Seize the Sky: Son of the Plains-Volume 2

Seize the Sky: Son of the Plains-Volume 2 by Terry C. Johnston Read Free Book Online

Book: Seize the Sky: Son of the Plains-Volume 2 by Terry C. Johnston Read Free Book Online
Authors: Terry C. Johnston
Indian wars. Be-damned—appears my company leaves without me!”
    Tom scrambled off downhill, turning once as he dashed through the scrubby brush to wave a farewell to his sister and sister-in-law. “I’ll take proper care of James for you, Maggie!” he hollered back to the little group atop the sun-drenched slope.
    “I have no fear you will, you naughty boy!” Margaret teased at her brother.
    At that very moment the regimental band struck up the plaintive chords of “The Girl I Left Behind Me.”
    The hour was sad I left the maid,
A ling’ring farewell taking;
Her sighs and tears my steps delay’d—
I thought her heart was breaking.
    In hurried words her name I bless’d,
I breathed the vows that bind me,
And to my heart in anguish press’d
The girl I left behind me.
    Maggie went to Custer. Placing her hands alongside his ruddy cheeks, she boosted herself up on her toes, planting an uncharacteristic kiss on his lips.
    “Until I see all those lovely freckles again, brother dear.” Her hands slipped away, swiping at the tears caught in the corners of her eyes.
    “Freckles again?”
    “You can’t help the sun, Autie,” Libbie remonstrated as she slipped an arm in his.
    “I suppose I can’t. A man whose life is outdoors, and me cursed with this fair skin.”
    “Just make certain it’s a thick skin, dear,” she reminded, leading him over to her horse. “Able to turn any warrior’s arrow, do you hear?”
    He stopped her, turning her round to face him. “The problem I’ll face is not arrows, Rosebud. My main concern is to keep the Indians from running on me. My only fear is that they won’t stand and fight. I don’t want to be left holding onto an empty village again … a hollow victory. If only they’ll stand and fight.”
    “Well,” she cleared her throat, thick with sadness, “I myself can’t stand here any longer, dear.” She pressed against him with a fierce, clinging embrace, the way ivy clings to the oak.
    Custer himself stood like a plank of rough-hewn timber, arms nailed at his sides, while she hugged him. It was so uncharacteristic of her. In fact, this whole morning had been unlike Libbie. Last night, while she drifted off to sleep with her fragrant chestnut hair spread across his bare chest, he loved sensing her bare breasts rise and fall against his own cool flesh. The closeness of her naked, heated skin … and not being able to have her. All these years—she denied them both their intimacy because it was too painful a reminder. Unable to conceive children, she saw no sense in any intimacy between them at all.
    But last night. After all those years.…
    Libbie pulled away, running the back of her hand under her nose, and yanked on that scarlet hunting cap he likedher to wear. When she had a bow in the ribbon beneath her chin, right near the ever-present cameo brooch, Elizabeth finally turned to her horse, allowing John Burkman to cup his hands and boost her to the saddle.
    For a long, pensive moment, she peered down at the young striker, looking all the shorter against the massive backdrop of tall George Armstrong Custer and the mountainous James Calhoun.
    “Good-bye, John.” She finally scratched the words out of her dry throat, wearing a sad smile. “You’ll look after the general for me, won’t you?”
    “Why, yes ma’am. I surely will.…” He wrinkled his brow at her woeful expression and was fixing to ask her why she thought her husband needed someone to look after him, but Libbie suddenly whirled away, tapping her high-buttoned boots against the army mount to speed away. She was leaving Dandy behind with her husband. He would take both Vic and Dandy to the Yellowstone.
    Margaret galloped off right behind Elizabeth with a wave and a final kiss blown to Calhoun. She trotted up beside Elizabeth before reining back, both women heading east up the bank of the Little Heart River, letting their horses lope frisky and playful in the cool morning air still heavy with

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