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by Theresa Scott
Description: Heading west to the Oregon Territory and an arranged marriage, Miss Dorie Primfield never dreamed a virile stranger would kidnap her. Dorie's abductor is everything she's ever desired in a man, yet she's not about to submit to his white-hot passion without a fight. Zander Durban's Indian mother was only a country wife -- rejected after his white father married a woman like Miss Dorie Primfield. The whole practice irks him, white men taking Indian women as temporary, country wives only to put them aside when an "acceptable" bride comes out west. Zander refuses to watch one more Indian woman suffer and decides intervention is needed. He kidnaps the proper Miss Primfield and takes her as his country wife. But Dorie isn't like the woman who married his father and by a twist of fate he finds himself falling for her. Can they turn a captive legacy into an endless love?
eBook Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc./Cactus Rose, 2011
eBookwise Release Date: June 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [359 KB]
Reading time: 228-320 min.
Winter, 1811, Fort George, Oregon Territory
"Why can't we go in, Mama?"
A bitter, cold wind tugged at eleven-year-old Alexander Durban's thin body. He clutched his five-year-old brother's hand tighter as they waited anxiously on the porch of the Big House beside their mother, Elaine.
"No, Zander. We dare not!" she whispered.
Fat drops of rain splattered on Alexander's threadbare shirt as Elaine rocked the crying babe in her arms. The baby wailed louder.
A heavy trapper almost tripped over Zander as he filed past the small family and on into the factor's house. A woman, her Indian-black hair and her white skin showing her mixed-blood heritage as surely as did the beaded, blue flannel gown she wore, laughed and flirted proudly with her escort, a burly mountain man clothed in a leather shirt and trousers.
Zander stared at the two. He knew the woman. She was his mama's favorite cousin. Why then, did she look away as she passed by them? And why did Mama turn away? What was wrong?
Zander frowned as the traders and clerks of the fort, the North West Company trappers, and the Hudson's Bay Company trappers, strolled through the open door and into the light and music. Why were they allowed inside and he wasn't? This was the biggest wedding Fort George had seen in three years, and he wanted to be there too!
Sweet violin music drifted through the open door of the manager's Big House and lured Zander closer. He eased his hand out of his brother's and edged over to the porch to peer through the factor's dearly bought, small-paned glass windows. Unfortunately, thick, flowery, lace curtains barred his view.
A trapper clumped up from behind. "Elaine! Don't you go in there," he warned.
Zander whirled around, listening to the man.
"And keep your young 'uns away too. Archibald said he don't want you in there, and he meant it!"
Zander watched as his mother dropped her head, her short, straight, black hair falling forward and hiding her face. Her shoulders slumped, and the baby sniffled. "Mama?" he whispered.
"Good girl," said the trapper loudly. "You do as you're told. Why, when this is all over, you can come and visit me. I like Injuns--'specially the women."
The trapper's blue eyes alighted on Zander and his brother, Willie. "'Course you can't bring your big boys with you. Bring the baby though; I don't mind babies." And then the trapper, too, opened the door and entered into the room where the music swirled and loud, merry voices celebrated.
Zander didn't like the man. "Don't listen to him, Mama." He touched his mother's shoulder. "I'm a big boy. Let me go in," he urged. "It is wet and cold standing out here. Mama, please..."
Elaine's lips tightened. "We must not." She looked about to reprimand him.
Her lovely brown eyes softened as she looked at him. Finally she said, "I see you want to go in, Zander. But we must not. We must not!"
Zander dipped his head and stared at the ground, stubbornness rising in him. He'd never seen a wedding before.
Another white man entered the building, then the heavy door closed with a solid thunk.
Behind that door, Zander could hear laughing and clapping. "Just one peek?" he begged. "Please. Let us go in."
"No, Zander," she answered firmly. "Take Willie's hand. We can watch from here. And remember, we must be very, very quiet."
Reluctantly, Zander took his brother's hand. But even with his face pressed against the cold, hard glass of the windows, Zander could barely see blurs on the other side of the curtains. "I can't see anything," he muttered.
Suddenly, he released Willie's hand and ran to the big, heavy wooden door. He grabbed the handle and pulled the door open. Then he darted inside.
"Zander!" cried his mother hoarsely. "Zander! Come back!"
Zander entered on quick, silent feet and peered around the room. He could have stomped into the room, but with all the music and people, no one would have heard him, he realized.
In one corner of the brightly lit room, three fiddlers played a rousing jig that shook the rough log walls.
Laughing men and women danced to the music. A huge fire burned in the dried mud and slate fireplace. Against one wall stood a plank table with heaped platters of venison and elk meat, bowls of vegetables, and baskets of berries. Zander's mouth watered at the sight.
His mother suddenly appeared at his side and nudged him urgently. "Zander! We must go. We cannot stay..."
But when he glanced at her, she was staring open-mouthed at someone. He saw that she was just as curious as he was. Didn't Mama want to see the fancy wedding, too?
Zander darted toward a corner and hid behind a group of men and women. The violins ceased their wailing, and the crowd flowed over to one side of the room. Zander could hear murmurings.
He craned his neck to see what everyone was excited about. He tried edging around people, but they were all taller than he. Finally, frustrated, he returned to his mother. "I want to get closer," he said. "I want to see."
She touched his arm and whispered, "Only for a moment. But you must stay close to me. We may have to leave very quickly!"
"...now pronounce you man and wife," said a loud voice, and Zander's attention was drawn to the rotund priest standing in the midst of the crowd. The priest raised his arm, and his black robes rustled with his excitement. "We need some room. Back, back!" he cried in a jovial voice. "We must make room for the happy couple!"
Zander moved away from his mother and brother and stepped closer to the priest. Oh, how he wanted to explore, to roam the room, eat the food, and dance to the music. A wedding!
"Zander!" He heard his mother's hoarse plea, but he ignored it. Willie could stay with her. Willie was still little.
Zander circled the crowd that stood between him and the priest and the 'happy couple'--the bride and groom.
He sidled up close to the front. Suddenly he halted. Something was very wrong.
Whatever was his father doing here? And dressed like that, in a strange gray suit that seemed to choke him at the collar? And why was he holding the hand of that pale, brown-haired woman? She wore a long, white dress and looked like she had just sucked on a bitter berry.
"Father?" he asked, walking toward them.
Unaware of the silence that immediately fell across the gathered men and women, Zander continued to stare.
"Father? Sir?" His voice rang clearly in the silence.
Archibald Durban glared at him.
Zander's face flushed in embarrassment. It was true that his father ignored him most of the time, but surely Archibald Durban could say something to him, could tell him what was happening here...
Archibald mouthed the words, "Get out!" Then he glanced back at the white woman, almost in fear.
She, too, glared at Zander. Then she glared at Archibald.
Zander's throat tightened. The 'happy couple,' he suddenly realized. No. It couldn't be. Why was his father marrying this woman? What about his mama?
He watched the woman's pale skin turn a rosy, mottled shade. "Do something, Archibald," Jane Potter hissed at her bridegroom. "Now!"
Archibald signaled with a nod of his head. Out of the corner of his eye, Zander saw a trapper move toward him.
Zander gritted his teeth and ran over to his father. Jaw tight, Zander clenched his fist and punched his father as hard as he could in the stomach. "That's for not marrying my mama!" he cried in a thin, clear voice.
A horrified gasp went up from the onlookers. One or two smothered chuckles could be heard. A woman screamed. Another woman fainted.
"Archibald, I will not have it!" shrieked the bride. "Get him out of here! He's one of your Indian bastards, I know it!" Jane Potter yanked up a handful of her white dress, ready to chase after Zander.
Zander glared at her. "Who are you? You should not marry my father! What about my mama?"
His voice shook with anger. He glanced around at the sea of faces. Some of them looked horrified; one man snickered. A woman giggled behind her hand. Anger surged through Zander. How could his father do this? What would happen to his mama? To him?
"Get him out of here!" screamed the red-faced woman in lace. "Take him away! I never want to see him again!"
Archibald patted his new wife's arm to try and calm her. She shoved his hand away.
The trapper grabbed Zander by his arms and dragged him through the crowd.
"Well done," whispered a mixed-blood woman to Zander. "Your mama should be very proud."
"Hush, Sally," said another. "Look how angry Archibald is!"
Zander got one last glance of his father's furious face before the trapper pushed him out the door of the house and then off the porch. The door slammed, and Zander was alone, sprawled in the mud in the pouring rain.
A moment later the same door opened, and his sobbing mother, clutching Baby Adeline and little Willie, staggered through the doorway.
"And don't come back!" yelled the trapper. "You're not his true wife! You're only his country wife, do you hear? Only his country wife!" Then he slammed the door again.
Zander struggled out of the mud and winced as he crawled onto the porch. "What happened, Mama?" he asked, bewildered. "What happened?"
"Hush, you bad boy!" scolded Elaine. "You just ruined your father's wedding!" Then she started to weep. She fell to her knees and put one arm around Zander, one arm holding Baby Adeline. His mother's thin body shook with her sobs.
"I didn't mean to, Mama! I didn't mean to!" cried Zander, sobbing with her.
She lifted her wet, streaked face. "Hush, child," she gasped, "it's not your fault." Then she burst into fresh sobs. Zander's face contorted with his tears and then Willie started crying, too. The baby awoke and gave a loud wail. They all stood on the porch, crying, until a trapper came out and pushed them off the porch and out into the rainy night.
* * * *
The next morning, Archibald Durban ordered Elaine and his children away from their small cabin at the fort. He told her they must never return.
Eyes red-rimmed, Zander and his mother and his brother sat listlessly on the wet grass beside the bedraggled, rotting weeds in the fort's garden. His mother cradled Willie in her lap, and Zander held Baby Adeline.
The travelling priest approached. When the man in the black robe asked Elaine what ailed her, she told him how she feared being unable to feed her three children now that their father would no longer help her. She begged him to take Alexander with him, so the boy could live and study with the Jesuits.
The priest consented.
At noon, Alexander Durban, back straight, eyes dry, said farewell to his mother and brother, kissed the baby on the forehead, and strode after the priest through the fort's open wooden gates. He never looked back.