04 July 2013

Excerpt Thursday: Kentucky Green by Terry Irene Blain

This week, we're welcoming author Terry Irene Blain, whose novel KENTUCKY GREEN is set in the 18th century and takes readers into the wilds of the Kentucky Territory. Join us on Sunday, when the author will offer a free copy of the book to a lucky blog visitor. Here's the blurb:

The young widow was beautiful and determined, but the months of travel involved in her plan would be too hard. Without the general’s order Dan would have told any woman no, but April especially. His secret would destroy her—or she might destroy him. April’s kiss was like the country itself. Restless and sweet, it promised a love that denied every boundary and looked only to freedom and the future.

**An Excerpt from Kentucky Green**

The next afternoon the wagon train approached the Susquehanna River at Wright’s Ferry. Along the river bank near the ferry teams and wagons milled about. Shouting drivers and nervous animals added to the din. From her seat next to Tucker, April saw McKenzie make his way to the ferrymaster. The men talked, nodded, then shook hands. McKenzie walked back along the line of their wagons giving commands and instructions, bringing order in the midst of the confusion.
The man certainly had the gift of leadership, April noted as he approached the lead wagon. He jumped up, balancing on the hub of the front wheel, and spoke to Tucker. “You’ll cross on the first trip. Once you reach the other side, go about a mile and a half down the road. You’ll see a stand of box elders to the right. Start making camp there. The rest of the wagons will be along in time for supper.”
Excitement seemed to hover in the air. “What can I do to help?” she asked eagerly, looking past Tucker to the dark frontiersman.
He glanced in her direction. “Stay out of the way.” Without another word, he jumped down from the wheel and strode off.
April blinked back the tingle behind her eyes. Even though he was probably right, his tone still hurt. She had proven her worth on this trip. Both Tucker and Scotty had said so. Why did the dismissal of someone who went out of his way to overlook her hurt?
An hour later, she stood on the deck of the gently swaying ferry. At the last minute, Scotty volunteered to remain behind to direct the departures and Mr. McKenzie and his mare joined the lead wagon to take charge on the opposite side. He talked to Tucker while they calmed the team of skittish horses.
After the commotion at the landing, she enjoyed the contrast of the cool, quiet river. The gentle lap-lap of the river interplayed with the creaks and groans of timbers and ropes as the ferry made its way across the Susquehanna. Holding the rail and with feet apart to keep her balance, she swayed in time with the sounds.
She spied two boys in a clearing on the opposite shore. She continued to watch as she heard the soft sounds of Mr. McKenzie’s moccasins on the planking as he came to stand beside her.
Unable to resist the temptation, she asked “Am I in the way here, Mr. McKenzie?” She glanced sideways at him.
“No, you’re not in the way.”
Amused that a more overt apology seemed unlikely, she said, “We seem to be making good time.”
He merely nodded. She turned to see where he looked with so much concentration, and found him watching the same clearing she’d noted earlier. “What do you see?” she asked.
“A young buck coming down to the river.”
Following his gaze she saw a deer emerge from the woods and walk with dainty steps along the edge of the clearing to the riverbank. The deer stood for a moment, then lowered its antlered head to drink.
“There were boys in the clearing earlier,” she remarked.
“Still there,” Dan said, pointing to the other edge of the clearing.
She searched the area, finally spying the boys hidden from the deer’s sight on the far side of the clearing. One boy raised a rifle.
Suddenly the deer bolted. The rifle belched a puff of smoke and a second later the sharp crack echoed across the water. Beside her, Dan snorted. The breeze blew the gun smoke over the meadow, thinning the dense white puff to blue-gray streaks. That’s it. She turned to look into the blue-gray eyes of the man standing beside her.
“Your eyes are the color of gun smoke,” she blurted.
His head jerked and a startled look flashed across his face. Appalled she’d said something so personal, she started to stammer an apology.
He waved her words away. “I’ve been told that before.” With a shrug, he excused himself, leaving her to wonder if she had or had not offended him.
Dan walked back to join Tucker. Unconsciously his hand rubbed the front of his shirt, feeling underneath the buckskin the beaded medallion he always wore. She’d seen why the Shawnee named him Man With Eyes Like Gun Smoke, even though she didn’t know. He made no secret of his heritage, and eventually she’d find out. Being a breed was like being a bastard—neither characteristic likely to come up in polite conversation, but the fact would always come out.
When it did, with her reason to fear and hate Indians, he’d see those emotions reflected in her eyes every time she looked at him. He wasn’t in any hurry for that.
Realizing his palm still rubbed the medallion under his shirt, he swore and dropped his arm. He’d only wanted to apologize to April, to take away the hurt look in her eyes when he’d snapped at her earlier.
Instead she’d reminded him why he’d been keeping his distance. He couldn’t have her, but it didn’t stop him from wanting her. And he wasn’t in any hurry to see the light in her eyes die when she did find out.

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