Only Mine

Free Only Mine by Elizabeth Lowell

Book: Only Mine by Elizabeth Lowell Read Free Book Online
Authors: Elizabeth Lowell
She smoothed her dress again and changed the subject with transparent determination. “That’s a lovely dress, ma’am. Is it French?”
    “Yes. My guardian preferred English styles, but I like the simplicity of the new French fashions.”
    The girl looked quickly at Wolfe, wondering if he was the guardian in question.
    “My husband,” Jessica added, stressing the word lightly, “prefers no style at all. Isn’t that correct, Mr. Lonetree?”
    “There’s little use for silks and foolishness in the West, Lady Jessica.”
    “Lady?” said the girl quickly. “Then you’re English?”
    Jessica bit back the temptation to correct the girl. “Close enough.”
    “A true titled lady?” the girl persisted.
    “Not here,” Jessica said. “Here I am Mrs. Lonetree.”
    “I’m Mrs. O’Conner.” The girl hesitated. “Lonetree is an unusual name.”
    “The true name is Tree That Stands Alone, but Lonetree is easier for most people,” Wolfe said.
    “It sounds Indian.”
    “It is.”
    The girl’s face paled. She stared at Wolfe, noticing for the first time the man beneath the expensive city clothes.
    “Dear Lord, you’re a redskin!”
    “Sometimes,” he agreed. “Sometimes I’m an over-civilized citizen of the British Empire. Most of the time I’m just a Western man.”
    The young Mrs. O’Conner made a low, unhappy sound and began twisting her handkerchief between trembling fingers. She looked everywhere in the coach but at Wolfe.
    Wolfe sighed, settled his hat more firmly on his head, and reached for the door of the bouncing coach. When the door was opened wide, he braced himself in the doorway and reached for the luggage railing that ran around the top of the coach.
    “Wolfe, what on earth…?” Jessica asked.
    “Mrs. O’Conner will feel easier if I’m not inside with the civilized folks.”
    With that, Wolfe swung himself up onto the top of the stagecoach with feline grace and moved forward to sit next to the startled driver. The coach door banged shut.
    “You’re acting like a complete ninny hammer,” Jessica said, eyeing the young woman coolly. “My Wolfe is more a gentleman than anyone I’ve met in America.”
    “My family was murdered by redskins when I was twelve. I was hiding, but I saw what they did to Mother and Sissy, and Mother was seven months along.” The girl’s hands smoothed over the swell of her own pregnancy. “That poor little babe died before he ever lived. Savages. Murdering savages. I hope the Army sends them all back to the devil that spawned them.”
    Jessica closed her eyes as nightmares turned and coiled just beyond the reach of memory. She, too, had seen babies born dead. There was a horror in those tiny, still bodies that words couldn’t describe.
    Shivering, Jessica pulled her heavy travel cloak more tightly around her body. Wishing she could curl up against Wolfe’s warmth, she did the next best thing. She curled up against the small leather travel bag Wolfe kept inside the coach with the rifle case.
    Numbing miles went by. Jessica made no effort to speak to Mrs. O’Conner again. The loathing and fear in the girl’s voice when she spoke of Indians were not subject to reason any more than the aristocrats who spoke of “the viscount’s savage” were amenable to seeing past Wolfe’s Cheyenne mother and bastardy to the man beneath.
    Finally, Jessica slept, only to be brought awake by the sound of shots and a high scream of terror from Mrs. O’Conner.
    “Indians!” the girl screamed, crossing herself frantically. “Jesus and Mary, save me!”
    Jessica bolted upright and yanked open the side curtain while the young Mrs. O’Conner’s screamspierced the interior of the coach. At first Jessica could see nothing but the flat landscape. Then she realized the terrain wasn’t as flat as it seemed. The land was folded gently, providing shelter for men and animals. It also provided ambush sites for unwary travelers. Apparently, a band of Indians had waited in one of

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