf added, “No one else is psychically picking up
anything. We all feel safe here.”
Shaking his head, Rogan turned on his heel. “I don’t know,
Blue Wolf. I feel like we’re being tracked by someone who
wants that pipe back.”
“The Blue Heron Society?” She spat, and laughed with
derision. “They are nothing but a bunch of elderly, arrogant
old women from different nations. The youngest is in her
sixties, the oldest midnineties. How much of a threat do
they pose?” Gesturing around the lodge, Blue Wolf cackled.
“And tell me, Rogan, which one of them is going to climb a
three-thousand-foot cliff to reach our compound? We have
twenty-four-hour-a-day sentries on the only road into the
area. And don’t you think that, because we’re all psychic,
one of us would pick up on any attempt to steal this pipe
back, even if someone did try? Do me a favor, Rogan? Go
into Carson City and get our supplies for the next month.
Stop worrying.”
“You’re right,” he grumbled, turning away and heading
toward the front door. “I’ll see you later.”
Still, as he stepped out into the pine-scented air, Rogan
couldn’t shake his uneasy feeling. The sky a light-blue, and
robins were singing, yet someone was stalking them. But
who? There was no question he could sense and feel it.
As he walked down the gravel path, he saw a few of the
women hanging out laundered clothes on a cotton line near
the kitchen. The compound was comprised of five buildings
all enclosed within the ten-foot-high stockade, and the
kitchen and dining facilities were in one. He headed toward
the dirt parking lot, where his dark-blue Chevy pickup truck
sat. There were five other vehicles there, all belonging to
women who lived here with him. A couple of them spotted
him as they hung up clothes, and lifted their hands in
greeting. He gave a friendly wave in return.
Pulling out his keys, Rogan moved down the path to the
parking lot, right inside the big double gates to the fort.
Rogan made sure there was at least one guard on duty
there twenty-four hours a day. He trusted no one. After
waving to the woman, Ruby Tall Tree, who was opening up
for him, he unlocked the pickup and got in.
Rogan drove out of the compound, carefully scanning the
land around him. The road quickly dropped in elevation,
until silvery sagebrush and a few straggly pines were
dotting the barren landscape. For all intents and purposes,
Nevada was desert. Only in the mighty Sierras, above
seven thousand feet, where his compound stood, did tall,
stately pines begin to flourish like a green army.
From the bumpy dirt access road, Rogan could see the
main highway three thousand feet below. Land of gambling,
he thought as he drove. Gambling, indeed. He was taking
the biggest gamble of his life.
A smile cut across his face as he kept the truck in low gear
during the steep descent. Like a thick smoke screen,
billowing clouds of dust rose up behind him. A jackrabbit
darted out in front, and he narrowly missed it. Rogan’s
reflexes were still sharp. Though forty-five, he had never felt
more powerful or more happy. Hands wrapped firmly
around the wheel, he kept his focus on driving. This was not
a road that forgave someone who came down it too fast.
As he pulled onto the busy asphalt highway, Rogan still felt
a niggling sense of foreboding. He wished to hell he knew
what he was picking up on. And who. After the nations
spurned his plan to get even with the U.S. government,
Rogan had told no one of his intentions. Back then, none of
the chiefs or head medicine men would go along with his
vision of revenge. They were peaceful and wanted only to
live in harmony with Mother Earth, they’d told him. After
being rebuffed and humiliated at too many council
meetings, Rogan had devised a much different plan over
time.
In the modern world, Native American women were no
longer considered equal partners, as they had before the
whites set foot on Turtle Island. Women were now treated
like second-class citizens. In many of the nations, it had
been fairly easy for Rogan to find disgruntled medicine
women who wanted to reclaim their power and rightful
place in the hierarchy. Rogan had mesmerized them with
his sorcery and cajoled them to come work with him. He’d
promised to give them back their power, as well as the
respect they deserved. And they had agreed to help bring
his vision to fruition.
Chuckling indulgently, Rogan opened a bottle of water and
drank. All the while, he kept his eyes on the road. In the
distance, he could see Carson City rising up out of the flat
desert, all steel, glass and concrete. The white man’s world
was like an infection on the skin of Mother Earth. In his
opinion, genetically speaking, most humans were little
more than virus DNA. They were a virus, a blight on Mother
Earth, Rogan believed, not the Native Americans. His mind
flitted back to the members of his team. Hadn’t Jesus
Christ had twelve apostles? Look at what he’d
accomplished. He saw himself in the latter role. His women
were his disciples, and he was the powerful visionary with
the talent to bend them to his will. He got intense enjoyment
from being the only one who did understand it. That was
enough for him.
The sun shone brightly into the cab and he switched on the
air-conditioning. The traffic was getting thicker as Carson
City came closer. The endless carpet of yellow desert
dotted with sage was broken up by green pastures with
Herefords grazing in them, or fields of wheat and corn. The
flat land was a colorful patchwork quilt, Rogan decided. His
spirits lifted, and he realized he actually felt happy. It was a
foreign emotion to him, but he absorbed the light, airy
feeling with gratitude. Yes, life was good. Very good. He
was fulfilling his vision, and in another three weeks, the
Russian ambassador to the U.S. would be the next target of
the Storm Pipe.
Rogan smiled. That would completely unnerve the U.S.
government. Rogan knew that top officials thought
Russians had killed the vice president with laser
equipment. Now, targeting the ambassador was going to
stir up a hornets’ nest in Russia. It would put the two
superpowers into a deadly confrontational dance. Yes, life
was good, and Rogan was happy. Happier than he’d ever
been. No one could stop him, much less find out what he
was doing. Being invisible had decided advantages.
CHAPTER TWELVE
A RAVEN CAWED NOISILY, dragging Dana out of a deep,
badly needed sleep. The delicious scent of coffee teased
her nostrils, pulling her awake. And then she felt strong
fingers molding and massaging the aching muscles in her
shoulders. A small moan of pleasure escaped her parted
lips. Dana realized she was lying on her belly, face pressed
against the scratchy wool of the Navajo rug she slept upon.
Caught between the arms of sleep and the gentle, delicious
pressure of the strong fingers working on her shoulders,
Dana absorbed the welcoming warmth and nurturing. She
was so sore and tired…!
The harsh, loud croak of the raven brought her back to the
here and now. She realized with a start that the only person
who could be doing this was Chase Iron Hand. The fact
galvanized Dana into action.
Pulling away from his wonderful, healing touch, she
scrambled into a sitting position. Her hair, long and straight,
fell across her face, and she pushed it back. The last thing
Dana had expected was to be touched like that by Chase.
He was such a hard, brutal drill instructor, straight out of the
Marine Corps tradition.
Dana brushed at her hair again and sleepily looked up.
Chase was squatting a few feet from her, hands resting
between his opened legs. A thoughtful expression came
over his normally unreadable features.
“Time to get up.”
Dana never woke up quickly in the morning. Ever. Right
now, her shoulders were tingling pleasantly from his
massage. Dana yearned for more contact like that with
Chase, she realized, as she scrubbed her eyes, trying to
force the grogginess away. His voice, always low, and
reminding her of thunder in the distance, enveloped Dana
like a warm blanket. After four weeks of nearly unendurable
training, Chase seemed, well, nicer this morning.
Stunned by the change in his demeanor and touch, Dana
hurriedly got to her feet. The hogan was pleasantly toasty.
Outside the window she saw a gray hint of dawn. It was
time to get going. Still, the thought wouldn’t go away. Why
had Chase touched her like that?
No time to think too much about it. Gathering her bathrobe
from a nail on the wall, Dana wrapped herself in it. Even
though she wore a long blue cotton shift, she still didn’t like
being the object of Chase’s inspection. Hurrying outdoors,
she headed to the privy. Over the last month, she’d
toughened up her feet by walking barefoot except when
jogging or climbing. Chase had demanded that her daily
ten-mile run be done a week after she’d started that
grueling routine.
The scent of fragrant sage covered in dew filled her
senses. The raven sitting in a nearby piñon tree croaked
and flapped its wings as Dana hurried by. A chipmunk
scurried to the large pile of wood that she chopped daily to
increase her shoulder and arm strength. The canyon was
alive with creatures awakening, Dana realized.
Another day of brutal work lay ahead. Still, she was proud
of herself. So far, she’d been able to do everything Chase
had demanded of her.
As she stepped inside the old pine outhouse, which was
weathered and gray, Dana thought of her grandmother.
Agnes, too, was pleased with her progress. Dana had seen
the hope burning in her watery eyes the last time she’d
visited. Hope that Dana might really bring the Storm Pipe
back to its rightful place within their sacred society.
After washing up at the well, Dana jogged back to the
hogan and opened the door. Chase was at the potbellied
stove cooking up a large skillet of scrambled eggs mixed
with shredded venison. The smells made her stomach
growl with anticipation.
There was little privacy here, but Dana had insisted upon
some. Chase had built a paneled screen that she could slip
behind to change clothes. Sitting down on the three-legged
oak stool, she quickly put on a pair of socks to warm her
feet.
“What’s up for today?” she asked Chase from behind the
screen.
“You’re doing your ten miles this morning, an hour after
breakfast. Between now and then, we’re going to continue
work to psychically strengthen your skills.”
Dana always looked forward to their psychic training
sessions. Quickly shedding her robe and nightgown, she
slipped into a dark-red spandex T-shirt and a pair of
comfortable gray sweatpants. The food smelled wonderful.
Dana couldn’t ever recall being as famished as she had
been this last month. She hadn’t wanted to eat much since
the death of her mother and husband, and she’d lost thirty
pounds. Now, her weight was returning to normal, despite
the brutal physical training, which lasted twelve hours a day.
The coffee was perking away on the edge of the stove. As
she often did, Dana stole a quick look in Chase’s direction.
He had a pot holder around the skillet handle, his
concentration fixed on stirring the eggs, venison and
onions. A month had worn down her objections to him. He
was a firm teacher, Dana had come to realize. Not cruel or
brutal as she’d first thought. And he remained very
detached toward her as a woman. Most of the time, unless
she hurt herself with more than a minor scrape or bruise, he
never touched her. But when he did, Dana’s heart opened
up like a blossom to the warming rays of the sun.
Taking a deep breath, she hurried to the old dresser at the
other end of the hogan. Its mirror was tipped back against
the mud-caulked wooden wall. The glass had a lot of dark
spots where the mirror backing had disintegrated over
time. But she could see to brush her hair and twine the
strands into braids.
From that vantage point, Dana could secretly absorb the
intensity of Chase’s features. He was handsome in a raw,
uncut way. No pretty boy, that was for sure. With deep
crow’s-feet at the corners of his eyes, and slashes down
either side of his sensual mouth, his face had been
branded by harsh living conditions. When she asked Chase
about his time in the army, he usually grunted a single-word
answer. Something had happened to him, and it showed on
his features.
Dana realized his eyes had the power to lift her spirits or
crush her. When he was pleased with her efforts, they
shone more gold than brown. If he was displeased, his
eyes would darken and remind her of a coming
thunderstorm. Chase never smiled, at least not completely.
Dana ached to see his harsh mouth draw upward—just
once. It would change his entire face, she suspected. But
his serious expression remained constant.
Dana felt sad for Chase. He didn’t joke or laugh. Had his
life been so awful, so depressing?
After tying off her braids with red rubber bands, Dana went
to the washbasin and quickly brushed her teeth. As she
rubbed her damp hands down her thighs afterward, she
turned, just in time to see Chase studying her.
Dana froze momentarily. Blinking, she couldn’t believe what
she saw in his probing eyes. Was that yearning? She
nervously licked her lower lip and went toward the drain
board to rescue the recently washed mugs for coffee. Her
heart wouldn’t steady its beat. When she glanced back at
Chase, he was once again focusing darkly on the contents
in the skillet. Dana wondered if she’d imagined it. She
thought she’d seen the look a man gave a woman he
wanted in every way, including sexually.
A shiver of anticipation wove through Dana’s body and
settled deep in her abdomen. Heat gathered and pulsed
between her legs. Hands shaking, she grabbed two mugs.
Was Chase reading her mind? Had he entered her sensual
dreams, where she often felt him kiss her like sunshine
kissed the warm earth? No, she had to be making this up.
Dana hurried to the small wooden table that sat in the
southern part of the hogan. After placing the mugs on the
scarred surface, she retrieved flatware and paper napkins.
The salt and pepper shakers were already on the table.
Chase set down two plates heaping with food. He saw
Dana grab the loaf of whole-grain bread, along with a jar of
strawberry jam. Without preamble, he sat down and silently
said a prayer of thanks for the meal before them to the
spirits who had provided it.
Happiness threaded through Chase. As he shook salt and
pepper onto the fragrant breakfast, he felt Dana’s knee
brush his. Whether he liked it or not, he looked forward to
this half hour every day with her. In one month’s time, Dana
had become an addiction for him. It was nice to wake up
and see her, note the sparkle of life in her eyes and the
huskiness of her just-waking voice. He couldn’t ignore her
natural beauty. Her smooth, high cheekbones usually were
flushed with a hint of pink beneath the gold tones. Chase
found himself mesmerized by her long, graceful hands, the
way she held a fork, stirred cream and sugar into her
coffee. Everything about Dana appealed to him, he
realized.
As he ate in silence, wildly aware of their knees inches
apart beneath the small table, Chase noted his mistake.
He’d touched Dana this morning. He’d been fighting a daily
urge to caress her glorious body. He wanted to ease the
stiffness and tension in her muscles from the harsh training.
She’d tried hard to please him, to meet his high demands,
and she had a commendable work ethic.
He couldn’t deny why his heart was hammering away: he
was drawn to her as a woman. Why now? Why her? Chase
understood the danger of the mission against Rogan. He
wasn’t sure that Dana could single-handedly carry it off.
She was trying with all her heart to learn, and learn quickly,
but she wasn’t ready. At least, not yet. Was he sending her
to her death?
His chest contracted violently at that last thought. The eggs
turned tasteless in his mouth. Drawing in a ragged breath,
Chase forced himself to eat. Dammit, anyway. Why couldn’t
Dana have been unattractive?
Groaning inwardly, he stabbed savagely at the food on his
plate. Things weren’t going right. He’d start the psychic
training, send Dana on her ten-mile run and then report her
progress to Grandmother Agnes.
“GRANDMOTHER,” Chase began wearily as he sat
opposite her in her hogan, “I’m worried.”
Agnes nodded and passed him a mug of hot sage tea. Her
hand shook badly and he quickly clasped his around it, then
took the mug.
“Thank you. Age makes one shaky.” She smiled, then tilted
her head as if to listen.
Chase cautiously sipped the tea. “I think you know what I’m
going to say,” he stated.
“I do, but let me hear what lies in your heart, Chase.”
He forced himself to hold her watery eyes. “I have concerns
about Dana, about her ability to succeed in getting the
Storm Pipe back to you. She is trying very hard to do
everything I’ve taught her. It isn’t that she doesn’t have heart
—she does. But frankly, four or five weeks just isn’t long
enough to get her trained to the level needed in order to
take on Rogan and his band, Grandmother.”
Nodding, Agnes sipped her own tea, both hands wrapped
around the warm pottery mug. After setting it down in front
of her, she wiped the corners of her mouth with her ever
present cotton handkerchief. “The Storm Pipe gathers
power again, Chase. We will be lucky if it isn’t ready to be
used again before five weeks are up.”
“That’s not good news,” Chase growled. Rubbing his hands
together, he stared down at the calluses, his brows knitting.
“No, it’s not. If Rogan gets a second chance to kill
someone, well, it may turn the world into chaos. And that’s
what Rogan wants—white men at white men’s throats, to
destroy their world. Only he’s too blind to realize that as the
white man’s world goes, so go the rest of us.”
“We’re all related, whether we like it or not,” Chase grimly
agreed, his voice deep with worry.
“And,” Agnes said gently, “I feel that you have made a
personal connection with Dana. One that goes beyond
being just a teacher to her.”
A pang of guilt edged with terror lanced through Chase. He
didn’t think anything in his life could compare to the fear
from his six months of torture in South America. But it had
—unexpectedly. Rubbing his brow, he evaded
Grandmother Agnes’s stare.
“I know this is upsetting to you, Chase. I can sense it.”
Lifting his head, he forced himself to hold the old woman’s
warm, understanding gaze. “I just never expected to like
Dana on a personal level, Grandmother. I—well…it just sort
of sneaked up on me. Not that she did anything to invite it.
She hasn’t flirted with me or done anything to make me
think she feels similarly.”
“But…?”
Glancing around the hogan, he noticed the morning light
filtering through the windows and giving the inside a look of
muted radiance. Nevertheless, Chase grimaced and finally
muttered, “I worry for her. I just don’t think Dana’s anywhere
near ready to take on Rogan. Oh, I’m sure she could climb
that cliff without a problem. She’s excelled at mountain
climbing. And she’s doing fine on her daily runs. But when I
engage her in hand-to-hand combat, she falls short.”
“Why do you think that is?”
Flatly, Chase said, “Because it isn’t in her heart to kill.
That’s why. She’s afraid to hurt me. She’s a softy,
Grandmother, through and through. She pulls her punches
and kicks when I train her. She cries when she finds a
butterfly with a broken, shredded wing. She can’t stand to
see anything hurt or wounded.” Frustration rang through his
tone. “Dana simply is not motivated to get tough and learn
to fight back as hard as she can.”
Sighing, Agnes blotted her mouth and gripped the
handkerchief. “I was afraid of this. Dana is softhearted. But
so was her mother. You know yourself that high-level pipe
carriers usually are very heart centered. They know not to
hurt anything. It’s just a part of their heritage, their knowing
and their spiritual advancement.”
“I understand that,” Chase replied heavily. “Ceremonial
pipe carriers are spiritually more whole and balanced than
the rest of us miserable two-leggeds. They’ve advanced
beyond where most of us are still struggling.”
“Well, then, we must give Dana reason to get more grit, to
be prepared to fight and defend herself even if it harms
someone else. Perhaps this is a lesson she needs to learn
—that even though one hates violence and harming others,
sometimes it must be undertaken for a higher cause.”
CHAPTER THIRTEEN
“SIT DOWN,” Chase told Dana. “We have some things to
discuss.” He handed her an old pink towel to wipe her
perspiring features after her morning run.
She nodded and sat down on a huge round chunk of wood
that was used as a chopping block. Blotting her face, she
felt the soft breeze cooling her heated body. “I had a good
run. Look.” She showed him the time on the round dials of
her stopwatch. “Seven-minute miles aren’t bad for
someone like me.”
He nodded. “That’s real good,” Chase agreed. Her hair
was plaited, with tendrils around her face loosened from the
run. Chase tried to ignore the fact she wore a sleeveless,
red spandex T-shirt that outlined her breasts and torso. The
gray sweatpants that encased her long legs only
emphasized the fact that Dana was shapely and desirable.
Tucking away that heated reaction, Chase waited patiently
while she took a good, healthy swig from her water bottle
and wiped her face once more. Dana wrapped the pink
towel around her neck and shoulders, hitched one foot up
on a piece of split wood, and rested her arm on her thigh.
“What do you want to talk about?” Her breathing was
slowing down to a more normal cadence. Dana had
noticed that running daily for a month had deepened her
lung capacity. She felt good, and in the best shape she’d
ever been. Seeing the darkness in Chase’s eyes, she
worried that somehow she was not meeting his demands.
What now? As she tried to steel herself against his
criticism, she nervously waited for him to speak.
“You’ve done well in four weeks, Dana. Considering you
were a grade school teacher whose only exercise was
walking to work and horseback riding, you’ve come a long
way,” Chase began. He saw surprise and then pleasure
dancing in her eyes. How he wished that look had been
reserved for him—a woman welcoming her man. But it
wasn’t. Rubbing his stubbled jaw, he said, “I just talked with
Grandmother Agnes. She said that she feels the Storm
Pipe is nearing the time when it can be used again.”
“Oh, dear.”
“Yeah. Not good news,” Chase agreed grimly.
Rubbing more sweat from her brow with one end of the
towel, Dana said, “Does this mean I have to go to Rogan’s
compound sooner?” Her heart skipped a beat in terror.
Dana fought fear every time she thought about what she
had to do. She wasn’t about to admit it to anyone. Above
all, she didn’t want to disappoint her grandmother, who was
counting on her.
“Yes, it may mean that.” Chase continued, “You’re strong
and ready in your climbing and rappelling abilities. Plus,
you’ve built up your wind and stamina. You’ve got better
endurance now.”
“That’s good to hear.” Dana managed a cautious grin.
“Praise, finally, from the slave driver.”
The warmth in her husky voice blanketed Chase. Dana’s
smile was rare. Her teasing him was new. She felt
comfortable enough with him, trusted him enough now,
Chase supposed. That was good. Because trust was
something that couldn’t be bought or sold. “Yes, you can
bank on it,” he told her softly.
His heart was heavy, and he tried to steel himself for what
he was about to say. “Dana, you’re weak in your combat
skills. You don’t have the heart to hurt someone if it
becomes necessary. When I teach you the karate moves,
you learn them, but you allow your emotions to blunt your
drive. You need head and heart in hand-to-hand combat, or
Rogan is going to kill you.” Chase clasped his hands
together and stared down at them.
“Look,” Dana said, her voice tight, “I’ve told you time and
again, Chase, that I don’t like to hurt anything. Not even a
fly. I was raised to know that everything, whether it crawled,
flew or swam, was my brother or sister.” Shrugging, she
gave him a look of helplessness. “I’m just not the fighter or
warrior you are. I’m trying, though.”
She saw disappointment in the hard planes of his coppery
face. Dana didn’t like making Chase feel like that. From the
beginning, something had driven her to try and meet his
expectations. Now, she felt as if she’d failed. That hurt, and
Dana pressed her hand against her heart. She didn’t want
to disappoint Chase.
“You are trying,” he acknowledged, struggling to take the
hard edge from his voice. Looking deeply into her soft
cinnamon eyes, he said, “You don’t have a reason to put
your heart and soul into this. Oh, I know you’re doing it
because Grandmother Agnes asked you to. And you are
the next one chosen to carry the Storm Pipe. But that’s not
driving you, Dana. You’re doing this out of respect and
tradition. And you need drive.”
Frustrated, Dana said, “I don’t know what else I can do,
Chase. I’m willing to give my life to get that pipe back. Isn’t
that enough?”
Taking a deep, ragged breath, Chase said, “No, it isn’t.
Listen to me, Dana. Do you know who murdered your
mother and husband?”
“Of course I don’t know. I wish to hell I did. I’ve wanted to
know for two damn long years.” Her patience thinned. Her
nerves were taut, and Dana felt the hurt eating her up
inside. Confused, she whispered tautly, “What’s this
conversation all about? What’s going on? Do you know
who killed them?”
“Yes, I do.” Chase straightened up and held her eyes,
noting the surprise and shock in their depths. “Rogan Fast
Horse stole the Storm Pipe from your mother. He has a
partner, a woman named Blue Wolf. Rogan knew that he
didn’t dare touch the pipe himself or he’d die. So he had
this woman come with him to pick up the pipe and steal it.”
Gulping, Dana whispered, “Rogan murdered them?” Her
heart galloped. She felt shaky. In shock. Dizzy.
Nodding, Chase continued in a low, pain-filled voice.
“Grandmother Agnes has known this for some time, and
she told me about it this morning. She felt you should know
the truth now. The whole truth.”
Chase saw tears flood Dana’s eyes. His heart contracted
with pain—her pain. “I’m sorry, I don’t want to hurt you,
Dana, but I know I’m going to. Grandmother said her guides
showed her that Blue Wolf knocked on the door to your
mother’s house. Your husband answered it and let her in.
Blue Wolf pretended to want to speak to your mother. As
your husband turned away, Rogan sneaked in through the
open door and stabbed him in the back of the neck. He
was killed instantly. Then Rogan moved quietly through the
living room and found your mother cooking in the kitchen.”
Dana shakily touched her brow. “Oh, no.”
Reaching out, Chase gripped her other hand and held it
firmly. “Your mother knew of Rogan and distrusted him. The
moment he came in, and she saw the bloody knife in his
hand, she ran toward her bedroom. He followed her. Your
mother saw your husband lying in a pool of blood near the
front door. She tried to get to a dresser drawer where she
kept a gun, but it was too late. Rogan stabbed her from
behind.” Chase’s voice fell as he watched Dana sob, her
hand pressed against her contorted lips.
“If it’s any consolation,” he told her wearily, squeezing her
hand gently, “your mother, too, died immediately.
Grandmother Agnes said they did not suffer.”
Pulling free from Chase’s grasp, Dana buried her face in
her hands, sobs tearing from deep within. Agony and shock
spun through her, churning up grief, questions, a sheering
sense of utter helplessness and anger.
To hell with it. Chase rose swiftly and moved behind Dana
as she sat hunched over and weeping uncontrollably.
Crouching down, he settled his hands on her shaking
shoulders and held her gently. “I’m sorry, Dana, so sorry you
had to find this out.” Damn, how he wanted to protect her,
and yet he hadn’t. Instead, he’d taken the invisible knife of
truth and stuck it into her unsuspecting heart as surely as
Rogan had struck and killed the people she loved.
Swallowing against the bitter taste in his mouth, he moved
his hands up and down her arms, trying to somehow soothe
away her pain.
Chase enjoyed the contact far too much. His body
responded, his heart opened. Somehow, he wanted to stop
the brutal pain he’d just handed her. It had been a tactic to
force her to connect more powerfully with her mission. To
give her drive—a real reason to do this. Chase understood
the need for it, but didn’t like being the person who
delivered the news. Right now, he didn’t like himself at all.
“It’s all right, Dana,” he rasped, his mouth near her ear.
Strands of her black hair slid across his lips as he spoke to
her in a low, coaxing tone. He gripped her shoulders and
absorbed her distress. “It’s going to be all right. I’m here.
Let me take away some of your hurt.”
In that instant, Chase felt her slip from his grip and turn
around. Dana’s face glistened with tears. Her eyes were so
filled with tortured agony that Chase automatically reached
out to her. The moment his fingers touched her wet cheek,
Dana moaned, closed her eyes and collapsed into his
awaiting arms.
Heat mixed with shock and surprise as she pressed herself
against him, her head buried against his neck, her arms
wrapping tightly around his torso.
A ragged gasp escaped Chase’s lips as he automatically
swept her into a protective embrace. Dana was warm, soft
and curvy against his own hard body. He inhaled the sweet
sage scent of her hair. Her harsh weeping spread his heart
wide open, and he had no protection against the pain he
was feeling on her behalf. Nor did he want any. Feeling the
wetness of her tears, he rocked her gently back and forth.
What Dana needed—what he needed—was a safe harbor
against the many storms that life threw at them. Eyes
closed, Chase hungrily stole the moment like the emotional
thief that he’d become. Everything about Dana appealed to
him. Her kindness. Her inability to hurt others. Her
sensitivity and awareness of everyone outside herself. In
the greed-filled world they were forced to live in, he found
her unselfishness an incredible breath of fresh air.
Without meaning to, Chase pressed his mouth against the
side of Dana’s face, and tasted her salty tears. Murmuring
words of comfort, he felt her respond. In that silken moment,
Dana turned her head. When his mouth unexpectedly met
hers, a white-hot explosion occurred in his heart, then
tunneled deep into his body. Groaning, he savored the
sweetness of her lips.
A soft moan rose in Dana’s throat as Chase returned her
searching, tentative kiss. His mouth capturing hers in a
sweeping motion, he held her in a firm embrace, her body
crushed against his. He tasted her tears of pain and
release, the sweetness of the honey she’d had in her coffee
earlier. Even more heady was the taste of her. She was like
no other woman Chase had ever kissed. His senses
gloried in her full lips, the shy touch of her tongue to his, the
taste of her as a woman.
As he deepened the kiss, Chase got lost in her fragrance,
the tickling sensation of her hair against his cheek. The
world ceased to exist. The danger he was putting her in
faded to the background, superceded by all he was feeling.
His hands itched to explore her.
Despite his wild desire, Chase knew he couldn’t go further.
Not yet. Maybe never.
There was such bittersweetness as their mouths clung
hungrily to one another. Chase felt Dana’s warm, ragged
breath upon his face, felt the rapid rise and fall of her
breasts against his chest. With a life of their own, her
fingers slid across his shoulders, then touched his
sandpapery face like a lover.
How he wanted to love Dana! Tearing his mouth from hers,
Chase opened his eyes. He framed Dana’s face with his
hands and gazed into her face. What new emotion did he
see in the haunted depths of her eyes? Chase didn’t know
what to call it. He was afraid to try.
“Chase…” Dana gasped. She blinked through the veil of
tears beading her dark lashes. She was the only woman in
the world and he, the only man. As he held her in his steely
embrace, Dana had never felt more safe or more loved.
Her lips tingled with the sensation of having that flat, hard
mouth against hers. She’d kissed him!
Her heart thundered in her chest and made her feel shaky
and tremulous. Dana could do nothing but cling to his
golden gaze. She saw so much in Chase’s face now. The
change was remarkable. Breath-stealing. Frightening.
Dana didn’t know what to do or say. Her hands rested
against Chase’s mighty shoulders and felt the tense play of
muscles there. As he cupped her face, she closed her eyes
and surrendered to him. Dana was so lost, so alone, and
so hungry for the strength of a man in her life. After her five-
year marriage to Hal, the desire for a man to sleep with
each night, to share her life with, often overwhelmed her.
As she absorbed Chase’s embrace, the feel of his hands
moving from her cheeks to her shoulders, Dana trembled.
She didn’t want this moment to end. She didn’t want Chase
to stop holding her, because that eviscerating pain and
grief would return. Hiccupping through her tears, Dana felt
like a beggar stealing something that didn’t really belong to
her—Chase’s touch. But after two long, barren years, she
desperately needed to be held. Dana released a ragged
sigh and leaned forward once more. Her brow came to rest
against the thick, tense cords of his neck.
When he began to gently rock her, the rest of her lonely,
ailing heart dissolved. Somehow, Chase sensed how badly
she needed to be held, like a lost, hurt child. And that was
how Dana felt after the news that Rogan had murdered her
mother and Hal. Yes, she needed a safe harbor, and
Chase had given it to her.
Before, she would never have thought him capable of such
warmth and humanity, toward her or anyone. But she’d
been wrong. Her hand stole down his chest, to rest against
his pounding heart. Her nostrils flared as she inhaled his
delicious male scent. How badly she wanted to stretch out
on the floor and make torrid, passionate love with him.
As she trembled at the realization, she felt Chase’s body
tighten momentarily. His mouth was so close. So close….
Dana knew she could ease her head from beneath his jaw,
look up and kiss him again. She felt his mouth open and
then shut, felt him begin to gently rock her once more. The
sensation was like that of a mother protecting a child. But it
was also the gesture of a man who loved his woman and
was trying to shield her from the atrocities of life.
For a moment, Dana wanted to forget everything. She
pressed her face more surely against Chase and lost
herself within him. He was the last person she had ever
expected help, sustenance or support from. Yet she kept
hearing his voice washing over her, comforting, warm and
soothing. “It’s all right, Dana. Everything’s going to be all
right. Just let your grief go, let it fly away from you.”
Chase spoke those words in a husky tone that
reverberated throughout her supersensitized body. There
was no question that his voice was healing her bleeding,
torn heart. She wondered if he realized the magical effect
he had upon her. Dana had never experienced this from
any man in her life. His vibrant warmth stole through her
dormant, grief-constricted body. Suddenly, Dana wanted to
live life once more—fully and completely. Chase was giving
her a great gift, whether he knew it or not. She was ready to
be present, not held a prisoner of her horrific past.
The awareness trickled through Dana like rain falling from
Father Sky. That spark of wanting to do more than just
survive burst through her and took root in her heart. The
sensations were magical and shocking, in the best
possible way. At the same time, old feelings warred with
the newly birthed ones.
“Oh, Chase,” Dana whispered, her voice shaky and unsure.
Easing Dana away from him, Chase found it was the last
thing he wanted to do. But one of them had to be
responsible. He had to put the mission before their own
needs. Grimly, he realized he could no longer protect
himself from the lush promise of Dana. She was like a
beautiful flower—one that, if he wasn’t careful, he could
crush and destroy. The expression in her eyes tore at him.
She was looking at him completely differently now. As if he
was the man of her dreams. That realization shook him.
Chase did his best to sound hard. “Dana, this shouldn’t
have happened, I’m sorry. I couldn’t help myself, you were
hurting so much.” He kept his hands on her shoulders,
because she was trembling.
Her palm fell away from his chest, and Chase immediately
missed her tender touch. What would it be like to have
Dana explore his naked body with those long, wonderfully
artistic fingers of hers? The thought sent a wave of violent
heat to his core. No, he couldn’t think of that!
The chances were good that Dana would be killed by
Rogan and his women long before she ever found the
Storm Pipe. Chase knew that, but he couldn’t tell Dana. He
needed her to believe that she could pull off this mission
successfully. And he needed to detach himself.
His heart cried out that he shouldn’t throw her life away like
this. But the mission took priority. In the military, people’s
lives were sacrificed all the time for the good of the larger
group. One life for many. Oh, yeah, he was more than a little
familiar with that refrain. Chase had spent six months in
captivity because of that belief. Now, he was putting Dana
in the crosshairs to do the same thing: sacrifice a life to
save many. It was a virtuous and courageous sacrifice, one
that few people would ever know about.
“It’s okay. It was my fault,” Dana managed to reply in a
hoarse tone. She forced herself to pull away, and sat back
down on the stump. Wrapping her arms around herself, she
tried to think clearly through the jumble of emotions. Her lips
remembered his branding mouth upon them. She could still
feel his power and tenderness as he’d swept his mouth
across hers with strength and adoration. Oh! She’d felt so
cherished in that moment.
Dana realized how starved she was to be loved once
again. For two years she’d denied herself the longings of
her body and heart. Now, one indelible kiss had brought her
full circle: out of her grief and into a new awareness. And
looking at Chase, his face dark with desire and
disappointment, Dana knew he was the man she wanted.
When had she fallen for him? She couldn’t recall the exact
moment. She realized she’d been unaware of so much—
until now.
Chase slowly rose from his crouched position. His hands
tingled with a burning desire to drag Dana back into his
arms. She looked bereft, as if she’d lost another loved one.
Grimacing, he shoved his hand through his short hair. Well,
hadn’t she? He’d delivered the rest of the grisly story to
Dana, of Rogan murdering her mother and her husband.
What kind of person was Chase to hurt someone as fragile
and beautiful as Dana? His heart ached over what he’d told
to her. He struggled to rise above his emotions and focus
on the mission. It had to come first. But dammit, he wanted
to keep Dana at his side, protect her and love her. What
was he going to do?
CHAPTER FOURTEEN
“GRANDMOTHER,” Dana began, her voice strained as
she sat opposite Agnes in her hogan. “I have just found out
the truth of who killed my mother and Hal.”
Reaching out, Agnes patted Dana’s hand. “Yes, I told
Chase to tell you the rest of the story, child. You need to
know the truth for many reasons. I’m sorry it had to be done
like this. I withheld the information for so very long because I
didn’t want to hurt you any more than you had been already.
I was hoping to tell you in another year or two, when you
were more healed from the experience.” She sighed
heavily. “But that was not to be. Please forgive me for this
poor timing.”
Sniffing, Dana gently squeezed her grandmother’s thin
fingers. “I—I would rather know than not know. Don’t feel
badly. I—it was just a shock. And of course I forgive you,
Grandmother.”
“You understand why you had to know?” Agnes poured
them sage tea and handed Dana a mug. The July heat of
the noontime sun flowed into the hogan.
Nodding, Dana sipped the hot tea. “Yes, I think I do. Chase
is worried I don’t have my heart and soul invested in this
mission.”
“That’s true, you don’t. But now you have reason to fully
commit yourself. I am not talking about being vengeful, for
that is not the right reason to do this,” Agnes counseled
quietly. “Rather, you are here to right a wrong, which your
mother and husband can no longer do for themselves. You
will be the catalyst to rebalance the scales. Rogan will get
what rightfully belongs to him, and you will return the Storm
Pipe to the Blue Heron Society.”
Pain flowed into Dana’s heart as she sipped her tea. “Yes, I
understand.” Her lips still felt the molding strength of
Chase’s male, commanding mouth upon hers. He had
urged her to go talk to Agnes after that life-changing kiss.
Dana had left him at the winter hogan and walked down the
canyon, in tears most of the way.
Holding the ceramic mug between her hands now, she
cleared her throat. “I have only a week more before I try to
get the Storm Pipe back, Grandma. I’ll do my best. I know
you’re counting on me. The whole society is. I’m so afraid I’ll
disappoint all of you. And I don’t want to do that.”
“Listen,” Agnes said gently, “we want the pipe back, that is
true. But I do not want you killed trying to get it.”
Shrugging, Dana stared down into the pale-green contents
of the mug. “Right now, I don’t know up from down. I’m so
torn up over this information.”
“Of course you are. When we are done with our tea, I want
you to ask Chase to come down and talk with me.”
CHASE GRIMLY LISTENED to Grandmother Agnes. As he
sat cross-legged in front of her, his hands rested tensely on
his knees. His heart twisted like an angry snake inside his
chest. He wondered if Dana had confided the details of
their hot, shocking kiss to the elder. Pushing the thought
from his mind, he willed himself to be patient.
“I believe a change of plan is needed,” Agnes was saying.
“Dana simply cannot go into Rogan’s compound and get
the pipe by herself. I think you’ve known this all along.”
Chase’s heart churned. So did his gut. “Yes, Grandmother,
I’ve known this from the time I met Dana. She has a good
heart, but it’s not in her to kill, if that’s what she needs to do
to defend herself against Rogan or his militant women.
They will kill Dana if they find her in the compound.”
“I have worried about this,” Agnes admitted, her voice soft
and thin. “I don’t wish to send Dana to her death. That is not
what the society wants.”
“Then the only choice we have is for me to join Dana. For
us to go in as a team to retrieve the pipe,” Chase said. “I
will kill, if necessary. And I will protect Dana.”
The passion in his tone was palpable. Agnes studied him
for a long moment. Then she blotted the corners of her
mouth with her handkerchief. “You have fallen in love with
Dana.”
He avoided her all-seeing gaze and stared down at his
scarred hands. To Chase, the words felt like a crushing
weight. Mouth tightening, he realized the elder had not
posed it as a question, but a statement of fact. Medicine
people were highly clairvoyant and knew things that most
never would. Agnes was well aware of the chemistry that
had rocked his and Dana’s world less than two hours ago.
“I feel…” Chase began awkwardly, casting around for
words despite the powerful emotions exploding through his
chest “…that a window in my dark soul has just been thrown
open, Grandmother. Kissing Dana was the most right thing
I’ve done in my life, so far.” There, the truth was out. It lay
naked in front of the wise old woman. Chase tried to steel
himself against what Agnes might say. He lifted his head
and searched her wrinkled features.
“Love has its own way of making two people discover that
they are bound to one another.”
Nodding, Chase felt a weight lift from his shoulders. “I didn’t
know. Oh, I liked her, Grandmother. What is there not to like
about Dana?” He gave the old woman a searching look.
“She’s all heart, and she wears it on her sleeve. Dana is
kind, sensitive and mature. She sees the world in a way I
never will.” His mouth quirked. “I wish I could see it like she
does. It would take away a lot of bad memories and
experiences I’ve had.”
Giving him a slight smile, Agnes reached out and gripped
his hands. “My son, your heart yearns for her idealism and
purity. She is, after all, the next woman in line to carry the
Storm Pipe. We want to see that kind of heart in
ceremonial pipe carriers.”
“Yes, I know that. Dana’s the right one to carry that pipe,
Grandmother, no question. She will make the society proud
of her, and she will use the Storm Pipe only for good, not
evil, as Rogan is doing right now.”
Patting his hands, Agnes said, “So you will be a team. You
must leave next Saturday. I feel the pipe is near to full
power now, and I have no doubts Rogan will want to use its
lightning energy to kill again.” Her hand tightened on
Chase’s. “You must stop him. At all costs.”
Those trembling, hushed words weren’t lost on Chase. He
captured Agnes’s work-worn hands and gently squeezed
them. “I understand, Grandmother. We will do our best or
die trying.” Chase thought that if he had to die, at least he
would die happy. He’d finally met the woman whom he
dreamed of living with forever. And he’d found her in the
most surprising of ways. Now that Dana was here, he’d
damn well ensure that she wouldn’t die. He would protect
her with his life.
“I do not wish harm on either of you, but I know Rogan,”
Agnes murmured, her voice reedy with worry. “I wish there
was some other way, but there is not. We must put your
lives in jeopardy and win back the pipe.”
Getting up, Chase leaned over, opened his arms and
carefully embraced the tall, thin woman. She reminded him
of a paper doll, her bones so old and brittle with age that he
was afraid to put much pressure on her. Yet, for all her
advanced years, Agnes was strong of heart and had an
indomitable spirit.
“We will do our best,” he promised her, his voice raw with
emotion.
Now, Chase had to return to Dana and get her back on her
training schedule. Just because she was hurting
emotionally didn’t mean she shouldn’t continue to
strengthen herself in every possible way.
As Chase said goodbye to Agnes and left the hogan, he
wondered how he was going to handle all his powerful
feelings for Dana.
DANA WAS ALREADY GOING through her series of
exercises outside the hogan when Chase reappeared. The
push-ups, the chin-ups always left her gasping for breath,
but her muscles were taut and responsive after four weeks
of effort. As she finished the last of her curls, Dana
straightened and looked directly into Chase’s dark, moody-
looking eyes. His mouth was set more than usual. Squatting
down in front of where she sat in the red sand, he draped
his hands loosely between his thick thighs.
“You need to know that Grandmother Agnes wants me to
go along with you to get that pipe back. I told her I would.”
Chase searched Dana’s grief-stricken features, his gaze
settling on those full lips he’d captured and cajoled less
than two hours earlier. His body hardened.
Relief swept through Dana. “You will? I mean, that’s great
news.”
Chase smiled briefly. “Grandmother feels better that I’m
going along, too.”
“And you, Chase? How do you feel about it?” Dana
guardedly searched his face. Had their unexpected kiss
changed things between them? Opened him up to her?
Dana unconsciously held her breath.
“Truth be told, I didn’t want to come along since the
beginning, Dana.” He gave a lazy shrug and looked past
her to a hawk circling above the canyon. It was a zone-
tailed hawk, with a white, horizontal band across its black,
spread tail feathers. “I wanted this mission to be a one-
person job. But Grandmother Agnes was running the show.
I think she’s realized you’re going to need help.” Chase
carefully omitted the other factor: that he was falling
helplessly in love with Dana, and he wanted to protect her
from Rogan and the women who were more than ready to
kill her on sight. It was a selfish reason, but a damn good
one.
Perspiring in the hot sun, Dana stood up and moved over to
the shade of a piñon tree. Chase followed, and she turned
to look at him. How powerful he was, even when relaxed.
“And why are you doing this?” she asked. Was it the kiss
that had changed things between them? Dana knew how
she’d felt toward Chase all along, but she’d hidden it from
him—or tried to. Until this morning. Oh, nothing was ever
simple in life. There was so much overlay, so much
complexity.
Chase cleared his throat and wrapped his arms across his
chest. Dana looked beautiful with her braided hair framing
her guarded face. But it was her cinnamon eyes that stole
his heart. They were shining today. He could tell Dana liked
him. How much? He didn’t know, and was afraid to ask.
Dana was a widow coming out of two years of grief and
loss. She’d just been told that Rogan had murdered the two
people she loved most. So what was Chase seeing in her
eyes? What emotion? And what fueled that feeling? He
saw hope mirrored in Dana’s expression, the soft parting of
her mouth, those delicious, soft lips, calling to him once
more.
Finally, he forced himself to speak. “I’m doing this because
I don’t think you can pull off this mission by yourself.” Well,
that was true. But Chase didn’t want to confuse Dana any
more. She didn’t need to know that, on top of everything
else, he wanted her, loved her. Wrong time, wrong place,
as usual.
Swallowing hard, Dana nodded and looked away from
Chase’s intense gaze. “Oh, I see. Okay, that’s fair. I don’t
feel like getting killed, to tell you the truth, and I’d welcome
you along. You’re the expert, really. I’m a bumbling novice in
comparison.”
His arms fell to his sides. “Listen, Dana, don’t
misunderstand. You’ve done well these four weeks. There
aren’t a lot of men or women who would have worked as
hard or come so far. It’s just that Grandmother and I believe,
with me along, you’ll be freed up to focus on finding the
pipe. Once you get your intuition in gear and locate it, I can
run interference and protect you while you recover it. You’ll
need a hundred percent concentration to tune in. If you’re
distracted, you can’t focus and you won’t find it.”
It hurt Dana to think that the only reason Chase was coming
along was to be her big, bad guard dog. But under the
circumstances, she was grateful. In her heart, she had a
dreadful feeling that she could be killed. She’d never
spoken about that fear to Chase or her grandmother.
Dana nodded and gave him a quick smile, hiding her
heartache. “I’m really glad you’re coming, Chase, for many
reasons.”
“You’re a good team member, Dana. We’ll work well
together. The rest of this week we’ll spend in tandem,
refining our skills and trying to establish a rhythm with one
another. Particularly on the rock climbing portion.”
Dana swallowed her disappointment. Well, what had she
expected from Chase? One fiery, soul-melting kiss hadn’t
changed anything. She couldn’t pick up on him psychically
because he kept up defensive walls. For the most part,
Chase was always armored, and Dana wasn’t quite sure
how he felt toward her.
She could still remember the feel of his blazing, branding
mouth. That, she would never forget. But had it been just
lust for him? Dana didn’t know, and now was not the time to
ask. Deep in her heart, she wished that Chase might desire
her on all levels and not just for sex. She had been
powerfully drawn to him from the beginning. Dana could
admit that much to herself—but never to him. Not now, at
least.
“Well,” she said, more cheerily than she felt, “let’s get busy,
then. We need to learn how to work as a seamless team so
Rogan and his women don’t hear or sense us coming.”
Pain was bright in her eyes, but her voice didn’t reveal it.
Chase savagely told himself not to reach out and touch the
tousled hair at her temple. Dana was exceedingly
vulnerable in that moment, and he saw her struggling to put
her personal pain aside and focus on the mission.
Her unselfish quality only made Chase want her more.
Giving her a rare smile, he said, “Let’s go get our climbing
equipment. We’ll spend the rest of the day going up and
down the canyon wall. It’ll help us mesh as a team. We have
to be fast and silent.”
As they walked back to the hogan, his mind turned to
Rogan Fast Horse. What was the bastard planning? Chase
could sense that he was close to initiating the Storm Pipe
once more. Would they be in time to stop him? Every
passing moment pushed the world further into chaos and
imbalance. The more entrenched they became, the more
uncertain Chase felt. Everything felt tense. As if lightning
was about to strike.
CHAPTER FIFTEEN
“DAMMIT!” Rogan yelled at Blue Wolf, who sat smugly with
the Storm Pipe in her arms. “That pipe is ready! I want to
gather the circle of women tomorrow morning and use it.”
Breathing hard, he towered over her. Blue Wolf’s upper lip
lifted in a sneer, and he itched to slap the bitch. How dare
she refuse to use the pipe when he wanted it used!
“It’s not ready yet, and I’m not about to let you abuse this
pipe, Rogan.” Her heart beat heavily in her breast. The
Storm Pipe lay like a sleeping baby cradled in the crook of
her left arm.
Blue Wolf saw the rage building in Rogan’s dark eyes. Oh,
she knew he wanted to hit her, no question. But he didn’t
dare. The pipe had bonded with her. Only her. The other
women were merely catalysts to help move the pipe’s
gathering power around the circle. The energy would build
up and up—eventually into a forty-thousand-foot-high
thunder cloud that would be loosed upon Rogan’s next
target, Hornsby of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Frustrated, Rogan paced the room. The cedar floor shone
in the dawn light filtering in the small window. His footfalls
reverberated through the space. The door was closed, and
Rogan knew most of the other women were still asleep. It
was only 5:30 a.m. As he went toward the window, he
struggled to get ahold of his anger. Clasping his hands
behind his back, gazing out into the compound, Rogan
steadied his voice.
“The pipe is ready. I can feel it, Blue Wolf.”
Shrugging, she gently stroked the golden elk-skin bag in
which it lay. “I don’t agree. I work with this pipe daily. I
meditate with her for an hour each morning and an hour at
dusk.” Blue Wolf lifted her chin defiantly and glared at
Rogan’s hunched back. “The pipe is almost ready. But not
quite yet.”
Turning on his heel, Rogan witnessed the defiant set of
Blue Wolf’s mouth. She was stubborn, and he had a
dilemma. The pipe was bonded with Blue Wolf, not him. He
couldn’t even touch it for fear of being instantly electrocuted.
Dammit! His hands literally itched to jerk the pipe bag out
of her grasp. Instead, he fought for control. Eventually, he
would have his way and Blue Wolf’s power wouldn’t be an
issue.
The woman had weaknesses. Rogan’s eyes were drawn to
the carved turquoise wolf’s head hanging from a thick
leather thong around her throat. She was never without her
namesake, the wolf’s head crafted by her well-known artist
father. Her late father had been creative, but an abusive
alcoholic. Rogan couldn’t understand why Blue Wolf
continued to revere the drunken bastard who had knocked
her around as a child. The medicine woman’s long, hooked
nose was crooked and bent, showing how many times her
father had hit her with his fist. Maybe that’s why she hated
men, Rogan decided. He’d been beaten routinely and
understood. Yet that turquoise wolf’s head remained with
her. As did the powerful and valuable Storm Pipe. Jealousy
ate at Rogan.
“That pipe is ready to go, and you damn well know it. You’re
just being stubborn because I want to use it.”
Nostrils flaring, Blue Wolf again lay her hand across the
pipe bag. “Rogan, you’re always in a hurry. You forget, I’ve
known you since we were teenagers. I’ve seen your
restlessness, your impatience with everything and
everyone. You’re right—I’m not about to let you tell me when
the pipe I carry is ready for use.” She patted it lovingly. “As I
said, she is not quite there yet.”
Rogan approached her and snarled, “Well, when will it be
ready?” His voice sounded like the hiss of an angry
rattlesnake.
“Soon.”
Throwing up his hands, he yelled, “Well, when the hell does
soon mean?”
Blue Wolf didn’t cringe at Rogan’s drama and threats. The
other women did, but she refused to. No man scared her
anymore.
Steadily, she held Rogan’s blazing gaze. His fists were
clenched at his sides. She sensed his desire to strike her,
but he really didn’t dare. If he ever laid a hand on her, Blue
Wolf would disappear from the compound with the Storm
Pipe, never to be found by this bastard again. And Rogan
knew she’d do it.
“I will let you know when the pipe is ready to perform.
Besides, you had the Russian ambassador targeted as the
next victim. Why did you change your mind?”
Rubbing his stubbled jaw, Rogan muttered, “That’s none of
your business.”
“I read the newspapers, Rogan. I see that the FBI and CIA
are hunting for terrorists. Could it be that you’ve gotten cold
feet? Are you afraid they’ll find us?” Blue Wolf snorted.
“Now is not the time to become cowardly, Rogan. So what
if the feds are looking for something they don’t even realize
exists? No one will ever suspect a pipe capable of doing
that kind of damage. I think you’re wrong to target the head
of the BIA. I think your original plan to take out the Russian
ambassador is far better. That will create the world tension
that we want.”
“You’ve seen the papers,” Rogan reminded her as he
paced. “They hint at nuclear war. Russia and the U.S. are
already on high alert with one another. Well, I don’t want a
nuke hitting us over here. Instead, I’m going to kill Hornsby,
and then we’ll send a letter to the FBI giving them our list of
demands. They must improve all Native Americans’ lives.”
Blue Wolf sighed. “It’s not a bad idea, but if you send a
letter after Hornsby is killed, the FBI will know that some
Native American is a potential threat. Worse, they may see
all of us as home-grown terrorists. They’ll start to tear up
every reservation in the U.S., looking for us, even though
they’ll never realize who wrote the demand letter.”
“Do you have a better idea of how to get the U.S.
government’s attention? The whites were wrong to imprison
us on these reservations. We are the first Americans! We
were here long before those bastards.” Rogan punched his
index finger in Blue Wolf’s direction. “I want changes for the
better for all of us, on every reservation. I want off the dole. I
want our people to be respected and have industry come in
so we can make a decent living, and not live in poverty as
we have for over a hundred years.”
“I don’t disagree with your goal, Rogan. But I sense you
need to be very careful about the letter and where you send
it from. Once they get it, they’ll have FBI agents crawling
around here like ants.”
“I’m not that stupid,” he declared. “I’ll write the letter and
have one of our women drive to California and drop it into a
mailbox in Los Angeles. That will throw them off our scent.
I’ll warn the feds that if they don’t give us the equality we
demand within six weeks, we’ll kill the president of the
United States. And they will understand it isn’t an empty
threat.”
Blue Wolf knew Rogan had spent years writing a document
detailing how the U.S. government should release all Native
Americans from the poverty of the reservation system.
She’d read it, suggested changes and approved the
subsequent draft. The only question was could Rogan push
through changes this way? She knew that U.S. officials
didn’t negotiate with terrorists. Right now, newspapers
were reporting that the vice president had died of a
sudden, unexpected heart attack. Still, the terrorism
warning level had been initiated, and there were articles in
the paper hinting that the FBI was looking for a “terrorist
sleeper cell.” Well, Rogan’s team were the cell. But Blue
Wolf was positive they’d never be found, because white
men simply didn’t know the power of a ceremonial pipe.
“As soon as you decide the time to use the pipe, let me
know,” Rogan muttered, all his anger dissolving.
“I will,” she replied. It was Tuesday. “I feel that by Saturday
the pipe will be ready to go.”
“Then we’ll schedule the circle for Monday, because I want
that bastard sitting in his office in D.C. when it happens.”
Gloating to himself, Rogan turned on his heel and left the
meditation room.
As he did so, his scalp prickled, and Rogan sensed danger
once again. But where was it coming from? Was it Blue
Wolf herself? Or could the FBI have somehow found a
lead? Scratching his head, Rogan moved out to the main
area of the lodge, where two huge pillars, stout cedar trunks
with the bark removed, supported the roof. Looking around,
Rogan felt inexplicably jumpy. Who the hell was stalking
them?
ANNIE BALLARD GASPED as she shot up into a sitting
position. Her hand against her throat, she could feel her
pulse bounding wildly. Light from the streetlamp leaked into
her apartment window. She shakily wiped her brow and
quickly got out of bed, grabbing the notebook and pen from
a nearby stand. With trembling fingers, she recorded the
horrific vision she’d just experienced.
For the next fifteen minutes, she tried to remember every
detail, every face she’d seen, and the feelings surrounding
the images. By the time she’d finished, Annie felt a terrible
chill working up her spine. The Carson City apartment was
warm, but she was cold. She pulled her yellow fleece robe
from the end of the bed and shrugged it on. She had to
have a cup of tea. No way could she go back to bed.
The clock read 4:00 a.m. Shaken, she walked on bare feet
through the carpeted apartment to the kitchen. First thing
this morning, she would call David Colby, the FBI agent,
and let him know what she’d seen. It could be the clue they
had been hoping for.
“THIS IS THE BIGGEST wild-goose chase I’ve ever gone
on,” David Colby griped to Annie Ballard as they drove
down the main street of Carson City, Nevada. They’d flown
in two days earlier. The FBI kept a few apartments there,
and they’d each moved into one on a temporary basis.
Annie had recounted the powerful dream she’d had the
night before.
“The FBI provided us with a list of survivalist cells in the
Carson City area,” Annie reminded him. She looked up at
the signs along the street. In her vision, she’d seen an
Indian warbonnet on the front of a building on a busy
avenue. There was something in that building that would
possibly help them. “I gave good descriptions of the faces I
saw in my dream to your FBI artist.” She patted the leather
purse in her lap. “We have more sketches now.”
Colby wasn’t optimistic. He crept along in the right lane,
allowing the faster midmorning traffic to flow by them. The
sidewalks had a number of tourists dipping in and out of the
many trading posts along the avenue. All tourist traps, in
Colby’s opinion.
He’d asked Annie if there were trading posts with Indian
warbonnets on the sign here. She’d said she didn’t know,
that they’d have to drive around and look for it.
Colby didn’t put any stock in Annie Ballard’s abilities. So
far, none of them had panned out.
“There! Look! The warbonnet! Do you see it, David?”
Frowning, he squinted through his dark glasses. Pulling into
a parking space, he turned off the engine. Sure enough,
about half a block down on the right was a large sign with
an eagle feather warbonnet. He shook his head and gave
her a glance as he pocketed his keys.
Annie smiled triumphantly at him. “You think I got lucky?”
Colby grinned sourly. “You’re reading my mind,” he teased,
easing out of the car. Annie was a nice woman, a kind
person. She didn’t brag about what she did; rather, she
was like a quiet and unassuming mouse.
He joined her on the sidewalk, and they walked toward the
establishment, the sign of which read Chief Eagle Feather
Antiques. To Colby, it looked like a touristy trading post.
Drawing a deep breath of warm desert air, Annie hitched
her leather purse up on her shoulder. “We’re looking for
something, but I don’t know what.”
“A clue?”
“I hope. In my vision there was a powerful, threatening
presence in this store. That’s where I saw the man’s face.”
“Will you know where this thing is you’re looking for?”
She shrugged. “I can’t say. Being psychic doesn’t mean I
know everything. I just receive ‘hits’ or feelings, and then
have to try and interpret them correctly.”
“Hmm…” Colby opened the door and Annie stepped
inside. “That and a lot of good ole gumshoe work,” he said.
“Nothing like going door-to-door to gather information and
evidence.” He heard Annie laugh and saw her nod.
Narrow and long, the place was much more an antique
store than a trading post, he realized. There were stuffed
buffalo, antelope and bighorn sheep heads hanging on the
cream-colored stucco walls. Colby spotted a balding man
wearing Ben Franklin–type glasses behind one of the
counters. No one else seemed to be around. Colby smelled
the scent of leather, and spotted several U.S. Cavalry
saddles from the Civil War era on wooden stands, their
brass shiny and the bull hide leather well cared for. Bridles
from the same period hung on the walls behind them.
Annie wove her way between many rugs, antique tables,
chairs and dressers, to the counter. She smiled at the man.
“Hi, are you the owner?”
“Sure am. Joseph Spearling. What can I do for you folks?
Are you interested in a particular antique or just browsing?”
He adjusted his glasses on his bulbous nose and set down
the pen in his pudgy hands.
Colby came over and offered a smile. “We’re just looking,
Mr. Spearling. Mind if we nose around?”
Shrugging rounded shoulders beneath his wrinkled short-
sleeved shirt, Spearling said, “Sure, no problem. If you have
a question, lemme know. I’ll be glad to try and help.”
“Thanks,” Annie told him warmly. She caught David’s eye
as she turned on her heel and walked with him down the
crowded aisle. “I’m just sensing,” she told him under her
breath, so that Spearling couldn’t hear.
“Fine. Do your thing,” Colby murmured, looking around.
There were many glass cabinets filled with Native
American objects—necklaces and silver bracelets inlaid
with turquoise, beaded feather fans, deer-hide moccasins,
beaded horse martingales, parfleche bags and other
artifacts. Annie slowly ambled the entire length of the store,
perusing the merchandise. What was she looking for?
Colby didn’t have a clue.
After many minutes of nosing around, she walked back to
the proprietor, who was busy doing paperwork. “Mr.
Spearling, I think I need your help.”
Looking up, he pushed his wire-rimmed glasses higher on
his nose. “Sure. What are you looking for?”
Annie grimaced. “I’m not really sure.” She pulled out a small
notebook as Colby joined her at the counter. “Now, don’t
laugh at me, Mr. Spearling, but I had a dream and I saw this
in it.” Annie quickly drew the L-shaped object and turned
the notebook around. “Do you happen to know what that
might be?”
“Let’s see.” Spearling studied the sketch. “Why, I believe
that may be an Indian pipe.”
Colby frowned. “A what?”
“A pipe,” Spearling told them. He led them past a long row
of glass cases. “Come on, I’ll show you one.”
Annie followed him down the narrow aisle. At the very end,
Spearling stopped. He dug in his pocket for a ring of keys,
opened the lock on a cabinet and reached in.
“Here you go. This happens to be a Sioux pipe, circa
1890s.” He put a rubber mat on the glass and then carefully
laid the red stone pipe head on it.
Annie leaned over and studied it. “What is this, exactly? It’s
not L-shaped.”
“Oh, sorry,” Spearling said, and he reached for something
else. “Here we go. If the pipe is going to be smoked, the
wooden stem is fixed into this hole here. See?” He inserted
the hollow wooden shaft into the base of the catlinite pipe.
Holding it up, he said, “This is L-shaped, after a fashion.
What do you think?”
Standing back, Annie saw that, indeed, the pipe had a
definite L shape. She exchanged a quick glance with
Colby, who seemed mystified. “Why, yes. That probably is
it. Do you have any other NativeAmerican antiques that
would resemble an L?”
Spearling gently placed the red stone head back on the
rubber mat, after disconnecting the stem. “No, nothing else
comes to mind. What do you know about pipes?”
Annie was drawn to the pipe head. The curious object was
circular and plain, not decorated in any way, yet excitement
riffled through her. Something about the pipe made her
want to hold it. “I know nothing, Mr. Spearling. What can you
tell us?”
He smiled and mopped his brow with a linen handkerchief.
“Not much. You know, Native Americans don’t talk about
their ceremonial gear.” He touched the bowl. “This is made
of pipestone, a soft red rock found in a quarry in Minnesota.
All the nations go there to get blocks of it to carve their
pipes from. This is a nice one. You can see there are yellow
spots throughout the pipestone, which is also called
catlinite.”
“I’ve heard of peace pipes,” Colby said. “You know, the
ones in cowboy and Indian movies, where they pass this
pipe around?”
“Yes, well, peace pipes certainly exist. Ones you saw in
movies probably had a lot of beading, maybe some eagle
feathers hanging from the stem, or they were wrapped in
the fur of a wild animal. Symbolically, it all means
something, but I don’t know what.”
“May I touch it?” Annie asked.
“Of course, but please hold it firmly with both hands.
Pipestone is very brittle, and if you drop it, it may shatter or
chip, for sure.” Spearling gingerly picked up the piece and
handed it to Annie.
“I’ll be very careful,” she promised. The moment he placed
the ancient pipestone into her palm, she felt prickles of
energy leaping up her arm, followed by a palpable warmth
in the center of her chest. Then came a euphoric, expansive
sensation of joy and lightheartedness. Stunned, Annie
stared down at the pipe. “Oh, gosh, did you feel that, too,
Mr. Spearling?” She gazed at the elderly man, wide-eyed.
“I was wondering if you were going to pick up on that or not.
You must be quite sensitive.”
“Call me Annie. This is David.”
“Most folks call me Joe. Nice to meet you folks.”
Colby leaned closer. “What did you feel?”
Annie explained it to him and saw the doubt on his face.
“Joe? Is it okay if I let David hold the pipe?”
Chuckling, he said, “Sure, no problem.”
Annie saw Colby’s skeptical expression disappear about a
minute after he’d grasped the pipe. He studied the piece,
then gave her a confused look. “I don’t understand this. I
feel warmth, too. A lot more than the temperature in here.”
Spearling chuckled. “That’s why Native Americans guard
their pipes so closely. They’re alive, David.” His eyes
twinkled. “Holding this one makes you feel good, doesn’t
it?”
“It did me. Incredibly so,” Annie whispered, hand pressed to
her heart. “I’m still feeling it now. That’s just amazing.”
“Most people would poke fun at me for saying these pipes
are alive, but it’s true. They say each pipe has a spirit, as
individual as you and me. No two are the same, apparently.
Each is endowed with a unique personality, and talents or
skills. And that’s why the medicine people of any nation are
real careful in choosing who carries such a pipe.”
“What do you mean?” Colby asked, enjoying the soft,
undulating lightness moving through him. He didn’t want to
believe a piece of carved stone could cause this. And yet,
he wasn’t just imagining this euphoric state. No way.
Spearling mopped his brow again, then walked back to the
counter and turned on the air-conditioning. In moments,
cool air began to circulate and chase out the desert heat.
“Like I said, I don’t know a whole lot about pipes, and the
people who make and carry them aren’t sharing, either,” he
stated. “As I understand it, a person chosen to carry a pipe
has to have the utmost integrity. They’re kind of like the
Knights of the Round Table. They won’t lie, cheat or steal,
and are considered role models for their village and their
nation. They help the elderly, feed the poor and generally do
good deeds for everyone.”
Colby reluctantly handed the pipe back to Spearling. “So
what does a pipe carrier get out of all of this except
responsibility?”
The proprietor placed the pipe head back in the glass case
and laid the stem beside it. “Well,” he grunted, leaning over
and locking the cabinet door, “the community admires and
respects a pipe carrier.”
“That’s all they get?” Annie said.
Straightening up, Spearling added, “When they smoke the
pipe it is said to have magical powers.”
“Oh?” she asked in an interested tone. “What kind of
magic?”
Grinning, Spearling said, “No one’s talking about that to
me. But I’ve heard stories….”
“Tell us one,” Colby urged.
“A pipe can kill or heal, is what I’ve heard. In the hands of a
good-hearted person, a pipe can miraculously cure
someone with a disease. In the wrong hands, it can be like
a loaded revolver or weapon. I overheard a couple of
Indians in here one time whispering about one pipe carrier
who was into revenge. He smoked the pipe to send energy
to his enemies, giving them chronic diseases as payback.”
Spearling’s brows rose. “Now, you must understand, most
pipe carriers are good, honest folks, but sometimes a pipe
gets into the hands of someone who should never carry it.
Sometimes people are jealous of true pipe carriers and
they will steal a pipe because of its power. And they do
damage with it.”
Annie’s eyes widened. “Oh, dear. What happened?”
“One guy is dead, from what I understood. Died of a
massive heart attack, just like that.” Spearling snapped his
fingers. “Another has cancer and is dying more slowly.”
Colby snorted. “A pipe can kill a person? Create a heart
attack in them? Come on.”
Annie bit her lip as she watched Spearling’s round, jovial
face grow serious.
“Listen, David, I know this seems far-fetched to you. I’ve
been in this business, dealing with Native Americans, all
my life. More than a few things I’d list as pure magic. On a
few occasions where a pipe was smoked, I’ve actually
seen someone either fall seriously ill or suddenly die. A bad
person with bad intent who carries a pipe can cause those
kinds of problems. Of course, just the opposite happens
when a good-hearted person does. They use the pipe to
heal and help others.”
“Joe? May I beg a little more of your time?” Annie asked. “I
know we’re probably keeping you from work, but I had a
dream a couple of nights ago and I’d like to share it with
you. Maybe you can help me.”
He glanced at his watch. “Sure. It’s a quiet day and not too
many tourists seem to be comin’ our way. Tell me about
your dream.”
Excitedly, Annie said, “I heard drumming. Deep, beautiful
drums beating slowly. And I saw twelve Native American
women in a circle out beneath some pine trees. They were
sitting cross-legged, their knees touching, and they were
holding hands. As I moved around the circle, I saw this
older woman with long black-and-gray hair. She was at the
head of the circle and holding what I now realize was a
pipe, just like the one you just showed us. Only it was
different.”
“No two pipes look the same. They can have the same
shape sometimes, but if you look closely at the pipestone,
you might see streaks of white, yellow coloration or other
variations. And they’re shaped differently, too.”
“This pipe was red, just like the one you showed us, but
much larger. The woman held the head of the pipe in her
left palm and her arm was completely outstretched. The
wooden stem had black-and-yellow beading, and I saw a
long, yellow lightning bolt.” Annie frowned and glanced at
Joe. “Does that sound familiar?”
“Indeed it does. You said the woman’s arm was
outstretched as she held it?”
“Yes, in my dream it seemed she was straining as she held
it because the stem was so long.” Annie motioned to the
glass cabinet. “This pipe stem was short in comparison to
the one I saw in my dream.”
“It’s probably a ceremonial pipe you saw, then,” Spearling
guessed.
“What’s that?” Colby asked.
“I understand there are two types of pipes carried by
chosen Native Americans. One is a personal pipe, which
usually has a shorter stem. The other is a ceremonial one,
which has a very long stem. And if you’re short, as many
women are, compared to men, then your arm may not be
long enough to hold the pipe.”
“Yes!” Annie exclaimed. “The woman looked like she was
really straining to hold it. The pipe head was in her left
palm, and the long stem was the full length of her left arm.”
“Most likely ceremonial, then. Go on.”
Swallowing, Annie continued, “I saw a man standing behind
this woman. He had his hands resting on her shoulders.
They were singing a song, in some language unfamiliar to
me. I saw smoke, white and thick, as the woman smoked
the pipe. But the smoke poured out and began to form a
huge, dark, roiling cloud above them. Lightning flashed, and
the rumbling thunder was so loud it seemed to go through
me, as if we were having an earthquake.”
Annie opened her hands. “And then things got crazy in my
dream. The drums started beating harder and louder and
faster. The storm clouds enveloped all of them. I was
standing in this swirling mass of lightning and thunder, with
winds screaming around me. In the distance I could hear
the women’s voices, rising and falling in a very
impassioned chant. I heard the drums, too, but the power
that I felt…! It was amazing. Then I saw this face.” Annie
quickly opened her purse and put the sketch on top of the
glass case. It was the same sketch she’d showed Colby at
his office in D.C. earlier. “This man’s face. His image kept
appearing and disappearing in the clouds and storm. And I
saw the woman who was holding the pipe, too. She would
glare at me and then disappear. And then this man’s face
would rush at me, trying to scare me away. I was seeing
something he didn’t want me to see. I felt like he wanted to
murder me.” Annie managed a short laugh. “I jerked awake
at that point.”
“Hmm,” Joe said, studying the sketch of the man’s face,
“this gent looks familiar.” He tapped his fingers on the case,
deep in thought.
Colby watched the antique owner intently. “He does?”
Scratching his balding head, Joe said, “Yes, vaguely. Give
me a moment and maybe it will come to me.” He looked
over at Annie. “That was quite a dream you had. Do you
know this guy?” He pointed down at the sketch.
“No. I don’t know any of them. I didn’t even know that I was
looking at a Native American pipe until you showed us that
one.” She pointed to the glass case.
“Interesting. Ah, wait! I remember who this might be!”
“Who?” Annie asked anxiously.
“Rogan Fast Horse. I’m not sure, but it could be him.”
“Who is he?” Colby demanded.
“A Cherokee métis medicine man. He lives up in the
Sierras just above Carson City. I’ve seen him down here in
the city from time to time.”
“A medicine man. Wow.” Annie shook her head. “And to
think it was just a dream.”
Colby nodded. He scooped up the drawing and handed it
back to Annie. “Mr. Spearling, do you know where this guy
lives? An address perhaps?”
“I can give you directions. He’d be an excellent contact if
you’re interested in pipes. And who knows? Annie, if you
share your dream with him, he might even be able to give
you an interpretation of it. After all, he is a medicine man.”
CHAPTER SIXTEEN
WHAT THE HELL WAS WRONG with that bitch, Blue
Wolf? Rogan paced along the stockade around the Eagle’s
Nest compound. It was a name he’d come up with many
years ago. Rogan had for a long time dreamed of having a
place high in the Sierras, in the arms of the mountain
spirits, where he was safe and no one, white men
especially, could find him.
The damp morning air was filled with the calming scent of
pines, which grew on the craggy basalt clifftops. Dawn had
just arrived, tinting the sky a pale peach color. Two women
guards carrying M-16 rifles slowly walked the quarter-mile
perimeter of the compound. They were young and tough,
and they respectfully acknowledged Rogan as he strided
on by them, hands behind his back. Security was always on
his mind. He trusted no one. Not even Blue Wolf now.
Chewing on his lower lip, Rogan watched the sky turn from
peach to a pale-blue as the sun inched above the horizon.
The morning was cool without being cold. Absorbing the
pine fragrance, the healing stillness and quiet, he found his
thoughts returning to Blue Wolf. She’d been his partner for
quite some time. Once, they had been inseparable,
obsessive lovers, but over time, sexual encounters became
less frequent. But they shared something else, Rogan
knew. Something that kept them together. Blue Wolf
wanted power. Absolute power. So did he. It was always a
battle between them.
And Blue Wolf knew she had real power now that the Storm
Pipe had bonded with her. Damn that twist of luck! Rogan
thrust out his chin and glared up at the cloudless sky. A
cardinal flew overhead, toward a tall pine growing just
outside the compound on the cliff edge. Blue Wolf had
power now and she was wresting more from him. She’d just
confronted him boldly, insisting the pipe wouldn’t be ready
until Saturday. The bitch was the one in charge—not him.
A bitter taste coated the inside of Rogan’s mouth as he
considered the vile, undeniable truth of it all. Wiping his lips
with the back of his hand, he stared up at the impenetrable,
ten-foot-high wall of redwood, pine and Douglas fir. The
different hues of the timbers, from deep red, to white, to
corn yellow, served to remind him of the ongoing fight
between red men and white.
What to do? How to get the power back from Blue Wolf?
Rogan folded his arms across his chest and stared down at
the powdery umber dust beneath his booted feet as he felt
his way through this unplanned predicament. The Storm
Pipe could not just be arbitrarily handed to another, more
acquiescent of his students. When a pipe like this one
formed a bond, it was for life…until the woman died.
Whoever took the pipe next became the owner.
Maybe, just maybe, Rogan thought, running his index finger
across his bearded chin, Blue Wolf needed to die. Then the
Storm Pipe would be free to bond with the next woman.
Someone more malleable, someone he could control.
Lifting his head, Rogan heard sounds of stirring. There
were two dormitory-style buildings that housed the women.
Rogan inhaled the delicious smell of coffee being perked in
the kitchen. Whoever had cooking duty today must be
starting breakfast. The fragrant scent of bacon frying soon
followed.
Rogan sighed. He’d planned for so long, for years, for this
place to become a reality. To have a ceremonial pipe that
would give him the power to change the lives of all his
people. Now, his vision was in jeopardy because Blue Wolf
was taking his power away from him. If she got pissed off,
she’d disappear with the pipe and he’d have nothing.
Rogan knew he’d have to be subtle, cloak his real feelings,
and play the game with Blue Wolf until the time was right.
Looking toward the gates, he saw one of the women on
guard duty testing the wooden bar across them. They were
locked tight. No one could get in without him knowing about
it. A wonderful sense of security blanketed Rogan, and for a
moment, he truly felt safe here. This compound was
impregnable. He’d purposely built it on this huge basalt
outcropping, a cliff that dropped three thousand feet into a
rocky canyon. The only way in and out of Eagle’s Nest was
an old dirt road, and his women controlled access 24-7.
Feeling safe was important to Rogan. He all too poignantly
recalled growing up in a household with a father who had
fetal alcohol syndrome. Don Fast Horse was a mean drunk
with a low I.Q. Red-nosed and ornery, he would seek his
kids out and beat the hell out of them with an old leather
strap. Rogan still bore scars where the thin leather had
bitten into his tender young flesh. Whip marks still
crisscrossed his back, and every time Rogan tugged on a
pair of socks, he could feel the ridge of scars on his ankles
and calves, a constant reminder that power had been
wrested from him as a child.
Don Fast Horse had been an artist of sorts. When his
creative efforts with leather went well, he was a nice man,
and happy. But when his pieces didn’t sell and money was
tight, he’d start drinking. It was at those times that Rogan
had become a shadow, hiding from all that focused rage.
Sighing, Rogan unfolded his arms and continued to walk,
more slowly now as those unbidden images from his
childhood welled up within him. Oh, Great Spirit, how he
wished he could get rid of those memories! Just forget
about them! But how could he? At age sixteen, after being
beaten with that strap, Rogan had stood up and fought
back. He’d taken his father’s whiskey bottle and struck his
out-of-control parent in the head with it. Don Fast Horse
had died instantly; a large wedge of glass had penetrated
his skull and lodged deeply into his alcohol-saturated brain,
or what was left of it.
Smiling slightly, Rogan watched the women begin heading
to the cookhouse for breakfast. Some were yawning.
Others were brushing their long, black hair or braiding it as
they walked. One thing they all had in common was abusive
backgrounds. These women had come from alcoholic or
fetal alcohol families just as he had. And they’d suffered
more or less the same as he.
Except none had gone into juvey hall for killing their father,
as Rogan had. Only, as a teen, he couldn’t be placed in
prison, so the judge had made him stay in there for two
years. That was fine with Rogan; it was a helluva lot safer
than being at home, and he’d taken advantage of the white
man’s education available while he’d been incarcerated.
His mother, a meth addict, came to visit him once or twice,
early on. Her face scarred from meth use, she was little
more than a bumbling idiot, as far as Rogan was
concerned. On the res, no one had intervened on behalf of
himself or his younger brother and sister, both of whom had
run away. Out of some stupid idea of protecting his mother,
he’d been the only one to stay at home. What a fool he’d
been!
Exhaling slowly, Rogan watched as more of the women
tumbled out of the dorms and headed to breakfast. He
could smell pancakes on a hot griddle, and his stomach
growled. But he didn’t feel like company this morning. He
preferred to focus on the past and how it had shaped him.
After escaping the toxicity of their family home on the
Tahlequah, Oklahoma, reservation, his sister, Sally, had
gone into prostitution in Los Angeles. Rogan had
discovered her fate when the cops came to juvey hall to tell
him his sister had died of a drug overdose. Dead at age
fifteen, at the hands of her unhappy pimp. Rogan recalled
sobbing alone in his room. He’d been put in solitary
confinement because he’d gotten into a fight with a bully,
busting the white kid’s nose and taking out two of his front
teeth. Rage over his father, who had sexually molested
Sally from babyhood onward, had sickened Rogan. He
hadn’t blamed her for running away; he’d wanted to leave
with her. But who would take care of their mother? He was
the oldest, so it was up to him.
And then, six months before his release from juvey hall,
Rogan had gotten word that his brother had been murdered
in New York City. Eagle Wing had become a mule,
someone who willingly swallowed plastic bags of cocaine
and brought them from South America to the U.S.A. Only
Eagle Wing had been found with a bullet hole in his head,
his body gutted, his intestines pulled out and the plastic
bags of coke removed. Eagle Wing was tough and
combative, but the weekly beatings by their angry father
would make anyone that way. Rogan had cried then, too.
And when they’d given him his freedom on his eighteenth
birthday, Rogan had gone back to the res to see his
mother. She was still hooked on meth, looking like a leper,
the sores on her body discharging terrible odors. And her
mind was almost eaten up by the terrible drug. She’d barely
recognized Rogan when he came back to the house—a
house that held nothing but nightmarish memories for him.
Rogan recalled his mother looking at him as if he were a
stranger. Only after they’d talked awhile did she remember
him. To Rogan’s sorrow, she didn’t seem to recall Sal or
Eagle Wing at all.
Rogan had left, completely depressed, and angry at the
white man’s world. He would do better for himself, he’d
vowed. One thing Rogan had learned from his life was that
whoever had the power had control. And that was
something he’d sworn he’d have: control and power. No
one would ever abuse him again. No one would take
control away from him, either.
Spotting Blue Wolf, Rogan scowled. She was wearing tight
jeans that did nothing for her thick body. And she was
walking with her dearest friend, Alice White Elk, a woman
from another tribe. They chatted and laughed, the sound
carrying melodically across the empty yard.
Hatred welled up in Rogan. She was taking his power away
from him now as surely as his father had taken it away from
him as an innocent and unprotected child.
Moving his lips to form the word bitch, Rogan leaned
against the stockade wall, feeling the rough bark through
the fabric of his long-sleeved cotton shirt. He unbuttoned
the cuffs and rolled them up to just beneath his elbows as
Blue Wolf disappeared inside. Now, the familiar smells of
frying bacon, hot cakes and coffee mingled in the cool
mountain air, but Rogan scarcely noticed them.
Blue Wolf was like his father, he decided. How could he
have been so blind to her real ambitions, and chosen her to
carry the Storm Pipe? Although his father was an idiot, he’d
known how to wrest control from Rogan and his siblings.
Blue Wolf was far more sneaky and subtle about it, and
Rogan had recognized that fact far too late. She was not a
product of fetal alcohol syndrome, but she did come from a
family of drug users. And she’d done cocaine as a teen.
Later, she’d been slapped into a women’s federal prison
for ten years for selling the drug.
Facing the acid truth of his faulty judgment, Rogan began to
amble along the wall again, hands clasped behind his back
as he mulled over his complicated relationship with Blue
Wolf. They’d been together nearly thirty years. She’d been
his lover, his guide, and had never taken power away from
him before this. Yet now, with her being the keeper of the
ceremonial pipe, Rogan was seeing huge shifts in how she
worked with him. Blue Wolf was no longer obedient. No
longer the follower. No, she knew she had a special pipe
and that she was in total control.
Bitter over that admittance, Rogan scratched his head and
walked toward the closed gates of the compound, where
one woman soldier was always on duty.
What to do about Blue Wolf? Rogan couldn’t just kill her
outright. Visions of tossing her over the wall and down that
three-thousand-foot cliff warmed his knotted gut. But who
would then carry the Storm Pipe? Who among his other
eleven women would obey him and not get ideas of power
and control in her head as Blue Wolf had?
Rogan thought about Star Woman, who was forty. She was
half-Cherokee and half-white. But she was willing to please
and grateful to be involved in his quest for power. She’d
been a pock-marked kid and her face permanently scarred
when Rogan had lured her into his arms. She was ugly, that
was all there was to it. She’d come out of a home of ten
children, and being one of the youngest, she’d been
ignored. Star Woman lapped up any attention. Perhaps
Rogan could manipulate her to take on the handling of the
Storm Pipe after he got rid of Blue Wolf.
Yet did Star Woman have the necessary grounding, the
ability to handle the power of the pipe as Blue Wolf did?
Rogan pondered that tricky question. Not everyone could
manage the raw, universal energy. There was a recipe, if
Rogan could call it that, to handling such a pipe. Carriers
had to be completely grounded and in their body. They had
to have unshakable focus. They were, body and spirit, the
receptacle for a pipe’s energy. Most of all, maturity was
essential. Did Star Woman have the necessary qualities?
Rubbing his chin, Rogan wheeled around and headed back
along the wall. She was the youngest woman, dammit. Too
malleable. Handling the invisible energy of a ceremonial
pipe would be too much for Star Woman. Yet, she was the
easiest to manipulate from his band of women….
For some reason, Rogan looked up just then into the ever
brightening sky. When he spotted a huge, black raven flying
overhead, croaking raucously, he scowled. He hated
ravens and crows. They were the tricksters. The magicians.
When one showed up, it meant something was about to go
wrong. What the hell was it this time? Birds were always
messengers. Who was coming? Rogan didn’t like
unwelcome guests appearing at their compound. It
happened from time to time.
Stupid white folks on vacation, lost and unsure of how to get
back to Carson City. Off-roaders who’d taken their four-
wheelers in the wrong direction. Damn. Rogan didn’t want
tourists intruding on the busy agenda he’d laid out for today.
They had a test run as a group scheduled for later that
morning. Blue Wolf would have the Storm Pipe, coddled to
her ample breast. It would not be smoked in these trainings.
The other women would sit in a circle, knees and hands
touching, to form a funnel through which the energy of the
pipe could pass. Such training was essential so that
nothing would go wrong during the actual ceremony.
The raven croaked again, grating on Rogan’s already
sensitized nerves. Lifting his hand, he gave the black,
shining bird the finger. Go to hell.
“I THINK WE’RE LOST,” Annie Ballard told Agent David
Colby. She looked at the scribbled directions to Rogan
Fast Horse’s compound that Joe Spearling had given them
earlier. Up ahead, the dirt road they were on forked into a
Y. Which branch to take?
Colby grimaced and pulled off the road. Around them,
sparse pines grew interspersed with sagebrush and prickly
pear cacti. The east slope of the Sierras wasn’t moist or
verdant like the western side. The sunlight was bright and
lanced through the windshield of the Toyota Land Cruiser.
He punched up the air-conditioning and then ran his finger
across his sweaty upper lip.
“Okay, let’s look at the map,” he told Annie. She handed
him the open road map she held. Frowning, Colby traced
their route from Carson City up into the Sierras. “The
problem is this map isn’t going to show all the back roads
crawling over these mountains,” he told Annie.
She nodded. “Plus, Joe’s directions aren’t exactly clear.”
“That’s because he’s a local. He knows the roads up here.
For him, the map made sense, but for us out-of-towners, it
doesn’t.” Colby removed his sunglasses and glanced
around. The road was crossing a long, sloping meadow
dotted with chunks of black basalt, cactus and yellowing
grass.
“My intuition tells us we’re near Eagle’s Nest, where Joe
said this medicine man, Rogan Fast Horse, lives.” Annie
pointed to the left fork, which meandered upward across
the rough terrain. “That’s the way. I feel it in my gut.”
David folded the map and handed it back to her. “Hey, you
have a fifty-fifty chance of being right. Let’s take the high
road. We’re on an adventure.” His watch said it was near
11:00 a.m. They’d eaten breakfast earlier at a Denny’s
Restaurant. Annie had packed them a lunch, and now he
was glad she had. The sky was an intense blue, with high,
filmy white clouds that resembled strands of a woman’s
hair. The day was beautiful, and he found himself enjoying
Annie’s company as well as the rugged natural
surroundings.
Chuckling, she put the road map away, but continued to
hold Joe’s map in her hand. “Lead on, Macduff! I’m excited
about meeting this medicine man. I’m hoping he’ll be able
to help us.”
“Don’t get your hopes up,” David murmured. “The FBI has a
jaded history with Native Americans. Wounded Knee pretty
well killed any goodwill between us and them—not to
mention trust.”
Annie thought about the incident on the Sioux reservation
decades before, in which an FBI agent had been killed. A
Native American had been charged with the crime, but
Annie had read enough about it to realize that maybe, just
maybe, the wrong Indians were in prison. Colby was right
that the event had forever changed how Indians saw the
FBI.
“Okay, I’ll try not to get my hopes up too high,” she
promised the agent. Still, she was eager to meet a real
medicine man. What an honor and an opportunity!
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
WHAT WAS SHE GOING TO DO? Dana sighed and sat
on a flat boulder. She was five miles from the winter hogan.
Wednesday morning’s sky was apricot-colored, infusing
her pounding heart with awe and appreciation as she
cooled down from her daily run. Wrapping her arms around
her drawn-up legs, she studied the orange ribbon of light
silhouetting the mountains in the distance. The strong,
steadying scent of sagebrush filled her lungs.
As beautiful as the morning was, Dana felt as if a proverbial
nest of snakes had moved into her heart and gut. No matter
what she did, how much she tried to forget Chase’s kiss,
she couldn’t do so. Couldn’t escape it or hide from it. Since
that incident, Chase had been quiet and painfully distant.
Was he sorry he’d kissed her? More than likely.
Dana watched a black-eared jackrabbit hop from
sagebrush to sagebrush, always alert for a nearby coyote.
She felt much like the long-eared animal. She’d been
playing hide-and-seek with Chase since that sudden burst
of intimacy. Rubbing her damp brow, she closed her eyes
and tried to steady her heartbeat. Why did Chase have to
kiss her? Did he realize he’d awakened her, made her
want to live again? More than likely he did, being a
metaphysician like herself. They were far more sensitive to
other people and their thoughts than most individuals. Dana
was sure Chase could read her mind if he really wanted to,
although she was certain he respected her enough not to
go there. At least, most of the time. Otherwise, how had he
known she needed to be held, kissed, protected?
In the distance, she saw movement. To Dana’s delight, it
was a herd of about twenty tan-and-white-coated
antelopes, foraging on cactus and dried tufts of grass. She
was sure they knew she was here, and didn’t seem at all
threatened.
Absorbing the healing qualities of dawn’s stillness, Dana
contemplated the new day. It was yet to be written, yet to be
acted upon. Dawn was a symbol of birth. Father Sun rose
in the east, and on the medicine wheel, that was the
direction of giving birth on some level of one’s self.
The apricot color intensified as the sun inched closer to the
horizon. Dana loved this moment, where Mother Earth
herself seemed to hold her breath as Father Sun rose to
announce the day.
Whether he knew it or not, Chase had birthed a new era for
Dana. And right now, with the mission bearing down on
them, something good stirred in her yearning heart. Her
grief still held her captive to the loss of her loved ones, but
not as much as before. If Chase could see her aura now,
her fields probably looked like a witch’s brew of conflicting
energies.
Focus on the positive, she told herself.
As she continued her daily morning run, the pronghorns
came within a quarter mile of her. Dana appreciated their
small, gazellelike bodies, their spindly legs so thin they
looked as if they could snap. Their coloring helped them
blend in perfectly with the desert plains. What she liked
most about them were their huge, shiny black eyes, which
missed nothing. They would reach down, grab some grass,
then quickly lift their head again, looking around as they
chewed. They were always on guard and wary. And so
must she be on Saturday morning, when she and Chase
would scale the cliff to Rogan’s compound.
Slowly rising, Dana dusted off her gray sweatpants and
turned around. As if knowing she was no threat, the
antelope kept on eating. She had another five miles to jog,
back to the winter hogan. Good. It was so tough to face
Chase, to look at him and avoid gazing at his sensual
mouth. Maybe, in that five miles, she could build up enough
resistance against him and his masculine charisma to
focus on the mission. As she began to lope down the sandy
trail between the sagebrush, Dana wondered if Chase was
at all disturbed by their hot, incredible kiss. He seemed
absolutely impervious, as if it was in the past, done and
completely forgotten. Was it? Did Chase consider the
intimacy with her as part of his “duty” to Grandmother? To
do whatever he must to prepare her to retrieve the Storm
Pipe?
Determined, Dana focused on the path and picked up her
pace.
CHASE SENSED Dana’s return from her morning run. This
was his favorite time of day—early morning, when dawn
and quietude blanketed Mother Earth. The sacred silence
was pregnant with life, and as he stood over the small
woodstove, stirring scrambled eggs, Chase absorbed the
healing energy with pleasure.
Already it was Wednesday. Tomorrow they’d leave for
Carson City, Nevada. They’d arrive Friday morning, and go
check out Rogan’s Eagle’s Nest compound. And then, early
Saturday morning, under cover of night, they’d climb that
cliff, enter the compound and steal back the Storm Pipe. It
sounded so easy.
Frowning, Chase added chopped-up Bermuda onion,
diced ham and slices of red and green peppers to the
heaping mound of scrambled eggs in the iron skillet. As he
stirred the colorful mixture, the smells stirred his dormant
sense. He had biscuits rising and browning in the oven. He
enjoyed cooking. It wasn’t a task to him. Cooking was
about life, about appreciating the colors, the fragrances. It
was about eating the food that plants and animals gifted to
humans so they could continue to survive, with gratefulness.
Chase sensed rather than heard Dana’s approach. The
door to the hogan was open, rays of sunlight slanting in
silently. Though his heart sped up, he focused on making
breakfast. Trying to ignore Dana after their kiss was like
trying not to breathe.
He picked up the handle of the skillet with a pot holder,
walked over to the small table and put half of the Denver
mixture on Dana’s plate, and half on his. As he set down
the skillet in a basin filled with dishwater, it sizzled and spat,
sending steam roiling upward like angry clouds. He
grabbed some sliced sharp cheddar cheese and plopped
it on top of the eggs.
Hearing Dana’s footfalls, Chase went to the oven, opened it
and retrieved half a dozen browned biscuits. As he put
them on a plate, she entered. Her hair was in braids, with
runaway tendrils around her face from the run. Her golden
cheeks were stained pink, her cinnamon eyes dancing with
life. When she smiled tentatively, Chase put a choke hold
on his body, so he wouldn’t respond to her.
“Come on, you’re just in time,” he growled. After setting a
jar of honey on the table, he retrieved the percolator and
poured steaming coffee into the chipped mugs.
“Smells wonderful, Chase. Thank you.” Dana quickly got out
of her running shoes and padded over to the table. She’d
already taken off her sweatshirt, the white tee beneath it
clearly outlining her lean upper body. Sitting down, Dana
cast a quick glance across the table as Chase sat opposite
her.
“You’re welcome,” he said, then dived into the hot, steamy
food. “How was the run?”
Dana ate the delicious scrambled eggs with relish. “Fine. I
saw a herd of antelope this morning. There were some cute
babies at their mama’s side.”
Chase slathered butter and then drizzled honey across a
biscuit. “Good sign. Antelopes always bring a sense of
peace.”
Far from it, as far as Dana was concerned. She nodded
and continued to eat. Because the table was so small, their
knees would sometimes touch. Chase seemed
uncomfortable with the contact, but Dana enjoyed the
physical connection with him. “I’m hoping for peace after we
get the Storm Pipe back,” she said wistfully.
Chase quirked his mouth and took a sip of coffee. “I wish
that, too, but we don’t know what Rogan will do once he
finds it missing. I’m worried he’ll try to track us on the Other
Side, find our energy trail and come physically to take it
back. He’d do it, too.”
“I keep reminding myself Rogan is a sorcerer and that’s
what he does best—hunts and follows trails of unsuspecting
prey.”
“Before we climb to his compound, we need to cloak
ourselves and our energy very carefully. I’m assuming there
are guards inside the fortress. As I mentioned earlier, you’ll
have to travel astrally to check out the layout inside and find
where the pipe is hidden.”
The flaky biscuits were Dana’s favorite. She followed
Chase’s example with melted butter and honey, then sank
her teeth into the warm, sweet bread, as she thought about
astral travel. The skill came naturally to her, passed down
through the family lineage. She had the ability to leave her
physical body and travel at will through the world, to a
different galaxy or even to another dimension. It took years
and years of dedicated practice to perfect astral travel.
What made this attempt worrisome for her was the danger
she’d be under in the process. Chase seemed to have
confidence in her skill, but Dana had misgivings. If she
couldn’t astral travel, which was very possible under such
stressful circumstances, that would leave them wide open
to discovery. And she couldn’t do it beforehand for fear of
Rogan or his women being tipped off to their plan to scale
his stronghold. Scaling the cliff would be damn stressful, not
to mention life-threatening. Dana wasn’t sure she could
focus enough to accomplish the feat, but she had to try.
“I’m worried some of Rogan’s medicine women are just as
good as we are, metaphysically speaking. There might be
one who sounds the alarm even if I astrally travel into the
compound.” Dana knew that a person with strong
clairvoyant talents or skills as a medium could detect her
presence or actually see her. And that would ruin their cover
and sound the alarm.
Raising his head, Chase saw the worry in Dana’s
expression. He could spend a lifetime just watching her eat.
The way her lips glistened, the way her eyes darkened
when she became lost in thought…Groaning to himself,
Chase felt helpless with Dana so near. She was so damn
touchable. And he wanted her. All of her. In every
conceivable, pleasurable way.
Focusing on her concerns, he cleared his throat. “It’s
doubtful. Rogan has certain skills. I don’t believe he’d work
with anyone, especially a woman, who is better than he is.”
“Do you think he will sense me coming?”
Chase shook his head. “Grandmother seemed to think his
skills in astral detection are not that well honed. I hope
she’s right.” He turned back to his scrambled eggs. Before
cooking for Dana, Chase hadn’t paid much attention to
food, especially since his release from that hellish South
American prison. Oh, he ate, that was for sure. But now, in
her gentle, soothing presence, food tasted delicious to him
as never before. Dana’s energy made Chase feel so alive,
more sensitive to his surroundings. She was like a rainbow
in his life. His favorite times of the day were when they ate
together. Dana was his dessert, even if she never realized
it.
Chase was glad she didn’t know how he felt. She’d been
hurt enough; he didn’t want to wound her any more than she
already had been.
“When you move astrally into the compound, everyone
except the guards should be asleep. You’ll cloak your
energy trail to keep the possibility of detection to a
minimum. In the astral, you’ll see the colors and glow of the
Storm Pipe. You’ll be able to locate it pretty easily, I’d
think.”
Nodding, Dana finished off her mountain of scrambled
eggs. Daily ten-mile runs left her famished. “I worry a little
about getting out of my body, Chase.” She got up, put her
empty plate in the basin and returned to the table. Picking
up her coffee, she said, “The stress, you know? I’ve never
attempted astral projection under a situation like this.”
“I know,” Chase agreed, hearing the anxiety in her tone. He
put his own plate in the dishwater, then picked up the
coffeepot and refilled their cups. “It takes intense focus,” he
agreed, sitting back down. Holding her guarded gaze, he
added, “Focus and nonstop concentration. You’ve trained
all your life for this moment, whether you realize it or not.”
“You’re right,” Dana admitted sourly, sipping the hot coffee.
Her nerves sizzled as Chase gave her that hooded look
that made her blood race and her heart pick up in beat. The
man was so ruggedly good-looking, and Dana felt she
could drown in his eyes. Right now, all she wanted was to
melt into him and be one with him. Wrestling with her selfish
desires, she managed to say, “I’ll probably do it, because
I’ll be so scared for both of us that I won’t dare lose focus.”
Chase smiled lazily. The way his mouth quirked drove
Dana crazy with the yearning to kiss him again. Did he want
to kiss her? Had it been a onetime deal only? She hoped
not, but she understood that the mission came first. And as
Chase had warned her many times before, they might not
survive.
“Being scared is good,” Chase assured her. He picked up
the last warm biscuit, opened it and offered her half. Dana
took it and smiled in thanks. When their fingertips met,
Chase felt an electric current leap up his hand and into his
arm. That was the kind of effect Dana had on him: electric.
He was sure she felt it, too.
“I have a lot of fear to work through,” Dana admitted as she
buttered her half of the biscuit. “You have a lot more training
in that area than I do.” She grinned as she dripped honey
on top. “My mom used to call me ‘scared little rabbit’ when I
was young. She threatened to name me that.” Dana
recalled the teasing that her mother had given her over her
fearful reaction to many things around her.
“How old were you then?” Chase tried to imagine Dana as
a child. She would have been pathetically thin, like a
greyhound.
Shrugging, Dana laughed. “Five, maybe. I was afraid of my
shadow at that time. I used to have such scary, violent and
frightening dreams.”
“Hey, any young child is naturally going to be frightened,”
Chase declared, enjoying the biscuit. “The world looks
pretty big through a five-year-old’s eyes, don’t you think?”
He liked the way Dana licked the honey from her long,
elegant fingers. He had to place a steel clamp on his desire
when he felt his body tightening.
“I suppose,” she sighed. “But the nightmares really fueled
my fears.”
“What were they about?” Chase wondered if Dana’s
mother had held her, rocked her and made her feel safe
after some of those hideous dreams. He was sure she had.
The woman had carried the Storm Pipe, after all. She must
have been an exemplary mother.
“Fighting.” Dana finished off the biscuit and wiped her
hands on the paper napkin. “Blood, gore, screams, dying,
stuff like that.”
“What did your mom say about them?”
Picking up her coffee cup, Dana said, “That they were past-
life memories that I still hadn’t disconnected from. She told
me I had been a warrior in many lifetimes. My mother would
hold me on her lap. She’d explain to me that over time, the
past would shut off like a faucet, and the flow of memories
would finally leave me alone.”
“Did they?”
“By the time I was nine, they were gone.” Shivering a little,
Dana held his intense gaze. “I still find it hard to believe I
was a warrior. I killed a lot of people, from what my mom
told me. What I saw back in the Middle Ages was
gruesome. The Crusades…I get a lump in my throat just
thinking about it. I can’t even kill a fly or an ant in this
lifetime. I’m glad those memories are walled off in me,
because they would be too overwhelming.”
Without thinking, Chase reached out and gave her hand a
gentle squeeze. Dana’s eyes grew huge with shock and
then something else that started his heart thudding. He
quickly released her fingers and castigated himself. Once
more, Chase found himself wanting to protect Dana. She
deserved protection. Maybe she wasn’t a warrior in this life,
but death had followed her anyway. “I’m sure it was
overwhelming.”
Feeling tense, Chase pushed his chair away from the table.
He had to create space so he wouldn’t reach out and touch
her again. “Do you recall other lifetimes or just those?”
While desperate to get on another topic, he couldn’t help
but notice the disappointment in Dana’s eyes when he’d
released her hand.
“I’ve had glimpses of other lives when I meditate,” she
admitted. “Peru is a place I have lived many times. And in
the Far East. I’ve had lifetimes as a Chinese man and
woman. I was a Chinese herbalist when I saw the British
sail into our bay for the first time. Later, I went through the
history books and found that event had really happened.”
Her hands still tingled wildly from Chase’s touch. The
contact had been so unexpected, but so wonderful.
“That’s a good way to double-check those past-life movies,
as I call them.” Chase pointed to his forehead. “My movies
often show me snippets of my many thousands of lifetimes.”
A wry smile crept across Dana’s lips. “Same thing happens
to me. It really is like a movie. Sometimes I cringe over
some of the things I’ve done.”
“None of us have had stellar lifetimes,” Chase agreed.
“How could we? We reincarnate in order to learn right from
wrong. We commit many mistakes to learn morals and
values. And it’s damn painful most of the time.”
Finishing off her coffee, Dana smiled. “Yes, but with each
lifetime we accrue more knowledge through experience.
Over time, that does make us a better human being. We
make progress. At some point, we transcend the animal
side and become more spiritually minded, more
compassionate.”
“And that,” Chase said, grinning as he scraped the chair
back and stood, “is when you get tests like this one. This
one life has come about because of the hundreds you’ve
lived before.”
Dana looked up at him, appreciating his masculine power,
the hard angles of his body. “Yeah, but I’d really like to get
past all this blood, gore and life-death stuff. Wouldn’t you?”
“Sure,” Chase said, picking up the flatware and taking it to
the basin. He grabbed a cloth and began to wash the
dishes. “When we’ve evolved so much that we no longer
need to reincarnate into third-dimensional bodies, we’ll
cease to fight, or to attract life or death matters. This is one
time, Dana, that our lives are worth the cost of going after
the Storm Pipe.”
Rousing herself, she watched as Chase busied himself at
the sink. “I know. I just hope I can overcome my fear and
perform. I don’t want to let you or Grandmother down.” She
saw Chase’s questioning glance. For a moment, Dana felt
as if she’d been blanketed in an invisible energy of the
most wonderful kind. He had sent an energetic gift to her.
Accepting the embracing warmth, which carried with it such
peace, she gave him a small smile. “With your help, I know I
can do it.”
“That’s the spirit,” Chase murmured. “And even if you don’t
believe it, you are a warrior, Dana. It’s inside you. You may
not look or feel like one, but believe me, there’s a warrior
woman inside of you.” And he prayed to the Great Spirit
that Dana would never have to tap into it.
But on their mission, she just might have to. Chase had real
concerns. What if Dana saw someone die? What if she
saw him kill one of Rogan’s women, or Rogan himself?
Would her disgust with him drive her away? That thought
scared him ten times more than scaling that cliff or climbing
into Rogan’s compound.
“I like the idea of Grandmother having both of us go on this
mission,” Dana said. “You make me feel safe, Chase.” She
felt such relief to share that tidbit with him. She tried to steel
herself against any negative reaction he might have to her
truth. Instead, Chase turned, wiped his hands with a nearby
towel and leaned back against the counter. There was such
care and thoughtfulness in his expression. Usually, he kept
what he was really feeling from her.
“I’m glad, Dana. Because if anyone deserves protection
and care, it’s you.” And the Great Spirit knew how badly he
wanted to give her those things—for the rest of their lives.
Only one roadblock stood in the way of that dream: Rogan
Fast Horse.
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN
ROGAN WAS ENJOYING an early lunch in his room when
there was a sharp knock at the door. He’d made it clear he
wanted no interruptions. His Wednesday-morning quiet had
been broken.
“Come in!” he snarled, setting the plate of eggs and bacon
aside on the bedstand.
Jeanne Bright Sun appeared and gave him an apologetic
look. “Rogan, I’m sorry to bother you—”
“I gave orders not to be disturbed, dammit!”
She scrunched up her brow. “I know, but a couple of people
are down at the gate asking for you.”
Rogan wiped his hands on the thighs of his jeans. “Me?” He
looked at his watch. It was 11:30 a.m. “They must be lost
tourists. No one is looking for me.”
“Um, I don’t think they’re tourists. The woman, an Annie
Smith, said she needed to talk with you. She sounded like it
was urgent.”
Rogan didn’t know the name. Instantly, he went on guard.
“What kind of identification did they present?”
Shrugging, Jeanne said, “The man, a Ron Connolly, said
they were sent up here to the Eagle’s Nest by Joe
Spearling.”
Joe he knew. But Joe understood Rogan didn’t want
unexpected visitors. The trading post owner was rich and
powerful, and Rogan had curried favor with him for over a
decade. Sometimes he would give him a gift, some
insignificant ceremonial item, and Spearling would almost
swoon with joy.
Rogan gave no one his phone number, which was unlisted.
So these two people, whoever they were, had had no way
to contact him beyond coming up here without an
appointment.
Studying Bright Sun, who was in her early forties, Rogan
noticed her shifting nervously from foot to foot. Though she
wore camouflage and boots, her black hair was in braids
and tied off with red yarn and eagle feather fluff. “Who did
they say they were?” he asked.
“The woman, Ms. Smith, said she’s a psychic. She showed
us a sketch of details of a dream she had. She’d shown it
to Mr. Spearling and he suggested they come up here to
talk with you.”
“Damn. That’s all I need—some ditzy space cadet dreamer
right now.”
“I don’t trust the man, Rogan. I felt his energy. It’s closed
and he’s hiding something.”
“Oh?”
“Yeah. Blue Wolf happened to be at the gate when they
drove up. She told me to tell you the dude looks like an FBI
agent.”
Rogan’s gut knotted. Had the FBI found him out? Did they
know he’d nailed the vice president with a ceremonial
pipe? Sweat popped out all over Rogan’s body. “This
doesn’t make sense! A psychic with an FBI agent?”
Jeanne shrugged. “I know. It does seem strange. Do you
want to see them or do you want me to send them on their
way?”
“Take them to my office. And while I keep them busy, you
and Blue Wolf search their car and see what you can find. If
anything raises suspicion, bring it to me.” Rubbing the back
of his neck, Rogan stood. “I feel bad about this. The energy
is off.”
“Blue Wolf feels the same way. She doesn’t trust the guy.”
“Act like nothing’s wrong. Escort them to my office. Smile
and be friendly.”
“Right away.” Jeanne turned on her heel, thudded down the
wooden steps of the porch and headed for the gate.
Rogan inhaled deeply and slowly. He automatically cloaked
himself in a bubble of protection, so that if this woman really
was psychic, she wouldn’t be able to pierce his energy field
and find out anything about him. On the other hand, he sure
as hell was going to look into their auras to see who they
really were.
ANNIE NEARLY GASPED when Rogan Fast Horse
entered the small office. She was using the fictitious name
of Smith to protect her identity. He looked very much like
the man she’d seen in her upsetting dream. Alarm spread
through her, though she suppressed her reaction. This was
a powerful person.
The medicine man was tall and lean, in his forties, his black
hair interspersed with silver, pulled back in a long ponytail
that grazed his shoulders. He wore jeans, cowboy boots, a
black leather belt with an oval of turquoise on the front, a
white shirt with pearl buttons and a deerskin vest.
The colorful beading designs on the vest intrigued Annie,
but she didn’t have time to absorb it all. Around Rogan’s
neck was a dark-brown necklace. He had a long, narrow
face, and his eyes were a brilliant blue, large and close
together. His nose, hooked and crooked, told Annie that
this man had been in a scrape or two. She could tell it had
been broken at least twice.
“Welcome,” Rogan purred as he reached across his
immaculately kept oak desk, hand extended to the woman
first. “I’m Rogan Fast Horse, and you are…?”
Annie had been sitting beside David in the visitors chairs,
and quickly got to her feet. She felt dizzied by the power
around this medicine man. Rogan’s voice was mellow
compared to the fractious energy she felt swirling around
him. As she gripped his long, lean hand, Annie noticed that
his nails were carefully manicured. She found his palm firm,
but without calluses or any hint that he did hard work on a
daily basis as a cowboy would. This was a man who liked
the finer things in life. So, was he a wolf in sheep’s
clothing? Did he wear cowboy duds to hide behind? And if
so, who was Rogan Fast Horse?
“A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Fast Horse,” Annie said. As
she quickly released his hand, she had the maddening urge
to wipe off his energy.
“Please, call me Rogan,” he insisted, giving her a slight
smile.
Annie felt a swift change in the air around the medicine
man as he smiled perfunctorily at David, who was using his
undercover name, Ron Connolly. The medicine man’s eyes
narrowed just a hint, nothing obvious. His voice was smooth
and welcoming as he pumped Colby’s hand. She sensed
Rogan did not trust the agent. They needed to get their
information and go.
“I hear from my friends at the gate that you wanted to see
me?” he asked Annie, focusing on her. “That Mr. Spearling
sent you up here to find me?”
Eagerly, she sat down again, drew out the sketch and
handed it across the desk. She made sure to prevent
physical contact with Rogan. “Yes, I did.” She filled him in
on the dream that had prompted the drawing. The moment
Rogan looked at the sketch, his smile dissolved. His thick,
dark brows drew into a V. As she finished her story about
the vision, Annie gave him a hopeful look. “Does this mean
anything to you, Rogan? Mr. Spearling said it was probably
a pipe. We know nothing of pipes, so he felt you might be
able to help us.”
“I see….” Rogan dropped the sketch on his desk. His heart
was pounding like a sledgehammer. But a long time ago,
he’d learned to keep a perfectly calm expression. If his
drunken father didn’t see any reaction, he’d leave Rogan
alone. The moment he revealed any feelings, his father
would explode and beat him up.
Propping his fingers together, Rogan leaned back in the
chair as if in thought. “It could be many things, Ms. Smith.”
“Oh, call me Annie, please.”
“Of course,” he murmured, giving her a sweet smile meant
to lull her into a vulnerable state. At the same time, he
started emitting golden threads of energy that had hooks
attached. He consciously sent them into her chakras. When
they fastened there, Rogan could start sucking life energy
out of her aura without her ever knowing about it.
Symptoms were generally mild—sudden tiredness at the
same time every other day or so, for example. Most people
thought it was fatigue and not a sorcerer pumping energy
out of them.
But Rogan got a rude surprise when all the lines of energy
suddenly boomeranged and snapped back toward him.
Whatever or whoever she was, she had a hell of a defense
system up and in place, aurically speaking. Keeping the
frown off his face, he destroyed the hooks before they
reached his own field. Did Smith know what she was
doing? Bright Sun had said she was a psychic. Maybe she
knew enough to protect herself around a stranger. Or
maybe she knew a lot more.
“This sketch…have you had dreams like this before?” he
prompted.
“Uh, no.” That was a lie, but Annie wasn’t going to tell him
the rest of the story. She saw Colby shift uncomfortably in
his chair. Even though the FBI agent wasn’t psychic, Annie
was sure he was picking up on the energy around Fast
Horse. The man was like a power station. And a person
with that kind of energy had to be watched—carefully.
“I see. Well…” Rogan cleared his throat and idly gestured
toward the sketch. “I suppose it could be a Native American
pipe.” He gave her a dazzling smile. “Whatever possessed
you to put a lightning bolt on the long end of the L shape?”
“I saw it in my dream.”
Rogan kept his unease to himself. The wooden stem that
fitted into the Storm Pipe had a yellow lightning bolt running
the length of it. This woman’s psychic abilities were more
than alarming. “Interesting,” he murmured. “And this dream
just came out of nowhere?”
“Yes, that’s how I receive information.” Annie smiled and
tapped her temple. “I have no control over this, of course. I
get what I get.”
Rogan moved his eyes to appraise Connolly, who seemed
relaxed but alert. The man wasn’t saying much of anything,
and Rogan wondered why he was there, if not in some
official capacity. Moving his gaze back to Annie, Rogan
said, “And this dream had to do with what? There must
have been a reason for it?”
“I don’t know, Rogan,” she said. Another lie. She sensed it
had to do with the death of the vice president in some way.
Pointing to her drawing, she asked, “Can you tell me if a
Native American pipe could kill a person?”
Rogan’s mouth went dry. “I think you’ve been reading too
many Indian mysteries written by white men,” he joked,
laughing.
“I guess so. I really don’t mean to insult your ways. We know
so little about them, and Mr. Spearling felt you might be
able to help us sort truth from fiction.”
As he sat up, Rogan’s hands came down on his desk. “No
problem, Annie. Though I’m afraid I can’t tell you much
about a pipe, because it’s sacred and secret knowledge.”
“You’re a pipe carrier, Mr. Fast Horse?”
Rogan’s gaze riveted on Connolly, who was studying him
intently. “Why, yes, I am. Which is why I can’t tell you much.
We’re sworn to secrecy.” He relaxed back into his chair.
“You could consider pipe carriers sacred, who took an oath
to defend and protect the vulnerable.” He slanted a glance
at Annie, who seemed disappointed. “So, I’m sure you can
understand my position.”
“Is the sketch of a pipe?” Connolly asked.
“I really don’t know.”
“Do the stems on the pipe ever carry drawings or
carvings?”
The man was beginning to get under his skin. Rogan didn’t
like him at all, didn’t like the look in his eyes or the feeling
around him. “I wouldn’t know, Mr. Connolly. As I said before
—sacred is secret.” It’s not for dumb white folks like you to
know, he retorted silently.
A sense of danger flooded the room. Annie could feel it.
Rattled, she realized Rogan disliked David Colby. Maybe
hated was a better word, but Annie couldn’t logically go
there. The medicine man was studying the agent as if he
were a rattlesnake that should be killed. “Well, listen, we
won’t take up any more of your time, Rogan. We appreciate
that you tried to help us.”
Annie heard a disturbance behind her. The door to the
office opened and she recognized the woman at the gate,
Jeanne Bright Sun. Her round face, once smiling and
friendly, was filled with rage. What scared Annie was the
fact she had an M-16 rifle in her hand now and wore what
looked like a Kevlar vest.
“Rogan, Blue Wolf found this in the glove box. Look.” The
woman tossed him a black leather identification wallet.
Rogan caught the case and opened it.
Annie reeled from the sudden energy change. Bright Sun
waited at the door, the M-16 in hand, her face grim.
“Son of a bitch,” Rogan snarled, dropping the case on his
desk. He glared up at Colby. “You’re an FBI agent.” Without
a thought, he pulled a pistol out of a drawer, cocked it and
aimed it directly at the man who represented everything he
hated.
“Wait!” Annie said, rising out of her chair.
Bright Sun stepped forward, gripped Annie’s shoulder and
shoved her violently back down. “Sit still, white woman. I’d
like nothin’ better than to blow your head off.” She snapped
a look at Rogan. “Is she FBI, too?”
“No,” Colby growled. “Only I am.” He held Rogan’s black,
glittering gaze, the barrel of the 9 mm pistol staring him in
the face. “She’s just a psychic, someone I hired.”
Bright Sun snorted and pulled out two pairs of handcuffs
from her military web belt. “Here, Rogan. You want to do the
honors or should I?”
“You do it,” he ordered. His gaze never left the agent’s pale
face. “So, why are you here, Mr. FBI man? You lied. Your
real name is David Colby.”
When Colby said nothing, Rogan’s face turned from tan to
red. The pistol never wavered.
Annie felt Bright Sun grab her wrist and cinch the metal cuff
around it. “Wait! You can’t do this! Let us go!”
“Shut up,” Rogan barked, without looking in her direction.
“What do you want done with them?” Bright Sun demanded
after she’d cuffed the agent, too.
Rogan lowered the pistol. “Put them in the main lodge.
Chain one to each of the two main poles. They can sit there
and think about why they really came here.” He suspected
this whole thing was a setup, that the U.S. government had
somehow figured out that they had killed the vice president.
He saw Annie Smith’s mouth fall open. Was she for real?
Or just playing a role, as the agent had done?
“Blue Wolf found no identification papers for this woman?”
he asked.
Shaking her head, Bright Sun said, “Give me her purse. I’ll
check it out.”
Rogan grabbed Annie’s bag from beside the chair and
tossed it over. He lifted the pistol as Bright Sun opened it
and shook out the contents onto the floor. After rifling
through them, she crowed, “An ID badge case.” She flipped
it open. “Oh, shit, Rogan…she’s CIA! Look.” She passed
the badge to him. “And her real name is Ballard, not Smith.”
Rogan eyed the identification. “A CIA remote viewer?”
Nostrils flaring, he glared at Ballard. “You’re good. But not
good enough. Now I know why you had that energy shield
up around you. You damn well know what you’re doing.”
Gasping as Bright Sun jerked her out of the chair, Annie
cried, “We’re not your enemy! You have no right to keep us
here! Let us go!”
Rogan snorted. “Since you’re a remote viewer, then you
oughta be reading my mind to know what I’m going to do
next to your white asses.”
CHAPTER NINETEEN
“READY?”
That one word sent a spasm of raw fear through Dana’s
gut. Chase had mouthed the word quietly as they stood in
their climbing gear below the Eagle’s Nest. It was Friday
night; darkness had come and they had to make the ascent
into Rogan’s lair. Flexing her fingers in the light, thin leather
gloves that would protect her hands, she whispered, “Yes.
I’m ready.”
Just having Chase at her side imbued Dana with the
courage she needed. The wind picked up, whipped around
and then ebbed away. Below them, on the Nevada plain to
the north, lights sparkled like colorful jewels. That was the
capital, Carson City. Dana could hear the highway traffic
passing far below them.
Chase double-checked his gear. Lightning flashed nearby,
and he scowled. They wore radio headsets, the
microphones near their lips so they could quietly
communicate with one another as they climbed. “Looks like
the thunder beings are coming our way.” He pulled his night
goggles into place so he could see through the darkness.
Everything took on a grainy, green appearance.
“The storm spirits know we’re going to try and rescue the
ceremonial pipe,” Dana told him. “My mother would always
see them come and be present just before she used the
pipe.”
Chase settled the night goggles gently over Dana’s eyes
and made sure the strap was firm around her head. “I have
a feeling it’s going to pour. If it does, that’ll make our
climbing even more dangerous.”
Her scalp tingled where his fingers brushed her hair.
“They’re our friends. They aren’t here to harm us, Chase.”
Snorting softly, he automatically checked Dana’s climbing
harness. They were dressed in black spandex from head to
toe. The material was no protection against the wet and
cold, should it rain. “You’re ready to go. So am I. The only
problem is every time there’s a flash of lightning, our night
vision is destroyed for a minute or two until our eyes
readjust. Can you ask them to move away so we aren’t
blinded every few minutes?” Chase knew the thunder
beings could be talked with, pleaded with, but ultimately,
these huge sky spirits would do as they damn well pleased.
Giving a soft laugh, a nervous one, Dana said, “They don’t
usually listen to me, Chase. You know that. But they know
the Storm Pipe is in trouble, in the wrong hands. They know
we are going to try and save it. They’re around to help us.”
Planting the first titanium piton, with rubber coating on the
top of it to prevent noise from occurring, into the basalt, the
hammer looped around his thick wrist, Chase began the
slow, arduous task of leading the way up the cliff. “Just
plead with them not to rain on us, eh?” Chase knew this
was impossible. He’d said it in jest, to ease the tension
he’d heard in her voice.
Dana moved behind Chase as he began to put the pitons
in place, like a ladder leading up the vertical cliff. Here and
there on the rock face were ledges where small junipers or
other vegetation tried valiantly to survive. They reminded
Dana of some people’s lives, so precarious and harsh.
There were four trees along the route of their three-
thousand-foot climb. Chase had planned that at each one
they’d rest, recoup, drink water to stay hydrated, and then
move up to the next one, until they reached the compound
wall at the top. The lightning flashes momentarily exposed
his shadowy shape and then temporarily blinded her. Dana
shut her eyes, realizing how dangerous the lightning was to
her night vision. Hanging in the harness, her boots planted
firmly against the basalt wall, she touched her night-vision
goggles and waited impatiently for her eyes to readjust.
Silently, Dana sent a plea to the approaching
thunderstorms to veer away from them and their route. She
felt Chase heft himself upward. The nylon rope between
them grew taut. They were climbing a few feet at a time.
Swallowing against a dry, constricted throat, she found
purchase with both hands and followed him up the craggy
face.
The wind was erratic. Gusts pounded against them as they
inched their way upward in the blackness of the night.
Dana’s hopes fell as she realized the thunder beings
seemed to be ringing the area where they were climbing.
She sensed their impatience. The storm clouds seemed
not only to grow larger and more powerful, but the sky
spirits started to move in—toward them.
As Dana climbed, trying to focus intently on each handhold,
her fear grew over the possible run-in with Rogan Fast
Horse. Were he and his band of women waiting for them?
Dana and Chase had taken great precautions to cloak their
energy, so they could not be detected by even the most
psychic within the group. But things happened and
mistakes could be made.
Another flash of lightning shattered the darkness. Dana
heard Chase curse softly beneath his rasping breath.
Pressing herself against the jagged cliff, Dana closed her
eyes. She knew now to wait at least a minute before
opening them and moving on.
As she clung to the cliff, the wind buffeting and slamming
against her, Rogan’s leering face suddenly loomed in front
of her. Dana gasped, totally unprepared for this vision of his
lean, angry features. What the hell was going on?
“TELL ME WHAT YOU KNOW or I’ll slit your throat,” Rogan
rasped into Ballard’s bloodied, bruised face. He saw her
blackened eyes open to slits in response to his guttural
threat. His fist ached from the blows he’d delivered. Not
wanting to break his hand on the CIA bitch, he breathed,
“Tell me or I’ll—”
“I don’t know anything!” Annie cried, blood leaking from her
split lip. She was bound to a chair, her hands behind her,
the ropes cutting off their blood supply. She had to protect
David Colby!
Heart pounding, she saw Rogan’s mouth open in a snarl,
revealing his yellow, pointed teeth. Her stomach ached
where he had repeatedly hit her, and tears leaked from
Annie’s eyes. “I don’t know anything!” she repeated. “I told
you what I know.” Bloody spittle spewed from her contorted
lips, which were fat and swollen from him slapping her. Her
head spun. What was happening to Colby? Was someone
beating him up like Rogan was her? This was the last thing
Annie had expected. She was a remote viewer, who spent
her days sitting in a nondescript room with a table and
chair. That was all. She wasn’t trained as a spy. Nor trained
to endure interrogation. Now, with Rogan’s face inches
from her own, his fetid breath spilling over her like that of a
bull in a rage, Annie realized she was probably going to
die.
“You had that dream about that pipe.”
“Y-yes. I didn’t know it was a pipe, though. I—I just saw the
shape of it.”
“And you saw the lightning mark on the stem.”
“Y-yes, but honest to God, I didn’t know what it was!” she
screamed into Rogan’s face, her fear mixed with rage. “I
still don’t!” Annie wasn’t a fighter by nature. She believed in
peace, and desperately wanted peace for this world. And
yet she was facing a medicine man who had murder written
in his blue, shining eyes, and he was going to kill her.
Blue Wolf jerked open the door to the small inner office in
the lodge. “Rogan!”
Snapping his head up, he growled, “What?”
Blue Wolf glared down at Ballard, then shifted her focus to
her partner. “We got storms coming. A lot of them.”
“So what?” he demanded, taking a cloth and wiping the
blood off his knuckles. Ballard’s blood.
“If we think the FBI knows about us, about our plans—”
“Shut up!”
Taken aback, Blue Wolf slammed the door and crossed
her arms. “Don’t you tell me to shut up!” Her breathing
became raspy and uneven. “We haven’t gotten anything
from Colby. He’s playing dumb. I know he is.” She jabbed a
finger toward the white woman bound in the chair. “You got
anything more out of her?”
“Not yet.” Rogan made a cutting gesture toward the door.
“Let’s talk elsewhere.” He glanced down at Ballard, whose
eyes conveyed terror. As they should.
Spinning on her heel, Blue Wolf left the room. Once Rogan
joined her, they walked down the corridor toward the
ceremonial area. The lights in the hallway flickered as
lightning lit up the darkness outside the glass doors. “Damn
storm,” she growled. Turning, she glared up at Rogan. His
hair was disheveled and he was nursing his right hand.
“The Storm Pipe knows something’s up.”
“I think the FBI is onto us,” Rogan rasped in a low tone. He
didn’t want his voice to carry back to Ballard. “Isn’t Colby
telling you anything?”
“Nothing. We’re beating the shit out of him and he’s not
talking. The FBI could know about us, about the pipe.”
“Ballard is holding to the story of having a dream about the
Storm Pipe,” Rogan said unhappily. His knuckles were
bruised and swelling. Never mind that the CIA agent had
lost a couple of teeth; his knuckles throbbed with pain and
he wanted to put ice on them.
“Colby is hiding something, but I don’t know what. Every
time I try to get into his mind, he repels me. He’s stronger
than I thought. Have you been able to get into Ballard’s
head?”
Rogan scowled. “Not yet. But I’m close. I wanted to soften
her up. She’s pretty scared. And when a person’s scared,
they lose their focus, and their protective shields drop. I’m
close.”
“Well, get it done. Colby’s a trained agent, but I don’t think
Ballard is. As a remote viewer, she probably sits in an
empty room with a pad and paper, and astrally travels to
wherever she’s sent.” Blue Wolf winced as a bolt of
lightning struck very close to the compound. “Damn, the
thunder beings are restless.”
“Well, of course they are! I’ve decided tomorrow we’re
going to use the pipe instead of Monday. They’re excited. I
think this is a good sign. Don’t you?”
Blue Wolf looked at him. “They’ve never done this before.
These are angry thunder beings, Rogan. I don’t know if
they’re friend or foe tonight. I’ve tried to talk with them, but
my pleas are falling on deaf ears.”
“The Storm Pipe is secure, though?”
“Of course. On the altar gathering force in the middle of the
lodge,” she said, pointing down the hall.
Rubbing his face, Rogan muttered, “I think our best chance
is through Ballard.”
“Then go back in there and read her mind, dammit! If the
FBI know about us, we need the information now. That
means we gotta get out of here and drive for the Mexican
border. Tonight.” Her mouth thinned. “And if you aren’t up to
it, I’ll dig into that white bitch’s brain. She can’t be that
strong.”
Rebuffed by Blue Wolf’s arrogance, Rogan growled, “You
should talk. You can’t even get into that FBI agent’s head.
You leave Ballard to me. Let’s go back and probe their
minds.” He looked at his watch. It was near midnight. “Meet
me here in thirty minutes. We’ll compare what we managed
to dig out of them.”
“Good plan.” Blue Wolf turned and quickly walked down the
hall.
As Rogan turned the other way, another bolt of lightning
slammed into the ground, shaking the building, though it
was sturdy as a Quonset hut. Frightened by the nearness of
the strike, Rogan paused. A pissed-off thunder being could
hurl a bolt and easily kill a person. What was going on with
this storm? This had not happened before when they used
the Storm Pipe. What was different this time?
Angry and anxious, Rogan stalked down the hall,
determined to try and get into Ballard’s mind. One way or
another, he had to learn what the FBI had planned. As he
walked, he felt a sizzle of warning, of danger, shoot up his
spinal column. Halting, he jerked his head up and looked
around.
Rogan knew that signal. Danger! Danger was near. Was it
the FBI coming for them with specially trained SWAT
teams? Rubbing his neck, he picked up the radio from his
belt and depressed the switch. “Bright Sun?”
“I’m here. What do you want, Rogan?”
“You’ve got four women on guard duty tonight around the
compound?”
“Of course, just like you asked. It’s quiet. It’s starting to rain,
the wind is awful and lightning is everywhere. I’ve never
seen a storm like this before.”
“Keep your eyes and ears open, in case we’re being
stalked by the FBI. They could be out there. We hope to
have more information from our prisoners in a little while. In
the meantime, stay alert.”
“This night is hellish, Rogan, but we’re like wolves with our
ears up. Don’t worry, we’re making sure no one can get
near the compound without us knowing it.”
“You got your night-vision goggles on?”
“Of course. But the damn lightning destroys our sight for
minutes at a time. There’s nothing we can do about that.”
“I understand,” Rogan said, frustration in his tone. “Okay,
keep checking in with me every fifteen minutes, like before.
Out.”
As he jammed the radio back into his belt, Rogan couldn’t
shake the feeling of being stalked. Certain that it was the
FBI, he jerked open the door to the office. One way or
another, he was going to get information out of this bitch of
a white woman.
THE WIND WAS VIOLENT, shaking and pummeling Dana
as she clung stubbornly to the slippery, wet basalt. The
storms had begun in earnest near midnight. She and
Chase were halfway up the cliff. Above her, she heard his
labored breathing as he worked to set the pitons, one after
another, into place. The sounds of the hammer were further
muffled by using a rubber mallet. They didn’t talk much.
Chase was afraid that Rogan might have radio equipment
that could pick up their conversations. If Dana needed
anything, she was to jerk twice on the rope strung between
them.
Another bolt of lightning flashed above them. Closing her
eyes, she heard Chase grunt. Had he reached the second
shelf, jutting out of the side of the cliff? Dana hoped so. The
nylon rope tightened. Yes, he had. The silent signal meant
“climb” and that’s what she did. Her vision was still foggy,
but she brushed the basalt with her fingers until she found
solid handholds. Shifting her right foot upward, Dana found
purchase. Her rope tightened more. It was good to know
that Chase was at the other end. He wouldn’t let her fall.
That gave Dana confidence in the midst of the violent
storm.
As she finally lunged onto the flat rock shelf next to Chase,
the rain began again. Only this time, hail pummeled them,
as well. This shelf was much smaller than the first one
they’d discovered on their climb. Shivering, Dana pushed
the night goggles up on her head and scooted into Chase’s
extended arms. The ledge was less than four feet wide and
three feet deep. There was barely room for one person,
much less two. As the lightning flashed, she saw his grim
features, his mouth a slash, his own night goggles pushed
up on his head. It was hard to tell whether his face was
gleaming from the sweat of exertion or from the deluge.
Feeling suddenly safe in a chaotic, unsafe situation, Dana
huddled against his hard, warm body. She slipped her right
arm around his torso and absorbed the heat he emitted like
a furnace. His arm closed comfortingly around her
shoulders, drawing her near. Dana moaned with relief. She
felt his lips, his hot breath, against her ear.
“Okay? Turn off your radio. We can whisper back and forth
and no one will hear us.”
Nodding, Dana did as he instructed. Lightning zigzagged
across the heavens and for a second she saw the turbulent,
churning clouds. There was no question that the thunder
beings were upset. Dana prayed that the spirits were
aligned with them on their mission. Otherwise, they could
hurl a bolt and kill them in an instant. So far, Chase and
Dana had been left alone.
“Why such a violent storm?” Chase asked near her ear. He
selfishly absorbed the feeling of Dana’s strong, graceful
body pressed against his own. She was shivering, and that
wasn’t a good sign. The temperature had dropped when
the storm had broken. They were at an 8,500 elevation, and
cool weather was the norm even in the summer months.
Dana would have to concentrate later on her astral
traveling, once they reached that fourth shelf about thirty
feet below the cliff top.
“I don’t know, Chase. I’ve tried to talk to the thunder beings,
begging them to leave, but they aren’t listening to me. It
seems we have four or five storm cells around us, and they
just keep circling.” The hail continued, slashing downward.
Dana held up her hand to protect her eyes from the
onslaught. “I don’t know what’s going on.”
With his face turned away from the raging wind, Chase
whispered, “I think they’re pissed. But at us? With what
we’re doing to get the Storm Pipe back? That doesn’t
make sense. Were they ever like this when your mother
worked with the pipe?”
Closing her eyes, Dana shook her head. “No. Oh, the
thunder beings always showed up before Mom was going
to use the pipe, but never like this. I don’t understand it, and
they’re not talking to me.”
The hail stopped as suddenly as it had started. For a
moment, the rumbling of thunder eased. Chase caressed
Dana’s shoulder. She was soaked to the skin. “How are
you doing? You’re shivering.”
“I’m cold, Chase. All our climbing, night and day, we did in
good weather, not rain. I sure wish I had a fleece jacket to
put on about now.” Dana gave a slight, strained laugh.
Chase kept rubbing his large hand up and down her arm to
increase circulation, to warm her. “I know. Makes two of us.
Damn, this weather is weird.” Chase glared up at the roiling
heavens.
Dana felt like a sponge magically absorbing Chase’s
warmth as he rubbed her arm. “Maybe something else is
going on that we don’t know about. The thunder beings
always mirror what we two-leggeds do. And it feels like
they’re really upset. I don’t think at us, but maybe that
Rogan is going to use the Storm Pipe very soon.”
“Could be,” Chase agreed. The rain began again, the wind
pushing it horizontally. Turning, he tried to protect Dana
from the pounding spray. He held her in his arms, hoping
his body heat would warm her and his bulk shield her from
the driving deluge.
Moaning softly, Dana took off her night goggles and held
them as Chase pulled her into a tight embrace. Being able
to nestle her head beneath his strong jaw, his body a wall
protecting her from the worst of the rain, was wonderful.
“Thank you. You’re the best fleece jacket a girl could have,”
she whispered. When he laughed, Dana felt some of her
stress and anxiety dissolve.
“Hell of a place to tell the woman I like that I care a lot for
her. I have to get you up on the face of a cliff, on a tiny shelf,
to let you know how I feel.”
His words warmed her even more than his body did.
Chase’s courage fueled hers. Leaning upward, her mouth
near his ear, she said, “I feel the same, Chase. Something
happened when you kissed me last week. At first I was in
shock, but later, your kiss somehow helped free me from
the past. It let me know I had a present and a future for the
first time since I lost Hal and my mother.” There, the truth
was out. Dana held her breath after her confession. How
would he react?
Closing his eyes, Chase hungrily absorbed her soft
admission. “Listen, after this is all over, Dana, I want our
relationship to change. I don’t want to be your teacher or a
hard-ass. I want to have the time, the right, to get to know
you as the beautiful heart-centered woman you are.”
Gulping as the rain sheeted down on them, Chase added,
“More than anything, you’ve got to know you hold my heart
in your hands, Dana.” It was as close as Chase could come
to telling her he was falling helplessly in love with her. And
he was sure the Native American expression would not be
lost on her. She would understand exactly what he was
saying to her.
The lightning flashed savagely above them, so close Chase
swore he could smell the ozone released. Only this bolt
struck inside the compound above them. Wincing, he felt
the shuddering vibration not only through the air around
them, but through the cliff, as well. That was close! What the
hell was going on up there?
All Chase knew was that Dana was in his arms, as he’d
dreamed of so many times, clinging to him. Closing his
eyes and resting his jaw on her wet hair, he prayed to the
Great Spirit that both of them would survive this hellish
night. He wanted a life with Dana. He wanted the time to
explore her, get to know her in so many sweet and
wonderful ways. As the thunder shook the mountainside,
Dana clung to him. He clung to her. The world was turning
inside out around them. Chase had no explanation for all
this commotion. He knew two things: first, that they had to
find the Storm Pipe and steal it back. Secondly, that he
loved Dana.
Would the Great Spirit allow them to celebrate their love for
one another? Would they be discovered and killed? Chase
was uncertain. As the rain ran down his hair and face, he
wanted more than anything else the chance to love Dana.
And there was no guarantee he’d ever get it.
CHAPTER TWENTY
DAVID COLBY WANTED to scream. He had no control
over the horrific events that were rapidly unfolding. Rogan
Fast Horse had dragged Annie Ballard into the main lodge,
where David was cuffed to one of the huge lodgepole
pines. The woman, Blue Wolf, smiled as Rogan hauled the
badly beaten psychic in and hurled her to her knees in front
of the agent.
“Now,” Rogan snarled, holding the gun to Ballard’s skull,
“you either tell me why you’re really here or I blow her head
off. I’m giving you to the count of three. One…two…”
Colby croaked. His gaze was riveted on Annie’s swollen
face and blackened eyes. “Don’t hurt her, for God’s sake!
We came here because of her dream!”
“Liar,” Rogan snarled, his finger squeezing the trigger.
With that one movement, Colby’s world upended. His
shriek of helplessness coincided with the gun going off. In
shock, he watched Annie’s lifeless body drop in front of
him, blood and brain matter splattering everywhere.
Breathing chaotically, he cried, “You didn’t have to do that.
Annie’s innocent. She had a dream. Just a damn dream,
you son of a bitch!”
Blue Wolf rushed him, drawing back her fist, encased in
brass knuckles. He was in such deep shock over Annie’s
murder, that he didn’t brace for what was coming. Seconds
later, his head exploded with pain.
Simultaneously, a bolt of lightning struck just outside the
lodge, illuminating the room with ten million watts of light.
His vision graying, Colby fell to the side, his arms taking all
his weight because he was cuffed around the pole. The last
thing he felt was the lodge shaking with thunder.
Wincing, Rogan held up his hand against his eyes as
another bolt of lightning struck. Blue Wolf cried out and
sank to her knees. The lodge trembled violently. Breathing
hard, blinded by the light, Rogan stumbled, tripping over
Ballard’s lifeless body. The revolver flew out of his hand as
he braced himself for the fall, hitting the cedar floor with a
thud and rolling to absorb the blow. Long moments later,
Rogan got to his hands and knees. Rain was coming down
in a deluge the likes of which he’d never seen. The cedar
shakes were banging as if a million hammers were
pounding it.
Cursing, Rogan struggled to his feet, dazed. What the hell
had just happened? His gaze cut to Blue Wolf, who looked
stunned and frightened.
“What’s going on?” he screamed above the unending
noise. Moving swiftly, he recovered his pistol and thrust it
into the holster at his side. He barely gave Ballard a glance,
instead training his gaze on his partner. “Dammit, Blue
Wolf, snap out of it! What the hell is happening? Why are
the thunder beings hurling bolts at us?”
The wind rose, shrieking like a banshee. The cedar lodge
quaked and rocked. The rain pounded down from the
heavens.
Blue Wolf scrambled to her feet, terror sizzling through her.
“Rogan, you shouldn’t have killed her. I thought you were
just threatening her, dammit.” Jabbing her finger toward
one of the large, square windows, the medicine woman
screamed, “They’re pissed off at you, Rogan! The thunder
beings don’t like what you just did! Now we’re really gonna
pay for your stupid move!” She scurried to the door and
yanked it open.
“Hey!” Rogan yelled. “Stop! Where are you going?”
Jerking around, she shouted, “As far away from you as I
can get! I’m telling the women to go to the dorms, and we’re
waiting this out. You stay the hell away from us until this
weather blows over.”
“Go to hell!” Rogan shouted back, shaking his fist at her.
How he wanted to pull his pistol out and shoot her in the
head. But he couldn’t do that. He needed Blue Wolf to work
with the Storm Pipe tomorrow.
He watched the woman run out the door, leaving him alone.
Breathing harshly, his chest rising and falling, Rogan
looked around. He was frightened that a bolt of lightning
might rip into the lodge and snuff out his life. How the hell
could he know the thunder beings would be pissed off at
him for shooting Ballard in the head? She was only a white
woman! Didn’t the sky spirits know that? Wiping his mouth
with his trembling hand, he felt perspiration dotting his
brow. His hand was bloodied with bits of Ballard’s brains.
He decided to go wash up. This storm would blow over
soon.
Turning jerkily, Rogan stalked across the lodge to the
bathroom at the other end. By the time he washed up, the
FBI agent would have regained consciousness. And Rogan
would interrogate him personally. If the bastard wouldn’t
talk, he was going to meet the same fate Ballard had. Then
Rogan would have his women go dig two graves high up in
the Sierras, a long way from Eagle’s Nest, and bury them.
Where no one would ever find them.
THE STORMS NEVER STOPPED. Dana continued to
climb in the blinding rain, the night-vision goggles
protecting her eyes. Despite the cold, whipping wind, the
nonstop deluge, she felt warmer. Hope spiraled giddily in
her heart. Chase’s words had warmed her spirit and
energized her physical body. She was no longer shivering.
Whatever magic had occurred on that ledge was like a
healing balm to her wounded soul and heart. Chase wanted
a relationship with her.
With each step upward through the flashing lightning and
rumbling thunder, Dana felt safe and hopeful. Hope was a
protection all on its own. So many good things had
happened despite the fury of the thunder beings.
Dana had never seen such a storm, but she knew they were
wanting her to steal the Storm Pipe back. Return it to the
Blue Heron Society, where it rightfully belonged. She felt
this was the spirits’ way of protecting them. In such a storm
there would surely be no sentries out on guard duty, Dana
thought optimistically.
Water ran in rivulets down her face. Her thin leather gloves
were soaked and her fingers began to go numb. That
wasn’t good, because she couldn’t feel the handholds on
the sharp basalt. Dana was afraid of falling. Oh, it was true
her nylon harness and rope were hitched to Chase, but if
she fell it was doubtful he could hold both of them on the
side of this cliff.
When would it end? They were headed for the last ledge,
about thirty feet below Rogan’s compound. Dana felt fairly
confident no one would be out in weather like this.
Once Chase reached the last stone shelf, which jutted out in
a point, almost like an arrowhead, he hauled Dana up and
into his arms. He heard her soft laugh of relief as he held
her.
Chase gave her a swift hug and reluctantly released her, so
she could sit beside him. It was 4:00 a.m. With the angry
thunderheads rumbling around them, dawn would come
late, and Chase was glad. They needed the cover of
darkness. After taking up the ropes, keeping them neatly
coiled, he pushed the goggles off his face. He wiped his
eyes and turned toward Dana, who was doing the same.
“Catch your breath, woman of mine. You’re going to have to
get quiet, go inward and travel astrally now.” Fumbling, he
found her hand and squeezed it gently. When Dana
returned the squeeze, Chase’s heart opened with such joy
that all the pain from the brutal, demanding climb
momentarily left his limbs.
He hadn’t meant to say “woman of mine.” The words had
slipped out before he realized it. But if Dana minded the
endearment, she didn’t say so. Instead, Chase saw the
white flash of her teeth in the darkness. Her smile was an
unexpected gift to Chase as he sat on the cold, slippery
ledge, huddled next to her.
“Okay, Chase, let me get centered.” Dana handed him the
rest of her nylon rope. Water was running down the cliff face
in small cataracts. The rain had slackened, thank
goodness, and suddenly even the winds hushed.
As she closed her eyes, her heart pounding and her body
trembling from exertion, she felt Chase’s hand again wrap
around hers. The connection made Dana feel loved in a
night fraught with danger. Chase knew enough not to
speak. To try and astral travel with thunder and lightning
dancing around them was worrisome enough. Another
human voice, a jarring touch or an unexpected sound could
snap her out of her focused state. If that happened, her
astral body would come slamming back into her physical
form, shocking and stunning her for an hour or more. It
could leave her partially paralyzed, feeling nauseated or
dizzy. No, it wasn’t a pleasant experience to have one’s
astral form snap like a rubber band back into one’s body.
Inhaling through her nose, Dana took the first of three
breaths, drawing air deep into her abdomen. As she slowly
released the inhalation, her breath became her focus. She
performed the breathing technique and simultaneously
visualized silver tree roots gently twining around her ankles,
the tips of each going down through her feet and then diving
deeply into the soil of Mother Earth. This was to keep her
grounded, a necessary precaution to anyone attempting
astral travel. Whatever Dana viewed with her astral eyes
had to be sent back to her physical body and brain, to be
noted and remembered. She’d spent ten years practicing
this technique, with her mother’s instruction and support.
Now it was all going to pay off, Dana hoped.
A dizziness washed through her as she exhaled the last
deep breath. With her eyes closed, she began to see a
flickering purple light in the center of her forehead—at her
brow charka, or third eye. As the color swirled, moving like
a whirlpool in a clockwise direction, Dana became less and
less aware of her physical surroundings.
Dana no longer felt Chase’s warm, rough hand around her
own. The thunder became distant. The wind no longer
ruffled the damp, stringy hair plastered to her face and
neck. Moving into the whirlpool of purple hues, Dana
sensed lightness. The heaviness started to dissolve. And
then she heard a vague popping sound. Suddenly, she was
buoyant, like an escaping balloon, and ready to astral
travel.
Dana got her bearings and switched to seeing through her
astral eyes. Instead of the grainy green smudges of her
night goggles, she saw the shapes and outlines of objects,
including the living electromagnetic energy that throbbed
around them. And she saw them four-dimensionally. The
colors were many and varied, and it took her moments to
recognize the wooden wall of the compound. First things
first, however. Dana cloaked herself in a silver-white bubble
of light for protection. It was energy armor that no one could
penetrate. If there was a clairvoyant in that compound who
was awake, he or she would not discover Dana skulking
quietly among them.
Floating upward, she headed over the wall and drifted
toward the buildings. She was searching for a particular
energy signature, and she found it. The Storm Pipe had a
blue auric field, to denote Father Sky and the thunder
beings. Blue sky, blue energy. It was really very simple.
Dana hovered near the wall and noted a bluish-white light
flashing like a beacon within the compound. Moving
forward like a feather in the breeze, Dana followed the light
until she was just above the main lodge’s cedar shakes.
Dana scanned the area, but saw no one out on this
miserable night. At least in astral form. Even though rain
continued to fall more gently than before, she was
impervious to it. The lightning had waned, too, although
Dana saw cloud-to-cloud forks and flashes.
She could feel her heart beating hard, pumping heavily as if
it were a pulsing cord connecting her physical body and her
astral one. She felt no fear. Just anxious to see exactly
where the pipe was located.
Because she was in a pure energy form, Dana was able to
drift down through the roof of the lodge into the building.
Walls were no deterrent to her entry or exit. As she did,
Dana froze near the ceiling. Below, she saw Rogan Fast
Horse with a man who was handcuffed to a large, central
pole. Rogan struck him repeatedly with his balled fist. Dana
watched as blood spurted out of the man’s broken nose
and from his split lips. To her horror, she saw a dead
woman nearby, her blond hair soaked in blood. Terror
sizzled through Dana. There was nothing she could do to
help the man, whoever he was.
She struggled with her shock and turned away from the
traumatic scene. She couldn’t be diverted from her main
goal. She had to find the Storm Pipe! Moving like a silent
apparition, she floated through several walls, one after
another, the blue light becoming brighter and more intense.
As she slipped silently into a room halfway to the other end
of the lodge, Dana finally saw the pipe. When she entered,
it blazed with intense and swirling turquoise and cobalt
colors, as if welcoming her.
Hovering over the pipe bag, the same one her mother had
held and used for so many years, Dana felt a surge of raw
emotion. The Storm Pipe was resting on an altar, the stem
next to it. The door to the room was unlocked. Rogan must
have felt very safe to allow it to be exposed like this, Dana
thought.
She dared not speak to or touch the pipe. Dana knew it
had bonded with someone in this compound. And if she did
anything to trigger it, the owner would know and sound the
alarm that an intruder was in the room. No, best to leave
now.
She could hear Rogan’s shouts, flesh striking flesh, as she
floated away from the lodge, and her stomach turned
violently. She had to concentrate hard to memorize the
layout of the buildings, and her head was beginning to
ache. Where were the sentries? She saw none. There were
no guards at the main gate, either. Chances were the awful
weather had driven everyone inside.
Moving quickly, Dana left the compound and descended
the cliff, very slowly and gently slipping back into her body.
When her astral feet were locked into place with her
physical ones, Dana let out a long, tremulous sigh. She
squeezed Chase’s warm hand to let him know she was
back.
Carefully turning toward him on the narrow ledge, Dana
quickly shared what she’d seen. She spoke in hushed
tones, her lips occasionally brushing his ear.
Chase scowled as she finished her report. The wind was
starting to pick up again. In the distance, another thunder
cell advanced down the mountain toward them. Cupping his
hand to Dana’s ear, he asked, “Who were the man and
woman with Rogan? Did you recognize either of them?”
Dana leaned against him, her hand resting against his
damp chest. “I don’t know them. She’s dead, Chase. Half
her skull is gone. It was awful.”
Slipping his arm around her, Chase drew Dana close.
“Rogan did that. He’s damn dangerous,” he growled. “I’d
sure like to know who his victims are.”
“I don’t know. I wish I did, but I don’t, Chase.”
“It’s okay. We need to move now. Maybe we can save this
guy from Rogan. The pipe is first, though. We need to scale
the wall, drop down on the north side of that main lodge and
slip in the back door. While you’re retrieving the pipe, I’ll go
and try to save this dude’s life.”
Dana gulped. Her heart was slamming into her rib cage.
She was shaking—the aftermath of seeing the murdered
woman and the bloody, violent scene, she was sure. “Y-yes.
I’m ready. Are you?”
“It’s a go, woman of mine.” Chase turned to her. In a flash of
nearby lightning, he saw her large, beautiful eyes. Dana’s
lashes were thick, and he felt like spiraling into her lustrous
gaze. “I want to kiss you…” he rasped. “For luck. For
love…”
“Yes….” Dana met his mouth with a hunger that surprised
her. As Chase’s lips joined hers, the restless, stormy,
chaotic world around them ceased to exist. His strong
fingers moved across her cheek, threaded through her
damp hair and cradled her head. His breath was hot, his
mouth hungry and restless as it melded with her own.
Moaning, Dana matched the ferocity of his need for her.
Chase’s returning groan vibrated through her like the
rumble of thunder. It was a wonderful, sizzling sensation,
and Dana absorbed it like the thirsty earth in need of rain.
For two years, the idea of sex and sharing herself with a
man had never entered her consciousness. Not until now.
Not until Chase Iron Hand had entered her life. As the wind
rose, whipping around them, Dana realized how intense,
yet how momentary, their kiss really was. They could be
killed. Shuddering as she recalled the astral view she’d had
of Rogan, Dana concentrated on Chase’s searing mouth,
his lips taking her places she’d never been before. Her
body ached to mate with him.
But it wouldn’t happen now…and maybe not ever. For they
had a mission to carry out. As Dana broke their kiss, their
breathing ragged, she understood the fragility of life as
never before. This could be the last kiss they ever shared.
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE
WITHIN FIFTEEN MINUTES, Chase was up and over the
high wooden wall. The timbers were each set in concrete
on the edge of the cliff. Inside one wall, there were bracings
every five feet to keep the wall upright and strong. When he
jerked the knotted rope, Dana quickly followed and heaved
herself upward. She had left her safety harness behind,
which made the last few feet the most dangerous. They
could not risk having the pitons being hammered in this
close to the fence. Another storm was breaking over them,
the wind tearing at her clothing. The pack on her back
made the climb more difficult as the wind caught it. Dana
ignored the buffeting. She had to focus. If her wet gloves
slipped on the rope, she could fall three thousand feet to
her death. As she tried to put that terrifying possibility out of
her mind, she twisted the rope around her arm and pulled
herself upward, closer and closer to the top. Time had
halted. Rain slashed into her face, but the night goggles
protected her eyes. Just a few more feet…
A powerful gust slammed Dana against the rough wooden
palisade. One of her hands slipped off the rope and she
dangled precariously. The wind slapped her to the right and
then the left. She was on a slowly moving pendulum, the
dark chasm below illuminated by lightning flashes. A croak
escaped her as she twisted.
“Dana!”
Chase’s harshly whispered command roared into her
frantic mind. Gulping, Dana knew what she had to do. She
had trained for this. She had to stop panicking! But as her
fingers slipped down the knotted rope, Dana felt as if she
was going to fall to her death. No! Oh, Great Spirit, no! Give
me strength! Help me!
“Turn around!”
Chase’s deep, implacable order shattered through Dana.
Another gust of wind struck, turning her so that her belly was
flat against the wall. With a grunt, feeling her right arm
weakening by the second, Dana threw her left hand
upward. Her wet glove met the rope. Grab the knot!
Groaning, her right shoulder burning like fire, Dana curled
her fingers around a knot in the nylon. There.
She caught her breath and pressed her feet together on a
lower knot, so that they took most of her weight. Her right
shoulder burned so badly she felt it going numb. Had she
torn her rotator cuff? Chase had always warned her about
climbing with both arms, never just one, for fear of injuring a
shoulder.
“Dana! Are you okay?”
His urgent tone now was like a slap in the face. Gasping
and choking, the rain dripping down into her open mouth,
Dana gurgled, “Yes! Give me a second….”
“Climb up now! You can’t hang there!”
Dana sprang into action. She knew if she didn’t get off this
rope soon, she’d fall. Grunting, she made it up the last ten
feet to Chase’s extended arm.
The moment his strong, steadying hand wrapped around
hers, he hauled Dana up to the top of the wall, as if she
were a leaf in the roaring wind.
She would have fallen off the narrow ledge of four-by-fours
that braced two feet inside the wall so that the sharp points
could deter visitors. The ledge ran the length of one wall as
a strengthening device to keep it strong. And yet Chase
perched easily upon it, his balance better than hers. Relief
sheeted through her as he slid his arm around her waist.
She carefully turned around on the narrow shelf. The wind
howled, keeping her off balance. As she gripped Chase’s
shoulder, her own right arm aching, Dana choked down her
fear.
He dropped some coils of rope into the compound. “Squat
here,” he rasped. “I’ll go down first. Then you come.”
Dana nodded, knowing they shouldn’t speak unless
absolutely necessary. She crouched and gripped the top of
the wall with her left hand. This allowed her right shoulder a
brief respite as Chase dropped the rest of the rope and
shimmied down inside the compound.
Thunder rolled and the stockade wall shivered. Chase held
the rope taut. Maneuvering carefully, Dana made quick
work of getting back to solid ground. The earth had never
felt so good or stabilizing to her as she landed next to him.
He quickly released the rope from the gaff hook that held it
solidly on the top of the wall. They ran the short distance to
the side of the cedar lodge.
Breathing raggedly, Dana rubbed her right shoulder, which
was aching in earnest. But she couldn’t dwell on the pain.
Flexing her fingers, she shucked off her wet, slippery gloves
and stuffed them into a thigh pocket. Chase quickly pushed
the coiled rope back into his pack, retrieved two pistols and
handed one to her.
The pistol was heavy in Dana’s numb, wet fingers. Chase
had schooled her for weeks on how to handle it, but her
stomach turned at the idea of shooting someone. After
seeing the murdered woman, and the man being brutally
beaten, Dana knew Rogan would kill her if he caught her.
She had to be ready to use the firearm.
Chase tiptoed along the edge of the building a ways, then
lifted his hand. With her night goggles in place, Dana saw
the signal and quickly moved forward to where he
crouched.
“Okay,” he whispered, “let’s enter the back door of this
lodge. We don’t know if Rogan is still in there. Can you feel
his energy?”
Dana tried to concentrate. She hoped Chase didn’t know
how much pain she was in. “I…Wait…” She made another
attempt to focus, but it was impossible. Opening her eyes,
she murmured, “I’m sorry, Chase, I can’t concentrate
enough to find out for sure.”
“It’s okay.” Chase swallowed his disappointment. Psychic
functioning hinged on many factors, and was easily blocked
by stress. He knew Dana was upset over what she had
seen—the murdered woman, and realizing the danger
Rogan truly presented to them.
Chase reached out and squeezed her hand. “Okay, we’re
going in. You get to the pipe. You get it in your pack and
meet me at the gate.”
“But what about the man in there?” She strained to see
Chase’s darkened features. Only when lightning flashed
could she see the thin set of his mouth—a sign that he was
all-business, all-military at the moment.
“I need to find Rogan. That’s my priority. We need a clear
shot at getting to the front gates of this compound and then
making a run for it down that road. That’s our plan. This guy
—if he’s still alive—will slow us down.”
Sickened, but aware that Chase was right, Dana gave a
jerky nod. They must get to the pipe immediately. She
crawled along the edge of the lodge toward the door. When
she wrapped her hand around the brass doorknob, it turned
easily. Chase slipped inside and on down the narrow
passage. Focusing her senses, and trying to ignore the
pain in her shoulder, Dana started toward the area where
she’d seen the pipe during her astral travels. When Chase
headed in another direction, toward where she’d seen the
man and the dead woman, she swallowed against a hard
lump in her throat. Dana knew she had to concentrate on
her part of this rescue.
The door to the small room, too, opened easily. The
moment Dana stepped inside and saw the blue glow on the
altar, she gasped. The Storm Pipe throbbed with such
vibrancy that joy washed over her like a wave from the
ocean. Quietly closing the door, she tiptoed forward. Just
as she had seen in her astral travels, the pipe lay next to its
wooden stem on the red cloth of the altar.
Dana shucked off the backpack and crouched before the
altar. With shaking fingers she unzipped the bag. She could
feel the pipe’s response to her being here. She knew it
must recognize her as the daughter of a woman who had
once carried it proudly for three-quarters of her life.
A memory flashed within Dana’s brain. She’d been barely
ten years old when her mother, after meditating with the
Storm Pipe one day, had come and settled the pipe bag
into Dana’s thin, spindly arms. Cora had smiled and
instructed her on how to carry the pipe—as if it were a
much loved baby. Dana recalled the happiness and warmth
she’d felt washing over her like a rainbow after a storm. It
was the first time her mother had entrusted her with the
ceremonial pipe. And even as a ten-year-old, Dana had
realized the honor of even getting to hold it. Very few
people ever got such a privilege.
She slowly unwound from her crouched position. Would the
woman who’d bonded with the Storm Pipe feel her here?
Would she come running for it? Panic joined fear as
Dana’s hand hovered for a split second above the sacred
object. She counted on it seeing her as a friend and not
sounding the alarm. Would her mother’s years of caring for
the Storm Pipe be enough for it to trust her, the daughter,
now? She prayed to Cetan, the pipe she left at the hogan
for safekeeping during this raid. Feeling the personal pipe
respond energetically to her prayer for help, Dana steadied
herself.
Closing her eyes, Dana focused her intent, mentally
communicating with the pipe. She begged the spirit within it
to remain quiet and not give away her position.
To her relief, Dana felt the pipe promise its silence. She
imparted her next steps: rescue the pipe and bring it home.
The moment she communicated the idea, a wave of delight
seemed to roll through the room. That instantaneous, glad
response brought tears to Dana’s eyes. Yes, the spirit
would entrust itself to her; after all, she was the daughter of
the woman who had cared for her for decades.
With the pipe’s allegiance settled, Dana wondered about
Rogan’s whereabouts. And was Chase safe? Feeling
suddenly vulnerable, Dana gently slid her fingers around the
pipe head. She retrieved a special, protective pouch from
her pack and sheathed it inside. As she did so, a feeling of
warmth moved through her fingers. Then a bolt of heat shot
up her right arm and exploded through her shoulder.
For a moment, Dana was staggered by the sensation. The
heat was so intense, she gasped. She realized belatedly
that the pipe was sending healing energy to her aching
shoulder.
She dropped to her knees in front of the open pack. But just
as she felt relief, the lodge trembled from nearby lightning
and thunder. It was a clear warning that she had to act. Her
hands shook as she placed the pipe and pouch into an
insulated pocket of her pack.
As she rose, she reached for the stem and slid it into a long
sheepskin pouch. She tightened the drawstrings and
settled it within her backpack for optimum protection.
Rain pelted the cedar of the lodge. Dana couldn’t hear
anything except the pinging roar of the downpour. Was the
current pipe carrier aware she had the Storm Pipe now?
Dana knew that the owner of any pipe had an energetic link
to it, an open line strung between them. Had the Storm
Pipe turned off that connection?
As she zipped her pack shut and hefted it upward, Dana
realized there was no more pain in her shoulder. Stunned
by the unexpected miracle, she settled the straps into
place.
She took a deep breath and opened the door. The hall was
empty. Her first instinct was to help the man she’d seen.
She wanted to, but knew she couldn’t. It sickened her that
someone was suffering like that, but she remembered
Chase’s directive: rescue the pipe and get out. Dana
closed the door and ran on tiptoe down the hall. As she
went, she felt the warmth of the pipe continuing to roll
through her.
At the back door, lightning flashed. Thunder followed
moments later, and the instant Dana stepped into the night,
rain assailed her. It felt as if the thunder beings were
attacking the compound. She kept her head tucked and
repositioned her night goggles.
Where was Chase? Her mind whirled over the possibilities.
Had he run into Rogan?
Keep going, Dana willed herself. Turning, she ran stealthily
along the edge of the lodge. From here there was a clear
path to the gates, which appeared to be unbarred. That
meant Chase had arrived already. Getting through the
gates had been his job. She did a quick scan of the area
and saw no sentries. She had to make a run for it!
The rain had turned the ground into slippery mud. Puddles
were everywhere, and in places, streams of water gushed.
Across the yard, Dana recognized the dorms where the
women stayed. They were dark, as if everyone was asleep.
But who could sleep in this hellacious storm?
Uneasy, Dana edged along the last side of the lodge. Her
nerves screamed when her boots nearly slipped out from
under her. The ground was like black ice, and her speed
put her at risk of falling. She kept her hand against the side
of the building as she ran.
She was less than eighty feet from the entrance. There
were no guards out there that she could see. Who would be
out on a night like this?
Blue Wolf jerked open the door of the dorm. The electricity
had gone off during this last storm. The building was hot
and muggy and she desperately wanted some fresh air.
Standing out on the porch, out of the pouring rain, she
winced as a flash of cloud-to-cloud lightning occurred.
Because she lived in fear of being struck by an angry
thunder being, Blue Wolf raised her hand to protect her
eyes from the light.
As she did so, she saw a shadowy figure trotting down the
side of the main lodge. Who was that? Turning, Blue Wolf
wondered if Rogan had ordered whoever was supposed to
be on guard duty back to the gates. Because that was the
direction the figure was running.
Something wasn’t right. Blue Wolf felt it in her gut. She
darted back into the dorm.
“Guards, get out here! There’s someone in our compound!”
Chase waited tensely near the gate. When he’d gone into
the lodge, Rogan was nowhere to be found. The stranger
was unconscious in the main room, handcuffed to the pole.
Chase could do nothing to help him, even though he’d
wanted to.
He finally spotted Dana slipping and sliding through the
mud. He’d already pulled off the massive board that held
the gates closed. Rain made it hard for him to see her
clearly.
“Are you coming?” he rasped into the mike situated against
his mouth. He stepped out of the shadows and stood at the
opening, a hand on each gate so the wind wouldn’t swing
them open prematurely and tip off the guards.
“Y-yes…coming!”
Chase heard the panic in Dana’s breathless voice. She
had only ten feet to go across an open stretch. His heart
clutched in his chest. Chase knew this was the most
dangerous part of their operation. Dana would expose
herself to anyone who might be watching from these
buildings. They’d see her running hard for the gate and
know it wasn’t one of their own people. Pulse accelerating,
Chase realized he, too, was exposed to view. He watched
as Dana awkwardly started her sprint across the open gap.
In that moment, he heard the shriek of women’s voices
raised in alarm. Jerking his head to the left, Chase saw
through his night-vision goggles three women, all armed,
running toward him. Dammit!
“Dana! Three sentries coming my way! They’re armed.
Hurry! I’ll open the gate and you slip out. I’ll take care of
them.”
Danger! Dana felt it sizzle through every screaming nerve in
her body. She lunged and slid through the heavy rain
toward the gate. If not for her night goggles, she wouldn’t
see anything.
Chase’s warning rolled through her like a tank. Glancing to
the right, she saw armed figures running toward the gates,
where Chase stood. Oh, no! She dug her muddy boots into
the wet ground and tried to listen through her headset as
she ran. What was he saying? That he’d stay behind? No,
he couldn’t. It was three against one!
Sobbing for breath, Dana reached the gates. Chase
opened them just enough for her to pass through. She
started to slow her pace.
“Get out of here, Dana! Follow the mission!”
“Chase…”
“Get the hell out of here!” He shoved her roughly so that he
could shut the gates behind her.
Giving a cry, Dana heard the gates slam shut. Lightning
flashed, revealing the road before her. The one she needed
to run down to escape. But what about Chase? There were
three armed women running toward him!
Her mind whirling with indecision, Dana lurched down the
road. Like any dirt road in a rainstorm, this one had turned
into an oozing mire, winding like a snake across a high
meadow of cactus and sagebrush. As she trudged through
the mud, Dana twisted to see if Chase had come out yet.
That had been the plan: he’d meet her at the gates and
they’d run away from the compound together, to a car
parked two miles away, near the highway.
A gust of wind tore at her. And though the rain slackened,
Dana slipped and fell on her butt. She landed hard,
managing to throw out her hands to stop herself from falling
onto the pipe. Covered with mud, she scrambled back to
her feet and glanced around. Having rounded the first curve
that was dropping slowly in elevation, she couldn’t see the
compound any longer. Where was Chase? She readjusted
her headset, trying to hear him, but couldn’t.
“Chase! Chase, do you read me?” Dana begged as she
ran awkwardly down the road.
No answer.
A horrible feeling flooded her. Something was terribly
wrong. She had to make sure Chase was still alive. The
breath halted in her chest at the thought of being alone.
She’d just found him. Had the women shot and killed
Chase? Taken him prisoner?
On instinct, Dana leaped off the road. About fifty feet down
the shrubby slope, she spotted several large sagebrush
growing close together. Approaching quickly, she knelt by
them. Looking them over, she made a decision. Dana
shook off the pack and placed it in the bushy clump. No one
would see it from the road.
Kneeling in the grass, her heart pounding unrelentingly,
Dana tried to gather her wits. Focusing on the Storm Pipe,
she mentally telegraphed that it would be safe here. She
asked the spirit of the pipe not to answer the last carrier.
She explained that she needed to go back and find her
partner.
As soon as she’d relayed the message, Dana felt confident
the pipe would remain silent. She saw a faint blue glow
pulse around the pack, then fade and vanish. Grateful,
Dana leaned down, pressed her palm momentarily on the
pack and whispered, “Just stay quiet. I’ll return for you
soon.”
The storm was now moving away. Dana gathered her
deteriorating resolve, turned and trotted back up the slope.
With night goggles, she managed to avoid the murderous
thorns on the hundreds of cacti that dotted the meadow.
And as she ran back to the muddy road, she sensed that
Chase was in trouble—either captured or dead. Memories
of this man, so warm and cajoling, so powerful and
beautiful, slammed into her pounding heart. Hot tears
clouded Dana’s vision, and her goggles grew misty. Taking
them off, Dana halted. She wiped her eyes, sobbed once,
then dived deep within herself. Now wasn’t the time to cry,
even though she wanted to. She had to stay together. She
had to think. Chase was in harm’s way. And she had to go
back and try to rescue him. But how?
Settling the goggles into place, Dana realized she’d never
felt so helpless. But the closer she got to the compound, the
more she felt a new strength threading through her. She
recognized the feeling as love. Love for Chase.
She didn’t try to deny it. Not now, not ever. As she climbed
back up to that dark, threatening place, Dana knew her life
was nothing without him.
Tonight, she was either going to live or die. But she could
not leave Chase behind. He wouldn’t have left her, she was
sure. Somehow, she would have to use all the knowledge
Chase had imparted to her over the last several weeks, get
back into the compound and find him. Find out if he was
alive or dead…
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO
IN A HAZE OF PAIN, Chase slowly awakened. He tasted
blood and discovered his wrists were bound around a
wooden pole in the lodge. Sprawled out, his head
throbbing, he caught the sound of far-off thunder. Movement
to his left made him more alert. But his eye was nearly
swollen shut, he found. Chase remembered having a
shootout at the gate with the three sentries. They’d fired
simultaneously. A bullet had grazed his left temple, and
Chase remembered nothing after that.
It hurt to move from his position. Rain was drumming softly
on the cedar shake roof of the lodge. As Chase fought to
regain full consciousness, he looked over and saw the man
Rogan had been holding prisoner. His face, badly swollen
and bruised, was a bloody mess; his eyes, what little
Chase could see of them, looked haunted. Chase stared at
him for a long moment and saw his unshed tears.
Where is Dana? Closing his eyes, Chase forced himself
into a sitting position to relieve the pain and tension placed
on his arms and shoulders. No one else was present in the
large, dimly lit space. Had Dana escaped? Chase wanted
nothing more than that. He flexed his hands, his fingers
numb because of the tight cuffs. Dana had to be gone. She
had to have followed their escape plan to get the Storm
Pipe to safety, back where it belonged.
“Who are you?”
Chase raised his head. It hurt to move, but he looked up to
meet the stranger’s eyes. “In trouble. Like you.”
The man’s mouth moved slightly. His lower lip was split
open, and blood had dribbled down his chin and onto his
rumpled, filthy clothing. “We’re both in more trouble than we
ever wanted to be in.”
“Yeah…” Chase muttered, scanning the room. The
windows showed it was still dark outside. How long had he
been unconscious? “What happened?” he asked the
stranger, who was tied to the next pole.
“I heard gunfire. Must have been you. And return fire. About
five minutes later, a couple of women dragged you in here.
Rogan Fast Horse came in and cuffed you to the pole. And
then all hell broke loose. There’s a woman named Blue
Wolf, and she came shrieking out of the room over there.”
The man lifted his elbow to point. “She was saying the pipe
was gone. And then she switched languages and I couldn’t
understand anything else.”
“So everyone’s out looking for this missing pipe?” Chase
kept the terror out of his tone. The man, whoever he was,
was trying to be helpful. Right now, Chase had to try and
figure out how to escape. Sooner or later, Rogan would
come in here and try to pry information out of him. If he
couldn’t, he’d put a round in his head, just as he had that
woman. Rogan was a cold-blooded killer who thought
nothing of wasting a life to get what he wanted.
“I think so.”
“Have they found the person who took it?” Automatically,
Chase held his breath, his fingers flexing.
“I don’t believe so. Blue Wolf had nearly a dozen women out
running around in the storm earlier.” He looked at Chase.
“They know you’re part of a team,” he warned him in a low
tone. “And from what Fast Horse said, you had better
prepare yourself….”
“I think we’re on the same side,” Chase told the stranger.
“My name is Chase Iron Hand. I’m here to help you.”
It must hurt the man to talk, Chase figured, since some
teeth were missing from his mouth. “I’m David Colby, FBI.”
Frowning, Chase felt his head clear. “FBI?”
“My partner, Annie—” Colby choked on her name “—had a
vision. She is—I mean, was—psychic. She was murdered
by Fast Horse.” Colby couldn’t stop the tears from forming
in his eyes. Feeling shattered from the inside out, he
managed to croak, “Annie had a dream about an L-shaped
object. We tracked it down to an antique dealer in Carson
City, who said it was a pipe. He suggested we drop in and
visit Fast Horse, who might know more about it.” With a
grimace, Colby said, “That was one hell of a mistake.”
“Yeah, it would be,” Chase whispered roughly. The blood
from the wound on his temple had dried, and now it pulled
the surrounding flesh. “I’m sure he thought you were after
the Storm Pipe.” In Chase’s mind, there was nothing more
to hide about the pipe. If he died, the FBI agent would know
the truth and be able to prosecute Rogan—provided he
survived.
“Fast Horse and Blue Wolf kept asking us about it,” Colby
said. “We don’t know what it is. All I’ve ever heard or read
about are the peace pipes from history books, when I was
a kid in high school.”
Managing a grimace, Chase said, “There’s a lot more to
pipes than that.” He glanced around the room once again.
“We’ve gotta get out of here or we’re both dead men.”
“I know that.”
Chase heard a sound and turned his head. Instantly, his
eyes narrowed. Heart banging in his throat, he couldn’t
believe what he saw: Dana!
Dana held her finger to her lips as soon as she spotted
Chase. He and the other man were cuffed to the two center
poles. She quickly shut the door and looked around. Her
throat was tight with fear, her heart pounding so loudly it
scared her. She almost cried out when she noticed
Chase’s bullet wound. If that missile had sliced even an
eighth of an inch deeper, he would be dead.
Hurrying to his side, Dana squatted down and gripped his
arm. “Chase! Are you okay?”
‘I’m fine, Dana.”
“Where’s the key for the cuffs?” she whispered urgently.
Never had Dana looked more beautiful to Chase. “I don’t
know—”
“It’s over there,” Colby called to her. “See it? On that wood
table opposite us.” The agent gave Dana a pleading look
that spoke volumes. “Get it and free us?”
Chase nodded. “Dana, this is Colby. He’s an FBI agent.
We need to take him with us.”
FBI? Dana’s mouth fell open as she stared over at the
badly beaten agent. She had questions, but swallowed
them for later. Had the murdered woman been an FBI
agent, too? “Right.” Dana sprang up and ran across the
room to the table. Despite the dim light, she found the small
key. Just as she reached for it, the door at the other end of
the room opened. Whirling around, she gave a gasp as she
saw Rogan enter. In that split second she recognized him
as her twin soul. Only he was the dark half. Dana realized
then that a death spiral dance would now take place. Would
she die? Or would he?
The door slammed shut with a terrifying finality.
Rogan eyed the woman at the table. His gaze cut to the two
men, who were still cuffed. “Well, well,” he said, smiling
slightly, “the fox comes back to the henhouse. Welcome, my
dear. You must be Dana, the daughter of Cora Thunder
Eagle, who used to carry the Storm Pipe. You are my twin
soul.” Rubbing his hands together, he walked slowly toward
Dana, his grin fixed. “Now, why didn’t I think that you might
try to retrieve the Storm Pipe? Why indeed?” Rogan looked
at Chase. “And you brought this big brute with you. Your
guard dog, eh?”
Chase was helpless. He saw Rogan’s eyes glitter with
hatred. Dana had turned, her face pale. She was no match
for this brutal man, and yet there was nothing Chase could
do. His heart clenched with anxiety and terror. Rogan had
already killed one woman. He’d kill Dana.
Choking, Chase called to Fast Horse, “She knows nothing.
I know it all. You want me, not her.”
Rogan kept his gaze trained on the woman in the black
spandex suit. She was tall and strong. And beautiful. “I can
see how much you look like your mother, Dana.”
Hatred and anger replaced her terror. Dana closed her fist
and crouched, knowing Rogan was going to attack her at
any moment. “You son of a bitch, you murdered my mother
and my husband!”
Rogan chuckled. He felt confident he could grab her, haul
her to the pole and tie her up with her accomplice. “Oh,
come now. All’s fair in love and war. Your father was
already dead years earlier. And you know the Storm Pipe
is all about power. It was a power I wanted, and your mother
just didn’t see it that way.” He raised his hands and
shrugged. “What was I to do?”
Adrenaline coursed through Dana so powerfully that her
head became clear, chasing out the fear. She went for her
pistol. The strap was over it and Dana fumbled with a shaky
hand to release it. It was kill or be killed. She had to act.
There was a baseball bat on the other side of the room.
This had obviously been Rogan’s weapon of choice on the
FBI agent. Perhaps she should use it on Rogan. If she was
fast enough.
In that moment, the medicine man leaped forward. With one
swift kick, he knocked the weapon out of her hand.
Dana had been taught the rudiments of karate by Chase.
As she lashed out with one booted foot, she connected
solidly with Rogan’s narrow chest. He seemed surprised as
her sole slammed into him, hurling him backward.
Dana was knocked to the ground, as well. Scrambling to
her feet, she realized she was no match for Rogan, who
was a black belt in karate. Racing across the room, she
heard him curse, then turned to see him getting up. She ran
on, but his footfalls were heavy, coming closer and closer.
Her pistol had slid beneath a cabinet and she couldn’t
reach it.
Reaching the corner, Dana grabbed the handle of the oak
bat, spun around and lifted it with both hands. Rogan was
charging so fast he couldn’t stop his forward momentum.
With her one slicing movement, Dana got lucky. The bat
slammed into Rogan’s head in a grazing blow. But it was
enough!
Rogan crumpled like a felled ox to the floor, unconscious.
With a cry of relief, Dana dropped the bat. She raced back
across the room, her hands shaking so badly she could
barely pick up the key.
“Hurry!” Chase called, watching as Rogan lay unconscious
on the floor. “Hurry!”
A peal of thunder sounded nearby, closer than any others
had been in the last half hour. Dana skidded to a stop and
dropped to her knees. She tried again and again to work
the tiny key in the handcuffs. Finally, one side opened up.
Chase quickly pulled free. In moments, the second cuff
opened.
“Thanks,” he declared, a look of pride on his face. “Now get
Colby free. He’s coming with us.”
“Okay,” Dana said breathlessly, glancing once again at
Fast Horse. He could awaken any moment. If he did, he’d
come for her. She ran to Colby, knelt and repeated the
process of releasing the cuffs. The man groaned as he
slowly, with stiff, robotic motions, tried to move his arms.
Chase was already on his feet and heading toward Rogan.
Reaching him, he pulled the man’s limp arms behind his
back and snapped the cuffs in place.
Dana brought over the second pair. “Cuff his ankles, too. I
want to make sure he doesn’t follow us.”
Grinning, Chase did as she asked. “Throw away the key
when we leave, Dana. He and his women can sit here
figuring out how to release him while we make a getaway.
Get your pistol. They took mine and I don’t know where it’s
at.”
“Right.”
Chase stood. He was dizzy but fought it off. “The pipe
safe?”
“Yes.” She looked up into his glittering, narrowed gaze.
Even though Chase had been wounded in the head, he
looked wonderful. Dana turned. “I found a way to sneak in
here without being seen. Come on, we gotta leave.” She
looked at her watch. “It’s 5:00 a.m. We have an hour before
dawn.”
Chase nodded. He went to where Colby was standing, near
the desk. The FBI agent could barely walk. He’d been
beaten repeatedly, and chained to that pole for a long time.
Despite his battered state, Colby opened a drawer of the
desk. “There are more pistols in here.” Picking up two, he
handed one each to Dana and Chase. “Any way you can
get me out of here?”
“We will,” Chase assured him. “Can you walk?”
“I’ll make it,” Colby muttered. He eyed Rogan, who lay
motionless, far less lethal-looking than before. “I need to
contact the FBI office in Carson City. I’ll need backup.”
Chase nodded. “I’m sorry for the loss of your partner. Come
on.” He gripped the man’s shoulder and propelled him
toward the exit. “Dana? Can you lead the way?”
Already at the door, she opened it. Of the three, she was
the only one who wasn’t injured. The person with the least
experience was now responsible as never before.
Adrenaline still coursed through her system, keeping the
fear at bay. “This way! Hurry!” At any moment, Blue Wolf
and her women could find them.
Colby shuffled along with a decided limp, his left leg
dangling as if it were broken. What pain he must be in!
Chase put his arm around the man’s waist and hurried him
along, half carrying him. They hustled through the door.
Dana gestured for them to enter the room on their left.
“There’s a side entrance to this lodge, through here. It
opens with the compound wall three feet away. We can
sneak between the lodge and the stockade to the gates.”
“Good going!” Chase whispered. He was worried about the
agent, who was barely able to walk. Fast Horse had
probably broken his bones with the bat as he’d interrogated
him. Anger churned through Chase. He’d like nothing better
than to take Rogan prisoner, but right now, the odds were
against that. Those women guards were killers and there
were a lot of them. No, best to get out of here and plan for
another time when he could find Rogan and bring him to
justice.
The darkness was complete, and the rain came down at a
steady pace. Slipping out the side door, Dana quickly led
them to the end of the lodge. Another building six feet away
was her next objective. She pulled on her night goggles and
looked around. She saw no one. Beckoning for the men to
follow, Dana leaped forward. Because the mud was
slippery, she nearly fell, but caught herself just in time. From
the shelter of the next building, she turned and saw Colby
floundering along, with Chase’s help. With each step, they
were moving forward, out of this nightmare.
The rain was cleansing and cold, from yet another storm
cell approaching. Dana almost dared to feel hope that they
might actually get out of here, when she suddenly heard
voices. She froze. Holding up her hand in a silent signal for
Chase and Colby to halt, she sneaked to the end of the
building. In the grainy green glow of her goggles, she saw
two women bearing M-16 rifles standing at the open gates.
Two more ran toward them, reentering the compound from
outside. There was some kind of argument going on, their
voices rising in anger as the four of them shouted angrily at
one another.
A lightning strike just outside the gates stopped the four
women’s screaming. Instantly, they scattered and ran back
into the compound. The gate was now unguarded! Dana
silently thanked the thunder beings, who were clearly
helping them. Gesturing again for Chase and Colby to
follow, Dana raced across the next space. There was a log
cabin next to the gate. When she’d come back in, she’d
dived behind it and worked her way between the buildings
and the stockade to the main lodge. Now, she was
retracing her tracks.
The wind picked up, pushing against her, but she surged
forward to the end of the cabin. The men weren’t far behind.
Dana could hear the agent gasping in pain, and suspected
he was rapidly weakening. That wasn’t good. But given how
badly beaten he was, Dana figured he was doing
remarkably well.
Closing her eyes for a moment, she prayed to the
advancing thunder beings.
“My brothers, please aid us. We need your cover. Hide us
from these women who would take our lives. Please, have
pity upon us.” She added, “Thy will be done.”
Chase felt as if he were falling forward, a result of his head
wound. Despite this, he kept his arm around Colby. His job
was to get the agent out alive. The man was in bad shape
and needed the nearest emergency room. “Hang on,
Colby,” he urged. “Once we get out of the compound, we
should be safer.” Or so Chase hoped.
He watched Dana turn and gesture to run for the gate. But
before she moved, Chase heard a loud, thunderous crack.
The reverberation of lightning striking the center of the
compound shook the ground beneath his feet. On instinct,
Chase glanced over at Dana to make sure she was all
right. And that’s when he saw her white teeth glitter in the
dark. She was smiling.
He realized belatedly that Dana had prayed and asked for
help from the thunder beings. He watched her burst from
behind the building and head for the gates. Chase gripped
Colby and gathered his strength. “Hang on, we’re going for
it.”
The sharp smell of ozone permeated the air as Dana raced
for freedom. Just as she passed the gate, she glanced
back. Chase was running hard, Colby flapping along
beside him like a puppet, without control of his legs. She
knew Chase was strong and that Colby wasn’t extremely
heavy.
Once they were outside the compound, the rain began to
fall in sheets, making it nearly impossible to see three feet
in front of them. Dana joined the men, moving close to the
agent and draping his free arm across his shoulders.
Together, she and Chase hurried down the slope, the badly
injured FBI agent between them.
The storm was violent now. Water ran down the road in a
river, making it impassible. Sliding and stumbling, they
continued at a trot along the shoulder. When they reached
the bend near where she’d halted and turned back, Dana
stopped them.
“I’ve got to get the pipe, Chase!” she shouted through the
teeming rain. She released Colby and hurried across the
meadow. Once she reached the clump of sagebrush, she
was relieved to find the pack was still there. The moment
Dana picked it up, she felt the pipe’s warmth thrum through
her shaking hands. Mentally welcoming it and asking it to
remain silent, she quickly donned the pack, strapped it
tightly to her body and hurried back up the hill.
Colby hung off Chase Iron Hand like a wet rag. His legs
were numb. He could barely stand, he was so weak. Yet the
Indian’s strength, his ability to keep Colby on his feet, was
amazing. Relief started to thread through the agent. For the
last several hours, he’d thought he was a dead man. “You
have a plan? A car?” he asked Chase.
Chase divided his attention between Dana, who was
scrambling up the hill, and the agent. “Yeah, about a mile
from here, down at the base of the mountain.”
“And a cell phone?”
“That, too. But we’re taking you straight to the nearest
hospital. You’re in bad shape, Colby. Besides, cell phones
don’t work out here. You’re gonna have to wait until we get
closer to Carson City.”
“I want that son of a bitch,” Colby growled weakly. “Drive me
to the FBI office in Carson City. Can you do that? I’ll get
medical help later.”
Chase watched as Dana moved quickly back to them. He
was proud of her abilities. She’d saved their lives. All that
training had paid off, more than he ever would have
realized. Dana had the heart of a warrior. And any doubts
Chase had had earlier about her abilities under fire were
gone. The deep love he felt for her welled up in his heart
and spread through him. That feeling eased the throbbing
pain at the side of his head, at least momentarily.
“Got it!” Dana yelled through the cacophony of the rain. She
quickly took up her position again.
“Great!” Chase grinned at her and they continued their
descent, with the injured agent between them. All the way
down the mountainside, the thunder beings kept up their
work, hiding them from Rogan and his women. Chase
breathed a grateful prayer of thanks. Clearly, Dana had her
mother’s abilities, for few medicine people could work with
these powerful sky spirits.
The rain lightened as they spotted the rental van parked off
the road in a grove of pine trees. Dana ran ahead to the
vehicle. By the time Chase arrived with the agent, she had
opened the side door so he could put Colby inside. His
legs barely working, the agent groaned and grunted, but
managed to gamely haul himself inside it. After shutting the
door, Chase followed Dana around to the driver’s side.
“You take the wheel, woman of mine.” He gripped her by
the shoulder after she’d shucked off the pack. Dana had
pushed the goggles off to hang around her neck. Her hair
was plastered to her scalp, her eyes shining with triumph—
and something else that Chase didn’t have time to
decipher.
Dana gripped her pack as Chase opened the door for her.
She saw the glint in his narrowed eyes. A thin, gray dawn
was beginning to creep across the eastern horizon, and the
rain slacked off completely. Thunder rolled in the distance,
moving away from them. As she wiped her wet face, Dana
held Chase’s warm gaze. His intimate expression spoke
volumes, and his hand felt so comforting. She began to
tremble in earnest now from the adrenaline letdown. And
cold. “Chase…”
“Not now, woman. Let’s get this FBI agent back to his
people. After that, we’re hightailing it to a nice, comfortable
hotel to lick our wounds.”
Did that ever sound good. Dana slid in and Chase shut the
door. Once he climbed into the passenger seat and
strapped in, she handed him the pack that contained the
pipe. “I want you to hold her,” she confided, her voice
quavering with feeling. “You’ve earned the privilege,
Chase.” Dana knew that a man could hold a woman’s
ceremonial pipe bag. He just couldn’t open it or handle the
pipe itself. She saw the shock registering on Chase’s
drawn, glistening features. Reaching out, he took the pack
as if it held the most fragile treasure in the world.
Once the handoff was accomplished, Dana started the van
and turned on the heater. They were all wet and cold from
their experience. Hands shaking, she slowly drove out of
the pine grove. In a matter of minutes, they were on the
highway heading toward Carson City.
Relief started to leak through Dana. They’d done it! They’d
rescued Colby. They’d located the Storm Pipe, stolen it and
now it was going home. Home! Oh, how wonderful that
word sounded to Dana. Hot tears welled up in her eyes.
She tasted the salt as they slipped silently down her dirty
face. Home…It held so many more meanings to Dana than
before. Most important, Chase was here, beside her. He
had been her teacher, her partner and now she wanted
nothing more than time to talk to him, about her and him,
and a possible future together….
CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE
COLBY FRANTICALLY WORKED the cell phone as Dana
drove toward Carson City. Having lost several teeth, he
could barely talk. Not to mention his jaw was broken and his
lip split in several places. Dana felt sorry for the agent, but
there was little she could do for him. He seemed grimly
determined, and she heard the banked rage in his voice as
he ordered the Bureau into action. An FBI SWAT team
would move in as soon as possible. Colby ordered them to
capture everyone in the compound, and to retrieve the body
of Annie Ballard, the CIA remote viewer. Dana felt badly for
the loss of the woman’s life. It confirmed even more how
dangerous Rogan Fast Horse was.
As the adrenaline left Dana’s system, she began to feel
exhausted. Chase must have sensed her fatigue, for he ran
his hand gently across her shoulders.
“A little tense?” he teased her in a husky tone. Just
kneading her shoulder fueled Chase’s desire. Her hair was
drying in the welcome heat of the car, tendrils curling softly
against her temples.
Her mouth twitched with a slight smile. “Just a little. I feel
like I’m falling apart internally, one jigsaw piece at a time.”
Nodding, he said, “That’s how it is. The adrenaline is
leaving and you begin to realize just how close to dying you
really came.” He squeezed her shoulder, then eased his
hand away. “It makes you appreciate life with a new sense.”
“That’s the truth,” Dana whispered. Traffic was light at this
time of morning. The sun had crested the horizon. The
moody sky and thunder beings were slowly dissipating.
Dana had already sent many, many prayers of thanks to the
sky spirits. Without them, she realized, Rogan would have
found them for sure. The mighty sky beings had played
offense to allow Chase and her to get the Storm Pipe.
She heard Colby get off the phone and snap it shut. Cutting
a quick glance over her shoulder, she noted how exhausted
he was, how battered.
“Don’t you want us to get you to the hospital, Agent Colby?
You look and sound awful.”
“No, thanks. I’ll give you directions on how to get to the FBI
office. I want to be there to hear our team taking those
people prisoner up at that compound.” His mouth became
grimmer. “And I want Annie’s body retrieved. She didn’t
deserve any of this.” He closed his eyes, as if the emotions
overwhelmed him.
“I’m sorry, truly sorry,” Dana told him. “Fast Horse is a
dangerous, crazy man. It must have been an unending
nightmare for the two of you.”
Sighing raggedly, Colby whispered, “All we were doing was
following up on her dream. And the man at the antique
store, I’m sure, didn’t realize how dangerous Fast Horse
was.”
Chase turned in his seat, resting his arm on the back of it.
“Agent Colby, you’re dealing with someone who hates
white people. Fast Horse is a man with a mission. He’s a
homegrown terrorist as far as I’m concerned.” Chase
wasn’t going to tell the agent about the Storm Pipe’s
involvement. Nor would he divulge that Rogan had killed the
vice president with it. The FBI agent surely wouldn’t
understand or accept that explanation. Because Rogan had
murdered the CIA psychic, he and his rabid band would be
caught and put into prison, anyway. And that’s all that
mattered to Chase—an end to Rogan’s hateful ways.
Right now, Chase wanted to drop the agent off at his office
and hightail it out to the Navajo reservation to give
Grandmother Agnes the Storm Pipe. And he wasn’t
interested in the FBI agent knowing why they’d been at the
compound. Chase would stay out of this investigation as
much as possible. That way, he and Dana could go to the
winter hogan, rest up, heal and have quality time together.
He had to play his cards right to avoid getting ensnared in
the escalating investigation Colby was putting into play.
The agent looked out the window at the desert, which was
green with vegetation here and there, the closer they got to
town. There was some farming south of Carson City. “I’m
going to need you to stick around,” he told them. “You’ll
have to give me the name of a local hotel where you’ll be
staying.”
Dana started to speak, but she felt the energy around
Chase subtly change. Instead, he spoke for them. “Sure, no
problem.”
Dana frowned and kept quiet. Their agreement was to get
the Storm Pipe back to Grandmother Agnes. The agent
didn’t know that, and she didn’t want to divulge anything
more about the pipe. If Colby found out it had been used to
kill the vice president of the United States, he would take it
away from them. And that couldn’t happen. Colby was a
white man, and he’d never understand the pipe’s history, its
use or why it had to be put in the hands of the right
individual once more.
Drawing in a deep breath, Dana concentrated on driving. In
another thirty minutes, they’d be in the capital of Nevada.
“Chase? Before we find a hotel, can we get you to an
emergency room to check out your head wound? I don’t
think Agent Colby will mind if I take you to the nearest
hospital?”
Colby said, “No, I don’t mind at all. There’s a hospital about
ten blocks from the FBI office. I can give you directions.
Once you’re done there, just call me at this number and
report where you’re staying.” He scribbled on a piece of
paper and handed it to Chase.
“Of course,” Dana said, playing along. Colby had Chase’s
name. He did not have hers. There’d been no time for
introductions during the rescue. She worried that if they
disappeared, they’d be breaking some kind of law. But
which one?
Once Rogan and his women were captured, Dana
wondered what they would admit to. Killing Annie Ballard?
Rogan would probably get some smart lawyer who would
tell him to keep his mouth shut and plead not guilty. Would
the secret of the Storm Pipe remain just that? Her mind
was spongy and whirling with different scenarios.
Tightening her hands on the wheel, Dana ached to be alone
with Chase. To be in his arms, to be held. To let this entire
nightmare slide away into oblivion…She knew it wouldn’t
happen, but she didn’t have the stamina to even look at
other possibilities right now.
When they arrived at the FBI office, the agent got out very
slowly. Chase offered to help him, but he refused. He
thanked both of them for their help. There was a dark
determination to Colby that Dana admired. He was met by
two men in dark business suits, who helped him inside the
three-story, redbrick building on the busy street.
Chase said, “Let’s get the hell out of here. As far and as
fast as possible. I want Colby to think you’re taking me to
the E.R., but that’s not gonna happen.”
Nodding, Dana put the van in gear and melted back into the
burgeoning traffic. The sun was shining brightly, the last bits
of fluffy cumulus clouds dotting the sky above them. “You
got it.”
“Colby is going to have his hands full,” Chase told her. He
reached out and slid his hand across Dana’s right shoulder,
giving it a brief squeeze. “How are you doing?”
“Okay,” Dana lied. She concentrated on driving. What she
wanted to do was concentrate on intimacy with Chase.
Dana absorbed the contact like a dry sponge in water. It
had been over two years since Hal’s murder had hurled her
into a dark abyss of pain and loss. Now, Chase was like
dawn light to Dana. He filled her with hope that perhaps the
worst of her own nightmare was finally coming to an end.
“You don’t lie very well,” Chase remarked, giving her a
warm look. “You’re a warrior at heart, woman of mine. You
know that?”
“I don’t feel very warriorlike,” she answered wryly. “My
insides still feel like Jell-O.”
“Adrenaline letdown, is all,” Chase assured her. He
grinned. “And you’re probably hungry.”
“Starving to death.”
“Yeah, that’s how it happens.” Chase looked around at the
awakening city. It wasn’t large compared to Reno or Las
Vegas. In another ten minutes, they’d be south of the city
limits and driving back into the Nevada desert toward the
massive Navajo reservation. “If we see a motel on the way,
let’s stop. We’ll get a room where we can wash up, put on
clean clothes and find a place to chow down.”
“Don’t you want to get away from Colby?”
“He’s occupied,” Chase stated confidently. “It’s time we
took care of ourselves. He’s got Fast Horse to deal with,
and we both know that isn’t going to be easy for his SWAT
team. Rogan’s probably already fled the compound with his
women.”
Grimacing, Dana kept her eyes on the road as they exited
the city. She saw a sign for a motel about a mile farther. “If
Rogan runs, the FBI may not find him.”
“Oh, I think they will,” Chase said, keeping his hand on her
shoulder. “Colby is enraged over Annie Ballard’s murder. I
think he’ll turn over every rock between here and hell to find
that mean son of a bitch.”
“I hope so,” Dana whispered unsteadily. She braked and
pulled up to the small white motel. Next to it was a Denny’s
Restaurant, which was a perfect place for them to refuel.
After shutting off the engine, Dana retrieved her
identification and wallet locked in the glove box. “Stay here.
I’ll get us a room and be right back.”
Chase nodded and eased his hand from her shoulder.
Dana looked pale, her eyes dark with exhaustion. He
wasn’t doing so hot, either. His head throbbed where the
bullet had creased his temple. But he knew if he could get
some aspirin, the pain would go away. Right now, what he
wanted most was a hot shower so he could wash his hair,
clean his wound and climb into clean clothes.
Within five minutes, Dana was back with the motel key. She
handed it to Chase and drove to the last unit at the end.
Getting out, they quickly hustled all their gear into the room.
It was barely 7:00 a.m., and Dana imagined people were
still sleeping.
Inside, she gently placed the pack holding the Storm Pipe
on a shelf in the closet. Her first and only duty was to protect
it from ever being stolen again.
“You first,” Chase told her as he closed the door and locked
it behind them. “The shower is yours.”
Dana started to protest, but was too weary to argue. He put
the small suitcases they’d had waiting in the SUV on the
two double beds. The room was simple but clean. It was
decorated in a Western motif, the bedspreads a sky-blue
with brightly colored cactus in flower. “What about you?”
“While you shower, I’ll clean my wound,” Chase stated. He
unzipped his suitcase and took out a small first-aid kit. “Go
ahead.”
With a nod, Dana headed off to the immaculate bathroom.
After closing the door, she quickly shimmied out of her
spandex outfit, the dry mud dropping around her on the
white tile floor. When she glanced in the mirror, Dana
realized how awful she looked. There were smears of mud
across her brow and cheek. Her hair desperately needed
to be washed. When the elderly motel clerk had made a
comment about her appearance, Dana had lied and said
they’d been mountain climbing and got nailed by the line of
thunderstorms. The woman had clucked sympathetically
and given her the key. It wasn’t a lie, Dana rationalized, just
not the whole truth.
Heat and mist quickly rose in the glass-encased shower.
She stepped eagerly into the warm, pummeling stream and
closed the door. Unbraiding her hair, she turned around
slowly, allowing the warm water to wash away all the terror,
sweat and mud. She savored the hot spray massaging her
tense body.
The bathroom door opened and closed, and Dana could
see Chase’s naked torso through the mist. He was at the
sink, cleaning his head wound. Picking up the jasmine-
scented soap, she didn’t care if he saw her naked or not.
Chase had seen her that way before. All she wanted was to
get clean and wash away this nightmare.
Dana had no idea how long she stood relishing the hot
streams of water on her body. Finally, she turned off the
shower and exited. Chase was gone, but he’d thoughtfully
left a fluffy white towel on the washbasin for her. He’d even
left her a set of clean clothes.
Every movement was an effort as she dried her hair and
body. A soft smile touched Dana’s mouth as she pulled on
the soft, stone-washed jeans, a loose-fitting, dark-green
tank top and white cotton socks for her aching feet.
As she padded out of the bathroom, she saw that Chase
had made them coffee. In fact, two trays sat on one of the
beds. Chase had stripped out of his muddy clothes and
wore a thin cotton robe that barely fit around his large,
muscular form. He was grinning as he brought over a hot
cup of coffee to her.
“Nice to have take out at Denny’s, isn’t it? I ordered
breakfast for you. Here, sit down before you fall down,
Dana. You’re looking real tired.”
She smiled and took the coffee. “I feel dead on my feet,
Chase. Like I’m going to fall across that bed.”
“You will soon enough. But first eat, Dana.” He cupped her
elbow and guided her to the bed.
“You’ve already eaten,” she said, sitting down. Her flesh
tingled delightfully beneath his fingertips.
“Yeah, you were in there quite a while. I was starving to
death.” He chuckled.
Looking up, she could see he had cleaned his wound. Now,
it looked as if he’d just hit his head, not been creased with
a bullet. An amazing transformation. “You look pretty good
under the circumstances,” she noted, pulling the tray over
and settling it on her lap.
“Yeah, I feel better, for sure. I’ve had a couple cups of
coffee and a big breakfast. I took some aspirin and my
headache’s gone, so I’m in pretty good shape,
comparatively speaking.”
“You know how to handle this kind of life-and-death stuff. I
don’t.” Picking up her utensils, she eagerly began to eat.
Chase patted her shoulder. “Eat and rest, woman of mine.
I’m going to take a long, hot shower and get cleaned up.”
Truth be told, Chase thought she looked fetching, with her
hair curling slightly around her face and shoulders. But there
were dark smudges beneath her eyes. “Fill your stomach
and then stretch out and sleep,” he urged her, turning at the
door to the bathroom.
“I’m still worried about Colby and the FBI. Aren’t we too
close to Carson City?”
Shaking his head, Chase said, “Don’t worry about it, Dana.
We can rest for a while. By the time they get done with their
SWAT operation, it will be evening. By then, we’ll wake up
and drive back to the res before they think about us.”
That sounded good to Dana. She wanted to disappear off
the radar of this FBI agent once and for all. “Thanks for the
food, Chase. It’s delicious.”
He gave her a wolfish grin. “What I’m looking at is
delicious.”
CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR
THE WORDS CHASE HAD so huskily spoken were the
last ones she remembered. Shortly afterward, he had gone
into the bathroom and shut the door. After setting her empty
tray on the bureau, she pulled back the covers of her bed
and crawled in, clothes and all. The moment her head sank
into the pillow, she spiraled into a desperately needed
sleep. With Chase’s words, gritty and filled with promise,
encircling Dana like the arms of a lover, she slept soundly.
Half an hour later, Chase emerged from the bathroom. He’d
washed away the sweat, mud and fear that had caked him
earlier. Wearing only a white, nubby terry-cloth towel low
around his waist, he halted just outside the door as the
steam escaped. There, on the nearest queen-size bed, lay
Dana, asleep. His heart wrenched violently in his chest.
Warmth drenched him, like the drizzle of hot honey being
poured over his entire being.
Her hair was in soft disarray around her head, an ebony
halo that emphasized her golden skin. The tension was
gone and her slightly parted lips beckoned to Chase. As he
rubbed his clean-shaven jaw, he felt a scalding heat in his
lower body. The desire to simply slide in next to Dana
nearly unhinged him. He stood there, feet damp and
creating dark water stains on the floor, wanting her
desperately. Hadn’t he called her his woman? A man didn’t
do that unless he’d laid claim to the one he loved. Scowling,
Chase forced himself to move.
He quietly walked across the room, setting the second tray
on the bureau beside Dana’s. He knew he had to sleep in
the other bed. It wouldn’t be right to act on his instincts: to
slide in beside her, gently ease his arm beneath Dana’s
slender neck, pull her back against him and curl his other
arm around her waist, to hold her protected and loved
within his embrace. No, he couldn’t do that. Not yet…
The time would come, Chase promised himself. He
glanced at his watch on the dresser. It was nearly 8:30. The
sun was bright behind the dark-green, thick drapes, and
blazed around the edges of the window. Enough light
spilled into the room for him to see where he was going.
Even though the threat of Rogan was past, and the Storm
Pipe was safe in the knapsack in the closet, Chase trusted
nothing. He took his pistol and placed it beneath his pillow
as he sat down on the bed.
He released the knot and allowed the towel to drop to the
floor. As he gazed forlornly across the room at Dana, he felt
his heart wrench again—with loneliness, with need. No, he
had to wait until they got back to the reservation. The Storm
Pipe had to be delivered to Grandmother Agnes first. Only
then would he speak to Dana of what lay in his heart.
Chase lay down facing her. At least his last sight would be
of her peacefully sleeping, those thick, black lashes fanned
against her high cheekbones. He could hear her soft
breathing and notice how she curled up beneath the cover.
With these images, he fell into a dream-ladened world
where he was making slow, passionate love with her.
DANA DROVE through the night, her hands gripping the
wheel as they sped along the lonely roads from Nevada into
Arizona. Chase fixed her coffee, which they’d bought after
getting gas at the border. He poured in several packets of
sugar and stirred it with a wooden stick.
Smiling softly, she absorbed the quiet and his nearby
presence. “I’m so happy, Chase.”
Looking up from his kitchen duties, he saw Dana’s profile
in the faint, greenish glow from the dashboard. His heart
thudded with need of her. “You have a right to be.”
“Are you feeling the same way?” She shot him a quick
glance, then returned to her driving.
“Yeah. Relieved is probably the word I’d use.”
“Relieved about…?” She reached for the coffee as he
handed it to her. Their fingertips met; it was a delicious
moment and Dana savored it. “Thanks.”
Chase settled back with his own cup of black, steaming
coffee. It was 2:00 a.m. The stars hung close and sparkled
like gemstones in the sky. He liked traveling at night; there
was little traffic, and the night sky felt safe and soothing.
“Relieved that we got the Storm Pipe back.” He sipped his
coffee. “Consoled that we came out of this alive. And
comforted by the fact that the FBI is going to find Fast
Horse and his band of women and put them away for
good.”
Dana shook her head. “Things happened so fast, Chase.
When I think back on our climb in that storm, well, there
were times I didn’t think we’d make it.” She looked over at
his rugged and handsome profile. “Did you?”
“That was the easy part, Dana—climbing the cliff. I was a lot
more worried about getting into the compound.”
“Maybe because you are so used to climbing.”
He smiled briefly. “Maybe…”
“I can hardly wait to give the Storm Pipe to Grandmother
Agnes. She’s going to be so happy.” Dana smiled widely,
glancing again at Chase. His mouth was so strong and
tempting. For many weeks, she’d fought liking Chase
purely as a man. He had been her teacher and off-limits to
her on a personal level. She hadn’t even realized that she
was drawn to Chase until he’d broken the news to her of
how her mother and husband had died. Only then had Dana
realized how much she liked Chase and needed him.
“Yes, I’m sure she already knows we have the pipe,” Chase
said. “She’s so psychic.”
“That’s why she doesn’t have a phone out there.” Dana
chuckled. Many people living in the Navajo reservation did
not have a phone line or electricity available to them. The
res was over a hundred thousand acres, the largest in the
U.S.A., and it was like a third-world country in some
respects. Yet many of the Navajo, particularly the older
generations, had lived their whole life without a phone or
electricity, and preferred it that way. Only the younger
generations, wired with cell phones, iPods, computers and
other modern-day inventions, wanted those accessories on
the res.
“She knows we have it,” Chase agreed quietly. He sipped
the coffee, finding the hum of the tires on the asphalt lulling.
They’d slept until 4:00 p.m., eaten a full meal at Denny’s
and by 5:30 were on the road.
“I feel like I’m coming out of a dream.” Dana laughed.
“Maybe a nightmare. I keep thinking about the five weeks at
the res with you. My training. Wondering if I could do it…”
“Well,” Chase murmured, “you did it, Dana. And you should
be damn proud of what you pulled off. When I got hit by that
bullet, everything fell on your shoulders. When I became
conscious, cuffed to that pole in the lodge, I never expected
you to show up and rescue me. That was…” Chase held
her luminous gaze, “well, that was courageous. You didn’t
have to return. You had the pipe. You were out of the
compound and safe.”
Dana reached over and squeezed his arm. “I don’t know
why you wouldn’t expect me to come back to free you. I
waited outside the gate for you, and when I heard gunfire, I
knew they’d found you. I didn’t know whether you were dead
or alive, Chase.” Releasing his arm, Dana wrapped her
hand around the steering wheel and stared out at the empty
four-lane interstate. “I was so scared that they’d killed you. I
thought the worst—a shot to the head.”
“Well,” Chase chuckled, “you were right on. I did take a shot
to the head. Only I got lucky, and it was a graze and nothing
more. Besides, holding the Storm Pipe bag, the pain and
exhaustion are gone.”
Relief continued to filter through Dana as she came off the
adrenaline high of their mission. With relief came emotional
awareness and the terror she had suppressed. “Chase, I
was so scared for you, for me, as I went to hide the pipe
and came back to get you.”
“It must have been rough for you, Dana. I’m sorry.”
“It wasn’t your fault. Things just went crazy inside that
compound. We all did the best we could. If you hadn’t been
protecting me earlier, I might be dead and we might not
have the pipe to give to Grandmother Agnes.” Shaking her
head, her voice filled with emotion, Dana whispered,
“Chase, you’re the bravest person in the world. You put
yourself deliberately in the line of fire for me so I could
escape with the pipe. I don’t know how many sentries you
took on, but you stood guard for me at that open gate.” She
choked back sudden tears. Her sight blurred momentarily
and she blinked to clear her eyes. “You are my hero, in
every way. I want you to know that.”
Her words lit him up inside. His heart, long dormant, was
awake and full of hope. Dana’s confession was a healing
unguent for him, for his brutal imprisonment in South
America. In that moment, he finally forgave himself for that
period of his life. When the time was right, he would share
that sordid time in his life. Right now, they were too
stressed to discuss such a topic.
Reaching over, he slid his hand tenderly across her
shoulder. “And you’re no less a heroine in my eyes and
heart, Dana. Your courage was incredible. When I saw you
appear in that room, for me and Colby, I couldn’t believe my
eyes. I was wrong about you in one way—I didn’t think you
had the backbone. You could have taken the easy route
and left us. But you didn’t. You risked your life for me.”
Squeezing her shoulder gently, Chase added, “I think we’re
a mutual admiration society, don’t you?” He made himself
lift his hand away and rest it on his thigh.
Warmed by his unexpected touch, Dana gave a broken
laugh. “I guess we are.” She sighed deeply. “Oh, Chase, I’ll
be so glad to get the pipe back to Grandmother Agnes.
The Storm Pipe, when I held it, took away most of my
exhaustion. I can see why the society wanted it back. Then I
want to walk up to the winter hogan in the canyon—
together. We have so much to talk about.” She risked a
quick glance at him.
His eyes glimmered and his mouth softened. “I want the
same thing, Dana. You and me. We can stay up there for as
long as we want and work on personal things between
ourselves. That’s what I’d like.”
“Me, too.” Dana’s heart opened and joy spilled through her
chest. By dawn, they would be at the hogan. For so long,
ever since her world had been destroyed by Rogan Fast
Horse, she hadn’t had a home. And now a new world was
taking shape, a joyous one filled with wonderful possibilities
that all revolved around Chase.
GRANDMOTHER AGNES WEPT with joy as Dana knelt
down and slid the Storm Pipe bag into her outstretched,
arthritic hands. “This is wonderful, children,” she murmured
as she cradled it in her left arm and pressed it gently to her
thin chest. The warm, healing energy flowed into her aching
hands and removed the pain. Dressed in her ceremonial
garb of a deep-red velvet, long-sleeved blouse and skirt, a
silver concha belt around her narrow waist, she beamed at
them. “Thank you, both…so much. The Blue Heron Society
owes you a debt we can never repay. In a special
ceremony, at the next full moon, we will induct you into our
society and give you the Storm Pipe, Dana.”
Agnes gazed down at the pipe bag and stroked it
reverently. “You two are truly courageous. We will pray for
you at our next meeting and your names will be on our lips
to the Great Spirit from now on. You have rescued one of
the most powerful pipes known, and given it back to us.”
Patting it tenderly, Grandmother Agnes whispered, “You
are one of us, my child. We welcome you.”
As Dana knelt in front of the elder she could see the bluish-
white light emanating strongly from around the beaded bag.
Little waves of joy seemed to be surging outward, too,
flowing through Dana and Chase and beyond the hogan.
“I’m so happy for you, Grandma,” Dana said, her voice
tremulous. Reaching out, she gently touched Agnes’s hand.
“We are grateful it is back with you, with the society. I’ll look
forward to the coming ceremony at the next full moon.”
Chase sat on a colorful woven rug near the elder. This
moment was historical, he realized. Few stolen ceremonial
pipes were ever recovered. And ceremonial pipes were the
backbone of a Native American nation. To lose one to theft,
well, that was heinous and shocking. And a nation’s spirit
suffered because of it.
Once a ceremonial pipe was gone, it was usually gone
forever. But this one time, they’d been lucky enough to find
the pipe and get it back to its rightful place. Pride, warm
and flowing, moved through him as he gazed at Dana’s
glowing face and watched her animated features. There
was no doubt there was a bond between her and her
adopted grandmother, one of pure love and respect.
Chase stared down at his folded hands. He wanted to
share such a look with Dana. Would that happen? He
wasn’t sure. Until he heard her express that same wish, he
was in the tortured position of a man wanting the world, but
finding it out of his grasp.
Trying to remain tranquil while the two women celebrated
the return of the Storm Pipe, Chase closeted his desires
and wishes. The warmth in the hogan was building, even
though the door was open, and he went and opened the
windows to allow a breeze to come through. Sunlight from
the east streamed in like a golden beacon, splashing its life
energy throughout the home of the elder.
It was nearly 7:00 a.m. And Grandmother Agnes had been
standing at the door, awaiting their arrival when they’d
pulled up to her hogan. The old woman was clairvoyant,
knew the pipe had been rescued and knew they were fine.
She had hot fry bread, strawberry jam, eggs and bacon
ready, and fresh coffee perking on the woodstove for them.
Chase shouldn’t have been amazed by such knowing, but
he always was. Perhaps because so few people utilized
their intuition, it looked magical. What a better world it
would be if everyone did use their sixth sense daily, he
thought.
His gaze moved back to Dana, who was laughing through
her tears. Tears of relief. Tears of joy. Tears that had long
been withheld due to her past trauma. How Chase wanted
to hold her! Just hold her, keep her safe and let her know
that the world wasn’t always such a bad place, just chaotic
from time to time. As he sat there, he yearned for a time of
peace now. That would come, he was sure. And with it, the
opportunity to share and talk with Dana, heart to heart. Mind
to mind. Today, he hoped, he’d find out how she really felt
about him, about them.
It was a sweet moment, and Chase clung to it. So much of
his life had been harrowing, life-and-death, threatened or
just plain lost to bigger events. Now, he wanted nothing
more than the simple pleasure of having this woman in his
arms, her mouth clinging hotly to his.
Would the Great Spirit give them this reprieve of time and
space with one another? Chase prayed fervently that his
request would be fulfilled.
Grandmother Agnes was beginning to look weary. Her face
was alight with joy, but he saw the tiredness in her watery
eyes. Dana seemed to sense and see it also, because she
slowly got to her feet and turned to him.
“Chase? Want to walk up to the winter hogan? I think
Grandma Agnes could use some time alone with the pipe.”
Nodding, he unwound and stood up. “Sounds good to me.
Grandmother? We’ll drop in and see you for dinner
tonight?” He knew Agnes would take care of the Storm
Pipe until the transfer ceremony and that was as it should
be. Agnes was the only one who could award a ceremonial
pipe to a deserving woman.
“I’d like that, my children. We all need to rest. Our hearts
and spirits have worked hard, and now we need to be quiet
and be grateful.” Gently patting the pipe bag, she added,
“Rest, my children, for you are certainly blessed by the
Great Spirit for what you have done. Tonight, at sundown,
come and I will have fresh mutton, potatoes and gravy
waiting for you. A celebration dinner. Also, we need to plan
a sweat lodge at noon today for us to welcome the Storm
Pipe back in the society.”
Already, Chase’s mouth watered. Mutton was one of his
favorite dishes. He saw Dana smile, too. When she
reached out and gripped his hand, his heart banged in his
chest. Her fingers were warm and firm upon his. Dana’s
unexpected act was a sweet shock to Chase. He saw
Grandmother Agnes’s eyes sparkle with happiness—for
them. Curling his fingers around Dana’s, he said, “We’ll be
here, Grandmother.”
“Come on,” Dana urged Chase. “Let’s go get groceries at
the trading post.”
CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE
AT NOON THERE WOULD BE a sweat lodge ceremony to
officially welcome the Storm Pipe to its rightful place with
Grandmother Agnes. Chase knew in the past, the Storm
Pipe had been with other nations, but always it belonged to
the vaunted Blue Heron Society. Since their arrival, Dana
and Chase had much to do. First, she dropped some of her
belongings in the winter hogan. Outside, she heard Chase
retrieving their groceries from the car parked down at
Agnes’s hogan. They’d driven to a nearby trading post and
gotten provisions for their stay. It felt so good to be home.
As Dana moved around the quiet hogan, its hard-packed
dirt floors covered with beautiful old handwoven rugs, she
savored the moment. Grandma Agnes had hung fresh sage
in the four corners, a way of announcing their return.
Smiling to herself, Dana saw that the elder had also dusted
and cleaned. As always, cobwebs were removed and
spiders were taken into the wilds to live. A fresh bouquet of
blue lupine sat on the small wooden table.
Chase walked in the door, arms loaded with sacks. Dana
turned from the small kitchen counter and helped him set
them on the table. The happiness burning in his eyes went
straight to her heart.
“Any more stuff?” she asked.
“Yeah, mostly our clothes and climbing gear.” Chase halted
at the door. “We have to prepare for the sweat
Grandmother will conduct for you, her and the pipe next.”
“I know,” Dana said, a little breathless as she put the
canned goods away.
“I’ll start gathering the wood for the sacred fire. I know a
spot where there’s a lot of kindling,” he told her.
“And I’ll help as soon as I get things squared away here in
the hogan,” she murmured.
He rested his hand on the rough timbers of the doorway.
Dana looked incredibly beautiful. Her hair was in thick
braids and she’d dressed simply in jeans, hiking boots and
a pale-green T-shirt that showed off her womanly figure.
“Sounds good. There’s a bunch of dead juniper higher up in
the canyon. I’ll start there and bring it down for the fire.”
“Right.” Dana nodded. She was crouched before the
shelves, placing cans into the cramped area, but turned
and smiled up at him. “I don’t know about you, but it feels so
good to be home, Chase.” She swallowed hard and added,
“Home with you…”
Had she gone too far? Said too much? For a moment,
Dana’s breath hitched in fear. But when Chase’s
expression grew even more warm and open, her heart
sped up. Deep in her body, she felt an ache to love him.
“You’re my woman,” he told her gruffly. “We have duties
right now, to welcome the pipe back to the Blue Heron
Society, but after that…” Chase gave her a hooded look.
“When we’re done with the sweat, we’re coming home,
together. We have a lot to talk about, Dana. Important
things…our future.”
Chase’s emphasis and meaning were clear and deliberate,
like a rainbow glittering against a stormy sky. Closing her
eyes for a moment, Dana allowed his voice to caress her
like a lover’s hand. Then she opened them and held
Chase’s smoldering gaze. “Ours. Yes. For the first time in
two years, Chase, I feel like living again. I have hope in my
heart. Dreams.”
How badly Chase wanted to pull Dana into his arms and
love her—hotly, and for a long, long time. But the ceremony
came first. Smiling rakishly, he said in a low growl, “I never
thought I’d love, Dana. But you’ve changed that for me.” He
opened his hand. “There’s so much I need to say to you,
share with you.”
“I know, the time isn’t right.” Dana smiled crookedly. “After
the sweat, our lives will slow down finally, and we’ll have the
time we deserve with one another.”
Chase returned her warm look and watched as she finished
shelving the canned goods. “Roger that, woman of mine.
Well, I’ve got to start the fire for the sweat. I’ll see you later,
down at Grandmother’s hogan, for the sweat.”
“Right.” Dana sighed as he disappeared out the door.
Birds were singing, and she recognized a cardinal’s
beautiful melody from a juniper close to the hogan. Dana
felt her tight shoulders relax. She was beginning to feel the
aches, pains, cuts and scratches from her climb. Just the
simple act of putting cans away soothed some of the shock
and trauma. She’d nearly died out there on that cliff, and
without Chase’s strength and support, she surely would
have. A fierce tide of love swept through her. She loved
Chase. With all her heart and soul.
Finishing arranging the shelves, Dana straightened up.
There was something satisfying about making the hogan
their home. Oh, she knew they couldn’t stay here forever,
but for a week or two, it would be a wonderful place to hide
away, a respite from the rigors of their mission.
An odd noise at the door interrupted her thoughts. Dana
turned, and abruptly, her heart plunged in terror. Rogan
Fast Horse stood in the doorway! His face was scratched
and bloody, but his gaze burned angrily into her.
Was this a cruel trick? Dana stood there, frozen in place,
as her worst nightmare suddenly materialized.
“You!” she finally gasped in a strangled tone. Instantly,
adrenaline shot through her and she dropped into a
crouched position near the sink.
“Yeah, bitch. Me. Where’s the Storm Pipe?” Rogan blocked
the entry with his frame. He’d parked away from Agnes’s
hogan, energetically cloaked himself so she nor a pipe of
any kind could detect his presence. “And where’s that
bastard, Chase Iron Hand?”
Shaking inwardly, her breath choppy, Dana realized there
was no escape. A hogan had only one door, in the east.
And Chase was somewhere high in the canyon. He’d never
know Rogan was here—until it was too late. Her mind spun
with desperation. There was no place to run. And the
pistols? Where had Chase put the pistols? Had he even
unloaded them from the van yet? Dana didn’t know.
Suddenly, she felt overwhelmed. Her mind blanked out on
her.
“I—Chase? He isn’t here.”
“Liar.”
Rogan remained in the doorway, his hands anchored on
either side of the frame. Dana’s eyes narrowed. His clothes
were torn and dirty. His hair, once combed, clean and in a
ponytail, hung like filthy snakes around his narrow, long
face. Rogan must have escaped from the compound, found
a car and then found them.
“How did you track us?” Dana whispered, her voice
squeaky with fear.
Giving her a lethal smile, Rogan said, “You stupid idiots
didn’t cover your energy trail. That’s how. What’s the
matter? You think some white boy FBI agents are gonna
find me? Trap me and take me prisoner?” Rogan looked
over his shoulder. “Where’s Iron Hand? I can feel him
around.”
Gulping, Dana saw that Rogan carried a gun in a holster,
low on his right thigh. There was a knife in a sheath
attached to his leather belt. Dangerous. Deadly. Rogan
was going to kill her. Dana knew it with every short, anxious
breath she managed to suck into her lungs. He would kill
her and then he would kill Chase. Even worse, Rogan
would eventually find the Storm Pipe down at Grandma
Agnes’s hogan.
They had thought they were safe. It was a stupid student’s
mistake not to cover their energy trail, Dana knew. They
were just so exhausted, so happy to get the pipe back. But
a good sorcerer could follow their trail like a blazing light in
the Other Worlds.
Holding Rogan’s dark-blue stare, Dana whispered, “Chase
isn’t here. He dropped me off. He’s driving back to Carson
City right now.” It was a lie. She saw Rogan scowl.
“His energy path led here.” Rogan’s eyes were bloodshot,
and while menacing, he seemed dead on his feet.
Dana knew that even a good sorcerer, if tired, hungry or
stressed out, could not maintain the intense awareness of
the Other Worlds. And Rogan looked as if he was laboring
under all those conditions right now. That told Dana he
couldn’t continue to try and find Chase. But he’d had
enough willpower and focus to trail them to the hogan.
Rogan’s mouth was twisted, his face gaunt and pale.
Sensing intuitively that he’d escaped, then honed in on
them, stealing a car to follow them, Dana gulped hard. She
and Chase had completely underestimated Rogan’s ability
not only to survive the FBI SWAT team, but to track Chase
and her here, to the hogan.
“He was here,” Dana admitted. She was going to lie,
because she knew Rogan’s psychic abilities were
exhausted. If he was able, she was sure he’d have tracked
Chase up into the canyon, but he hadn’t. That told her he
had to rely on her for information. “But he’s gone now.”
“Your van is here,” Rogan said, his voice grating. Lucky for
him one of his women found the keys to the handcuffs
they’d put on him.
“Chase borrowed a friend’s pickup. He’s gone to the
trading post for more supplies.”
Snorting softly, Rogan looked around. “Where’s the pipe,
bitch? And don’t stall. If you don’t tell me, I’m comin’ over
there to beat the information out of you. So make it easy on
both of us, will you?”
Dana gasped as Rogan stood to his full height, his hands
falling to his sides. When astral traveling, she’d seen Annie
Ballard’s dead body. She knew he was good for his word.
Concentrate! She had to make a call to Chase
energetically. Closing her eyes, Dana pretended she was
thinking about it. Instead, she sent her main spirit guide, a
wolf, to tell Chase she was in danger and that Rogan was
here. If Chase wasn’t too tired, if he wasn’t too focused on
finding firewood, he’d hear the plea and come as swiftly as
he could. After ordering her spirit guide to find Chase and
deliver the message, she opened her eyes.
Rogan’s glittering gaze cut into her like an obsidian knife.
She trembled over the shock of having him here. And she
was perfectly aware that he’d kill her. It was just a matter of
time.
“The pipe is out in the van. I can go fetch it for you.” Mind
churning, Dana knew she had to get out of the hogan.
Rogan seemed to consider her words. “All right, go on.” He
pulled his knife out of its sheath and pointed it at her. “One
wrong move, and you’ll get cut.”
Dana’s knees weakened, and she gripped the counter for
support. “I won’t try anything.” Her voice wavered, and
Rogan seemed pleased. Fine, let him think she would be a
victim to his threats.
Pulling away from the door, he snarled, “Get your ass out
here and go get that pipe.”
She forced herself to move, hoping she could walk at all.
This wasn’t the time to break down. Her hammering heart
felt as if it would tear out of her chest as she approached
Rogan. His face was a mass of cuts and bruises. Familiar
with the brush on the mountain slopes, the cactus, she was
sure he’d run blindly into the night to escape the SWAT
team. His clothes were torn and ripped, stained with dried
blood and mud. He looked like Death personified. And the
knife he held was long and ugly.
As she moved out the door, Dana’s skin prickled. Rogan
was right behind her, and she tried to stop from panicking.
She went to the rear door on the driver’s side of the van.
Stay calm, she ordered herself. Giving in to fear was never
the answer. Rogan stood to her left as she halted at the
door. The sunlight was hot on the metal handle of the
vehicle, which she grasped. Chase had left most of their
gear inside. She hesitated, stealing a quick glance up into
the box canyon. No sign of him. Had he heard her plea and
warning?
Right now, she was on her own, so she peered into the
darkened glass. “See it in there?” she asked Rogan,
pointing at the window.
He stepped forward.
In an instant, Dana jerked the heavy door open, and with all
her strength, swung it into Rogan, who was leaning forward
in its path.
The moment the door slammed into him, he was thrown
backward, with a cry of surprise.
Dana took off running up the canyon. She heard him give a
shout, then curse. Escape! The only place she knew to run
was the canyon—which she knew like the back of her hand.
No way would she lead him down to Grandma Agnes’s
hogan. No way!
Her boots dug into the sand as Dana plunged recklessly up
the slope. She dodged the cactus and brush, and with each
step, adrenaline added to her speed. Not far below, she
heard Rogan cursing loudly. She only hoped he would stop
and examine the van, to see if the pipe was really there. It
would give her time. Time to hide among the trees up
ahead.
“You bitch!” Rogan shrieked, pawing through the items on
the backseat. All he found were two blankets, a pillow and
two pairs of shoes. No pipe! Frustrated, he jerked his pistol
out of the holster. He was hungry and exhausted. He aimed
the weapon and fired off three shots at the fleeing woman.
None of them hit her. Dammit!
He turned his focus back to finding the pipe in the rear of
the car. It could be hidden under the mess of ropes and
tools there. Holstering the pistol, he climbed into the rear of
the van. The pipe had to be in here!
She was halfway up the slope and winding through the
trees when Dana saw Chase running toward her. His face
was set. Hard. She gasped and waved her hand. Heart
pounding, she stumbled over to him.
“Rogan’s here!”
Chase gripped her by the shoulders and turned her so that
his back was shielding her from below. “Are you all right?”
Her eyes were dark with fear and shock.
“Y-yes, I’m okay. Chase, I lied and told Rogan the pipe was
in the van. I—I think he’s still there looking for it.”
“Good,” Chase exclaimed. “You make your way down to
Grandmother’s hogan the back way, through the trees. Get
her and the pipe out of there in case something goes
wrong.”
“What?” Dana gasped, her knees shaking.
“I’m going after Fast Horse.”
It was then that Dana saw Chase had out his Bowie knife.
“He’s got a gun.”
“I heard him firing it. He followed our energy trail.”
Dana threw her arms around Chase, her head resting
momentarily against his massive chest. “We screwed up,
Chase. We got too confident and thought the FBI would find
Fast Horse.”
Chase caressed her shoulders in an effort to steady her.
Dana was shaking like a flower in a thunderstorm. “We
overrated them,” he agreed grimly. “Listen, go get
Grandmother. Put her and the pipe in her pickup, and drive
as fast as you can to the trading post. When you get there,
call the Navajo police on the phone outside. Get them out
here, pronto.” Holding her away from him, Chase drilled her
with a steely look. “Can you do that for me? For us, Dana?
There’s not much time. Once Rogan figures out the pipe
isn’t in the van, he’ll probably move into the winter hogan,
thinking it’s there.”
Managing to straighten her spine, Dana whispered, “Y-yes.
I’ll do that right now.” Gripping his arms, she begged,
“Chase, be careful! He’s a killer….” A sob tore from her.
Noting the abject terror in her eyes, Chase caressed her
cheek. “Be brave, my woman. I’ll finish this once and for all.
Now, go on. Only one man is going to be alive when the
Navajo police get here. I’ll come and find you when it’s all
over.”
Dana swallowed a cry of fear. Chase spun away from her
and quickly disappeared down the slope among the cedar
and piñons. She didn’t have time to deal with her fear and
grief. Every second counted. Turning, stumbling, she took
off through the trees that would lead her directly down to
Grandma Agnes’s hogan. Time. They didn’t have any.
ROGAN WAS FURIOUSLY tearing through the van in
search of the Storm Pipe. Angry that he’d let Dana Thunder
Eagle escape, he ripped through several stacks of clothing
in a plastic green bag. They smelled. Obviously, their dirty
clothes. “Shit!” he muttered, throwing them out the car door.
And then he felt a warning….
Quickly exiting the vehicle, Rogan whirled around. Chase
Iron Hand was standing twenty feet away. The warrior’s
face was hard and without mercy; his cougar-colored eyes
were narrowed—on him.
Rogan dusted off his hands and said in a condescending
voice, “Well, well, the prodigal son finally shows up. I hear
they booted your ass out of Delta Force, Iron Hand.” His
pistol was on the front seat of the car. Was it in his
adversary’s line of sight? Because the door was wide
open.
Nostrils flared with hatred, Chase hissed, “You slimy son of
a bitch. I let you get away once when we had a fight and that
competition. Now this is it, Fast Horse.” Chase jabbed his
index finger toward Rogan. “You murdered two people to
steal the Storm Pipe. You set things in motion no one in
their right mind would have done. You’ve abused the
privilege of a ceremonial pipe, murdered for it, and
misused it for your own insane plans.”
Hearing the lethal note in Iron Hand’s snarl, Rogan backed
up to the front door, his hands raised in apparent surrender.
He wasn’t sure whether the ex-Delta Force officer had seen
the pistol lying on the seat. Perhaps, from where he stood,
the car door was slanted just enough to block his view.
Rogan decided to play along and buy the time he needed
to get to that gun. “That pipe is mine!”
“Like hell it is! It’s a woman’s ceremonial pipe, you dumb
bastard.”
Chest heaving, Rogan clasped his hands behind him and
lifted his chin imperiously. And yet fear wove through him as
Iron Hand advanced, an ugly, long Bowie knife in his right
fist, close to his side, ready to use. “I remember our last
knife fight,” Rogan said in a conversational tone, smirking.
“I cut you good. Twice.”
“Yeah,” Chase said in a guttural voice, watching Rogan
back up to the passenger side of the car, “you did. But I cut
you across the forehead. Look at your forehead, because
the scar is still there to remind you of being a cheater, Fast
Horse. Memories of me you can’t erase.” He grinned
lethally at the medicine man.
Chase could feel Fast Horse was up to something. What?
Dana said he had a pistol, but Chase didn’t see it on him.
Or was it in the car?
“Step away from the vehicle,” Chase snarled. “Now.” He
raised the knife in a threatening gesture. There was six feet
between him and Rogan now. Chase wanted to murder the
bastard, not take him alive. But he knew Dana would call
the Navajo police, and he had to do the right thing.
Besides, he wasn’t about to get strung up on murder
charges over this worthless piece of garbage.
Rogan hesitated as he saw the fury darkening Iron Hand’s
eyes. The man’s desire to kill was palpable. “You know,
getting to use that pipe to kill the vice president gave me
great pleasure. You should have been happy I made a
strike against the white man, Iron Hand, for all Indians.”
Spitting to the left, Chase tensed. “I don’t share your hatred
of whites, Fast Horse. And I sure as hell don’t want to kill
them now for what their forebears did to us over a hundred
years ago. You’re sick. You’re stupid. And you’re going to
come away from that van and lie on the ground. I’ve got the
Navajo police coming for your sorry ass. Move away from
the car. Now!”
Cursing, Rogan took a risk. He turned and snatched the
pistol off the passenger seat. As he whirled back around,
he fumbled with the weapon. Rogan vaguely heard his
enemy curse and then move like lightning toward him.
Giving a startled cry, Rogan realized he wouldn’t have time
to grab the pistol correctly, aim and shoot the bastard.
With the kickboxing skills he’d learned in Delta Force,
Chase lashed out with his foot, aiming at Rogan’s hands.
The instant his boot slammed into them, the medicine man
was thrown into the side of the van. The pistol went flying
over the hood and landed in the dirt with a puff of dust.
Rogan bounced off the paneling, but quickly recovered. He
delivered a side kick, which struck the Bowie knife
squarely. The tip barely scored the side of Fast Horse’s
Apache boot. But it was enough! With satisfaction, Rogan
saw the pain transfer to Chase’s face as the knife was
knocked out of his hand.
Rogan grinned savagely and leaped away from the car.
The knife landed a good ten feet behind Iron Hand. “Now
we’re even,” he snarled. “And I’m going to take you apart,
piece by piece, like I should have a long time ago.” He held
up his hands and took a stance that signaled he was
prepared to do battle.
Snorting, Chase didn’t even wait for the smirk on Rogan’s
face to get settled into place. He wasn’t about to tell the
overconfident medicine man he’d been kickboxing
champion in intermilitary competition. Taking a quick hop,
he shifted all his weight to his left leg, picked up and jerked
his right knee back, then snapped his foot forward, aiming
at Rogan’s chest.
Unprepared for the assault, Rogan went wide-eyed with
surprise when Chase’s boot slammed hard into his
sternum. With an oomph, he found himself sailing backward
through the air, arms flailing like windmill paddles to keep
from falling.
Chase didn’t wait for Rogan to get his wits about him. As
his enemy hit the dirt, he made a grab for his long, unbound
hair. In that split second, Rogan rolled to his knees, gripped
a dead juniper and swung.
The side of Chase’s head exploded with light and pain.
Grunting, he was thrown back, knocked semiconscious for
a moment. He had to keep moving, so he twisted onto his
belly. Through the dirt and dust rising around him, Chase
saw the Bowie knife nearby. He breathed hard and ignored
the pain to his hand. Fingers outstretched, he wrapped
them around the leather handle of the nine-inch-long blade.
“No!” Rogan shrieked, leaping toward him, arms extended.
He intended to knock Chase away from the knife. Instead,
everything slowed down for the medicine man. The
murderous look in Chase’s gold eyes made him scream
with terror. The Bowie in his grip, Iron Hand thrust it upward
just as Rogan was coming down upon him.
The blade ripped through the sorcerer as he fell.
The pain in Chase’s right hand forced him to release the
blade; he couldn’t take Rogan’s full weight. He rolled to his
side, dirt flying in the air. The medicine man gurgled as
blood spewed out of him in geysers. Rogan’s eyes went
wide with surprise, and then horror. Blood stained his shirt
as he frantically tried to pull out the blade.
Chase knew his opponent would die. No one sustained a
wound like that and survived. A sense of finality flowed
through him as he knelt there, panting. He wiped his sweaty
brow with the back of his arm.
“You deserve this kind of painful death, Fast Horse,” he
snarled, leaning toward him. “As you lie here bleeding out,
think about how you murdered Dana’s mother and her
husband. Think about how you made Dana’s life hell on
earth. You took the two people she loved most in this world
away from her.” Chase grinned with a hatred he could taste.
“With every breath you take, you will pay one day for each
of those fine people you murdered. I’m glad you’re going to
die, Fast Horse. And I’m going to stand here and watch it
happen.”
DANA SAT WITH Grandma Agnes on a wooden bench
outside the Harley Trading Post. The elder had the pipe
bag in her arms. Looking at her watch for the fiftieth time,
Dana could barely sit still. An hour had passed. Was Chase
dead or alive? Had Rogan killed the man she’d come to
love? The man she’d never told of her love. Tears swam in
Dana’s eyes and she fought them back. Hanging her head,
she whispered, “Oh, I wish we’d known this was going to
happen, Grandma.”
“Child, the Great Spirit never reveals our personal path to
us. Many things are hidden.” Agnes patted Dana’s
clenched hand. “Faith. We must have faith now.”
Wiping her eyes with the back of her wrist, Dana said
tremulously, “Grandma, I’ve already lost my mother and
husband to Rogan. I—I don’t know that I could lose Chase
to him, too. It’s just too much. I ache inside. My heart hurts.
I’m so scared.”
“I know you are, child. Just keep taking slow, deep breaths.
Pray to the Great Spirit that Chase is not in harm’s way.”
Although Dana knew that the elder meant to soothe her,
nothing could at this point. Her insides felt like Jell-O. The
mere thought of losing Chase to that murderous Rogan
Fast Horse caused a spasm of pain so sharp it left her
breathless.
She’d just found Chase, just realized how much she loved
him. And now he could be violently taken away from her.
What kind of life did she have? Violence was repugnant to
Dana, and yet it seemed to stalk her. She felt herself
emotionally disintegrate beneath the weight of that
realization. Would the Great Spirit never allow her to love
again? To feel safe again? To have a life? A home? Oh, it
was too much to think about.
Dana rubbed her face and tried to stop her tears. She
didn’t have Grandma Agnes’s faith.
“Look…”
Dana’s head snapped up when she heard the elder’s
voice. A white Navajo police cruiser was coming up the dirt
road toward the trading post. Gulping back her tears, Dana
stood. What had happened? It was impossible to see who
was in the cruiser because it was a good mile away.
As the car pulled up and halted, Dana gasped. Her hand
flew to her lips as she stood uncertainly on the wooden
porch of the old trading post. There, in the front seat next to
the deputy, was Chase. Relief was written across his
bloody, bruised face.
“Chase!” Dana flew off the porch.
He exited the cruiser, his arms wide. “Dana!”
She leaped into his embrace, and instantly felt his strong
arms wrap around her. “Oh, Chase! Chase! You’re alive! I
love you! I love you so much!” Dana buried her face against
his neck and clung to him.
Groaning, Chase spun her around. Her body felt so warm,
strong and supple against his. Whispering her name, he
rasped, “I’m okay. Rogan’s dead. It’s over, woman of mine,
it’s finally over.”
Tears flowed from her eyes as she clung to him. Finally, he
set her down, so she could plant her feet on the red earth of
the reservation. After pressing kisses against the thick
column of his neck, his unshaved cheek, she framed his
face with her hands and gazed up at him. Through her
tears, she saw his eyes smoldering with feelings.
“I love you, Dana. And I always will.”
CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX
“I NEED YOU, Chase.” Dana spoke the words in a hushed
tone as he reentered the winter hogan. Two hours had
passed since Rogan’s body had been removed by the
medical examiner. Navajo law enforcement had come and
gone. The FBI had been notified and they would be
interviewed once they arrived, which would take hours.
Grandma Agnes had been spared the gory details, and
was safe in her hogan down below the canyon, the Storm
Pipe in her possession.
Dana had remained with her grandmother to buffer her from
the shock of Rogan showing up again unexpectedly. The
sweat they’d planned for today would wait. Once assured
that she was fine, Dana had trudged back up to the winter
hogan, and was sitting at the table, her hand wrapped
around her coffee mug.
Chase left the door open as he came in. The day was hot,
the sun strong. He wiped his brow with the back of his hand
and searched Dana’s face.
“I need you, too, woman of mine.” He managed a tight
smile, then poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down
opposite her. “How are you doing?” he asked.
“Not well. Shaky. The past coming back to haunt me.” Dana
bit her lower lip. “I’m in shock, Chase. The last thing I
expected was for Rogan to show up here. I—I was so
scared. I thought I’d end up like my mother, like Hal.” She
closed her eyes and gripped the mug tightly.
Lifting his hand, Chase touched her arm, then began to
stroke it. “Shh, it’s okay, Dana. Everything’s going to be
okay now. I talked to the chief of police. He said that the FBI
caught everyone in the compound except for Rogan.”
Chase continued to soothe her and saw her mouth slowly
relax. “Blue Wolf is dead. She chose to fight the FBI when
the SWAT team entered the compound. The other women
gave up and turned over their weapons. I guess Rogan left
them earlier and headed up the mountain to hide. He stole
a car and followed us.” Chase grimaced. “We were in flight
mode and forgot to cover our energy trail. And he was a
good enough sorcerer to pick up on that.”
Nodding, Dana relished the feel of Chase’s rough fingers
caressing her skin. With every gentle caress, a little more of
her fear and shock dissolved. Did he know the powerful
effect he had on her? So much was going on that Dana
couldn’t sort it all out. “We did do a stupid thing. We were
sure the FBI would catch him. We shouldn’t have assumed.”
Chase agreed. He gently pried her hand off the mug.
Sliding his fingers between hers, he asked, “What’s going
on inside your head?”
“I still feel so afraid. I know it’s stupid, because you killed
Rogan and he’s finally gone. Knowing Blue Wolf is dead
doesn’t make me feel sad, but relieved. And here I am,
believing in peace and goodwill between all beings. I’m
sitting here happy that two humans are dead.”
“Listen, if they weren’t dead, we might be, instead. Including
—” Chase lifted his head and looked to the south wall of the
hogan “—Grandmother Agnes. I know this is hard on you,
Dana. I know you believe in the goodness in everyone’s
heart. That’s the way you’re made in this lifetime. But not all
people are like that. It’s a slap in the face when you realize
it. And a tough pill to swallow.” Chase squeezed her hand
gently. She looked lost. Broken. His heart swelled with
fierce love for her.
“You’re right,” she admitted hoarsely. “I don’t know how to
make the two extremes come together in me.”
“The tension of opposites,” Chase agreed quietly, smiling.
He sipped some of the strong, black coffee. Setting the
mug down, he whispered, “Dana, we’re trained medicine
people. Our entire life is about learning how to hold the
tension of opposites within us. At some point, we’ll be able
to integrate this energy into us as one. This is why we came
into this incarnation—to learn how to do this. Peace and
war. They’re two extremes, but we have to allow both
possibilities to live within us.”
Shrugging, Dana said, “I don’t want to, but I know I have to
try.”
“Everyone lives and dies down here,” Chase told her in a
low tone. “The moment we’re born, we’re in a death spiral.
It’s only a question of when and how we’ll die. Some people
go in their sleep. Some have a violent end. Or some suffer
a long, chronic illness and die an inch at a time. Maybe you
have to reconcile that mystery within you, Dana. That
doesn’t mean you like the thought of a violent death, but it
does mean you consider it a choice by the person who’s
picked that doorway out of this reality.”
Again, Chase was right. “You sound so like my mother.”
Dana’s lips twitched as she held his warm, caring gaze.
“Medicine people are taught all of this at a very young age.
The hard part is reconciling it within yourself when you see
some tragic or horrible things happen to people around
you.” Holding her hand firmly, Chase said, “So much is
being asked of you right now, Dana. If you weren’t in line to
carry the Storm Pipe, you probably wouldn’t have chosen
such a rocky path in this lifetime. But you can’t carry a
ceremonial pipe and not hold the tension of opposites
within you.”
Chase grimaced. “There may come a time in the future
when another person like Rogan will want to steal this pipe
for his own means. To use it in a violent way again. You
want to utilize it in a peaceful way—to bring rain to crops, to
help and heal all our relations, so that they may not only
survive, but thrive. Rogan wanted to use the pipe to kill. You
see…” Chase shared a sad smile with Dana “…even a
ceremonial pipe holds the possibility of peace or war within
itself. It is the way the universe is made, duality and
opposites, yin and yang. Only when a pipe carrier can hold
these concepts within will the pipe and the individual be
integrated as one.”
Dana nodded. “I know this. My mother trained me well. I’ve
just been a person of peace, that’s all.”
“Nothing wrong with that, because you hold a world vision of
peace, Dana, for everyone. We need peacemakers now,
more than ever.” Chase released her hand and sipped his
coffee. Warmth returned to Dana’s eyes and her once wan
flesh was now looking more natural in color. Chase
understood that he needed to talk her out of her shock. He
was more than willing to do it for her, because he loved her.
As she scrutinized Chase, Dana saw that his jaw was
swollen and that the knuckles on his right hand were
bruised and scraped. “Are you going to tell me how you
found Rogan?”
Shrugging, Chase said, “I used the trees as cover, while he
was tearing the van apart looking for the pipe, to get close
enough to disarm him. It became a karate battle.” Chase
flexed his right fist, showing her his swollen knuckles.
“Rogan was good and he took me down. But he made the
mistake of going for the knife that he knocked out of my
hand.” Chase didn’t want to get into too many details
because he wanted to protect Dana from such violence.
“He ended up with my knife in his heart.”
With a shuddering sigh, Dana flinched. “I’m not sorry he’s
dead. I’m sure you’re in shock over this, too.” She studied
Chase’s hard, unreadable features.
“No one deserved dying more than he did, Dana.
Remember? I’m the warrior to your peacemaker.” Chase
leaned forward and caressed her cheek. “Maybe by us
being together, we will symbolize that tension of opposites.”
Oh, how wonderful Chase’s unexpected caress felt! Hot
tears rushed to her eyes. Lifting her hand, she pressed his
palm against her cheek. “Do you know what I want?”
“Tell me and it’s yours,” Chase promised, his voice gritty.
“I need to be away from here for a while. I know Grandma
Agnes will be fine, because she’s lived here all her life.
Plus, she has neighbors who visit, and make sure she has
enough food from the trading post. I know of a little cabin on
Oak Creek, down below Sedona, that is isolated and
beautiful. I’d like to drive down there for a month, Chase,
and just be with you. Be there without any expectations, with
no one knowing where we are, except, of course, for
Grandma. I need time to heal, but I want that time with you,
to see what we have. We’ll have time to talk, to explore one
another.” Dana gazed into his widening eyes. “Will you go
with me? Please?”
THE WHISTLE OF A wood duck plying the clear-green
depths of Oak Creek announced to Dana that they were
reaching their favorite picnic spot. Chase walked at her
side, carrying a woven willow basket that contained their
lunch. Dana brought a thin, blue wool blanket. The smooth
white bark of some huge old Arizona sycamores hid this
spot from the prying eyes of the world. Oak Creek flowed
wide and shallow here, sparkling in the sun. The dappled
gold highlights danced endlessly behind the brightly colored
male wood duck. Somewhere, Dana was sure, mama
wood duck had her babies in tow, looking for food along
the creek banks, and daddy wood duck was playing the
part of protector and guardian. Tall, waist-high grass lined
the banks, a green border to an incredible view of the red,
white and black rocks strewn along this stretch of the slow-
moving creek.
“Here we go,” Chase said. He stepped through the grass
onto the smooth red sand beneath a sycamore. A perfect
spot for their picnics, which they enjoyed nearly every day.
The breeze was inconstant, the melodic call of a nearby
male cardinal the perfect background music for their
noontime meal.
Dana followed. She quickly unfolded the blanket and
spread it across the sand. The creek was less than thirty
feet away, with a perfect view of the wood duck following
the grassy bank opposite them. She glanced over at
Chase, who wore a pair of old, stone-washed jeans, his
hiking boots and a dark-red cotton shirt with the sleeves
rolled up to his elbows.
In two weeks, Dana’s life had turned from terror-filled to
peaceful. As she sat down on the blanket and settled the
basket between them, she was amazed at how this time
alone with Chase was healing her.
“What did you make today?” he asked. He’d just arrived
back from Cottonwood, a town about ten miles south of the
isolated cabin that had become their Eden and hideaway.
While at the cabin with Dana, he saw his job to be getting
the groceries and anything else she might need or desire.
She wanted to be alone to do a lot of serious meditating,
thinking and healing, and Chase hoped that he was giving
her everything she needed, including space.
“Turkey and cheddar cheese sandwiches, some raspberry
Jell-O with marshmallows on top, a thermos of coffee and
for dessert—” she held up the plastic container “—your
favorite.”
Chase grinned. “Apple pie?”
“Yep. Homemade, the old-fashioned way. While you were
gone to town this morning, I made the crust from scratch.”
Dana tested the bottom of the container. “I took the pie out
just before you got home.” How easy it was to say “home”
to him. Dana smiled and set the dessert aside.
In the time they’d been together, Chase had been
circumspect. The cabin had two bedrooms, and he went to
his room every night. He seemed to sense that Dana
wasn’t ready to be intimate with him. But now she was.
Chase had given her two weeks to get her own internal
house in order. And now, today, Dana wanted to be
assertive and let him know how much she wanted to share
a bed with him tonight.
As she set the Doritos chips in front of Chase, Dana made
herself go through all the positives of moving forward. For
one, she knew that he loved her. And she loved him. It was
a matter of timing, she realized, to seal their love with one
another. When they sat on the porch swing together,
watching dusk steal upon the cabin, Chase would wrap his
arm around her shoulders and she’d willingly snuggle close
to him. Many times, he would kiss her hair, her cheek or her
hand, but never her mouth. He was waiting, Dana realized.
And a fierce love for Chase, for his understanding, his care
of her, welled up within her. That was enough for her. She
would act today.
They started to remove the items from the willow basket
and spread them out when Dana looked up into Chase’s
golden eyes. Grasping his hand, she whispered, “Come
here.” She gave him a slight tug.
Surprised, Chase saw a new glimmer in Dana’s cinnamon
eyes. Her voice was low, filled with promise of something
he so badly wanted to share: his deep love for her. He
cocked his head slightly and assessed her.
“Is this what I think it is?” Above all, Chase wanted no
misunderstandings between them. Not now. Not on
something this important.
Her lips curved softly, and the gleam in her eyes turned to a
sparkle. “It is. I’m ready, Chase. We can eat later, if you
want.”
Ready. The word drummed through him and his heartbeat
picked up and thudded heavily in response. Releasing her
hand, he gave her a careless smile. “Okay, let’s put all this
food back in the basket, then. We need the blanket for
ourselves, woman of mine.”
Dana gave a breathy laugh and agreed. Within a minute,
they’d replaced all the plastic containers and put the basket
near the trunk of the sycamore. Her pulse accelerated as
Chase walked back over to the blanket where she knelt.
The look on his face sent a wild yearning through Dana.
Eyes hooded and blazing with hunger, he settled on his
knees before her. Lifting his hands, he framed her face.
“Let me love you, Dana.”
“Yes,” she whispered, closing her eyes as he leaned over
to kiss her. She eased her chin up and waited a heartbeat
in time. Then his mouth, strong and willful, met and melded
with hers. As he eased her lips open, he took her warm
breath deep into his lungs and then gently gave his back to
her. The whistling of the wood duck, the trilling of the
cardinal high in the sycamore above them, all melted away
as she focused completely on Chase.
In all her life, Dana had never felt so loved. As his hands
moved from her cheeks to hold her captive, she leaned
against his hard, unyielding chest. Chase was at once
dominating and sharing. Their breaths mingled and
became one, coming more quickly as his mouth moved
solidly and confidently against her lips. He was exploring
her, appreciating her, and cajoling her to do the same with
him.
It was so easy to open herself up to Chase. For as much a
warrior as he was, he could also be excruciatingly tender.
When his mouth left hers, Dana felt momentarily bereft.
Opening her eyes, she was sure Chase saw a question in
them.
He gave her a very male smile. “Turn around.” He helped
her settle with her back to him as he knelt on the blanket.
Dana felt him slowly unbraid her hair—first the left braid,
then the right. Her mane reached nearly halfway down her
back, and as he sifted his long fingers through the strands,
her scalp tingled with pleasure over the simple, adoring act.
She moaned softly as his fingers combed through her hair.
Dana had never had a man treat her like this. She could
feel Chase loving her with each stroke of his fingers. It was
as if he was beginning to know her, to memorize each part
of her in his heart and soul.
Her eyes closed when Chase turned her around and eased
her down beside him. Dana understood the depth of his
love for her as never before. It was a beautiful, shocking
understanding, one that opened her wounded heart to new
possibilities with him and him only. When he reached for
her waist and tugged her pink top up, Dana relaxed and
accepted the gift of his care and love. The warm breeze
made her nipples harden as he pulled it over her head and
dropped it on the sand behind her. When Chase gazed
down at her naked torso, Dana felt her entire body respond
to his burning, hungry look.
She began to pull the snap buttons on his shirt open slowly,
one at a time. He gave her a wolflike smile as he sat up to
get rid of the shirt. Pushing it aside, he took her hand,
pressed the palm against his chest and whispered, “My
heart is yours.”
Those simple words made her want to cry for joy. Sitting up,
Dana unsnapped her jeans and then leaned down to untie
her boots and kick them off her feet.
“Here, let me help,” Chase said thickly as he got to his
knees and helped pull the jeans off her long, beautifully
curved legs. Legs that were firm, in wonderful shape, and
seemed to go on forever. He slid his fingers into the
waistband of her white silk bikini briefs and pulled them
downward. Dana’s face glowed with the light of what Chase
could only interpret as love—for him. That someone would
love him with such fierce gentleness made him feel even
more male and protective. The look in her shining eyes
brought him to his knees, emotionally. There was such
guileless beauty radiating from her.
She reached over to unsnap his jeans, and he helped her
pull them down. Getting rid of the boots first, he was more
than happy to remove his comfortable pair of jeans. And if
Dana was shocked that he wore nothing under them, he
didn’t see it in her face, only appreciation. For him. For his
obvious need of her.
Naked and wanting, Chase drew Dana into his arms, glad
the sycamore was shielding them from the burning
noontime sun. Her firm womanly form melted against him,
and, as her arms went around his shoulders, she gave him
a tremulous smile of wonder. Yes, loving her was more than
a joy, it was a gift that he’d never thought would be
bestowed upon him. And yet, as he drowned in Dana’s
luminous eyes, Chase understood the pure power of love
as never before.
His hand touched her curving hip, her mouth molded with
his own, and his maleness brushed between her welcoming
thighs. As he slowly moved into her, Chase groaned and
shuddered, his arms tightening around her yielding, soft
form.
Dana moaned as she felt the surge of Chase coming into
her open, greedy body. The union met with heat and
friction. His body stiffened against hers, and she held him
even more tightly. The sensation of moving together as one
was the greatest pleasure she’d ever experienced. Their
bodies were in sync, like a current of water ebbing and
flowing in the creek. The restless wind cooled their damp,
glowing skin. All the sounds and sensations melted into an
orchestra of profound beauty and even deeper meaning for
Dana.
As Chase’s mouth sought and found hers, he arched
deeply into her, until her entire body was thrumming.
Moving sinuously against him, with him, she became the
rhythmic pulse of water, of wind, of the breath of life itself.
His mouth was strong and insistent, hers pliant and
responsive. His tongue tangled gently with hers. Then
Chase slid his hand beneath her curved, arching back and
captured her hips against his.
The powerful, surging motion of his body into hers caused
an avalanche of heat within her. As the shimmering eruption
of light and warmth moved outward, a cry of surprise and
happiness tore from her lips. Chase growled in response, a
man claiming his woman in this most priceless and sacred
of moments. Experiencing a pure, white-hot pleasure, Dana
threw back her head, eyes closed, and dug her fingers
spasmodically into his tense shoulders.
A rainbow of light filtered through her, one color at a time.
First a white-gold tunneled down from the center of her
head and deep into her singing body. It was followed by
other vibrant hues, until finally violet flowed through her. The
color was incredible, and reminded Dana of the ocean’s
flux and flow.
Chase groaned and found his release deep within her. The
descending colors of energy melded with his pleasure. She
could feel his joy over what they’d just shared. It enveloped
them as they clung together hotly.
Dana had always understood the physicality of sex, but
now, for the first time, she’d experienced it on all levels
simultaneously. As Chase buried himself within her, gave
her the ultimate gift of himself, she opened herself up as
never before to trust and love. Together they transcended
time and space, and Dana floated in a blissful mix of color
and light.
Their auras were glowing with energy and life, she realized,
orbs filled with swirling rainbow colors. Dana watched as
they overlapped, creating an eye, or middle oval, where
they met. In that moment, Dana saw the many lifetimes she
and Chase had shared. It was a swift-moving movie, so
quick that she saw only parts and pieces of lives played out
on alien landscapes, on planets she had no name for, as
well as here on Mother Earth. There were times when she
was a man and he was a woman, and vice versa.
Sometimes they were married; often they were relatives or
friends. She saw lives in China, the Middle East, in South
America and on islands in the Pacific. There were so many
Dana could not remember them all.
What came of this unexpected awareness was that she and
Chase had been working together for hundreds of lifetimes.
And in her heart, they were equals. Equals working to bring
peace to this earth so ravaged with hate, war, prejudice
and politics.
Drawing a deep, ragged breath, Dana pried her eyes
open. Chase had pulled her onto her side, next to him. His
arm was beneath her neck; her cheek lay against his damp
shoulder. Slowly, the sense of time and place came back to
Dana. She heard the joyous trilling of the cardinal
somewhere in the branches above them. The soft breeze
caressed her superheated flesh and cooled her. Her hair
was damp and tangled around her shoulders, and partly
covering her breasts. Chase was still within her, and Dana
gloried in that oneness.
She lay a helpless prisoner to his caresses, his suckling,
the slow, grinding thrusts of his hips, which gave her such
raw pleasure. She had never experienced this level of
oneness with another human being, not even Hal, whom
she’d loved unequivocally. For whatever reasons—perhaps
the ones that Dana had been shown earlier—Chase was
her soul mate. Dana knew that when people who had
shared many past lives met in this life, the old bonds would
reactivate, drawing them to one another all over again, like
a powerful magnet.
As she reached up and kissed Chase with all her womanly
strength and love, she found herself smiling. Pulling away
just enough to drown in the burning gold of his eyes, she
whispered, “My love, my life, we’re together. Again, as
always.” Dana dissolved beneath his male smile, that
glimmer in his narrowed eyes. She knew he understood.
“Now you know the rest of our story, woman of mine.” He
eased his hand across her supple flesh, holding her firmly
against his lower body. “We’re one. We always have been.
I couldn’t tell you that, even though I knew. You had to
discover this on your own.”
Giving him a soft smile, Dana raised her hand and ran her
fingers through his short, damp hair. “I didn’t know,” she
whispered, “but I do now, beloved one.”
Her words flowed through Chase like sunlight, releasing his
heart, which had been imprisoned so long. Dana’s fingers
caused wild, hot tingles across his skin. And when she
softly caressed his cheek with her palm, he opened his
eyes and smiled down into her own. “We’ve earned this
right to be with one another, Dana. And I don’t ever want to
leave you.”
“You won’t,” she promised, moving her hips suggestively
against his. Dana saw Chase tense, found his groan a
sound of beauty. “From this day forward, we’re together,”
she promised him.



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