Mid 1700, Cherokee village of Chota, Carolina Territory
She would make Panther understand. She had to.
New Moon stiffened and squared her shoulders before stepping through the doorway of her lodge. She watched her daughter, Golden Dawn, as she squatted beside a small fire a few feet away.
So like herself in spirit. She smiled as she remembered Dawn's birth. After many fearful hours, her tiny girl-child had come into the world with the lungs of a warrior and the golden hair and blue eyes of her father's Irish ancestry.
New Moon gazed with a saddened heart at her daughter, who was staring into the dancing flames. Dawn's beautiful blue eyes were clouded with fear and confusion. New Moon closed her eyes in dread and understanding. Though Dawn appeared white, her Cherokee spirit brought a gift of visions as strong as her mother's.
Dawn blinked and looked up. "Mother, Buffalo needs me. I will go to England."
New Moon lost her battle and her eyes filled with tears. She hurried to join Golden Dawn beside the fire. Lowering herself, she gathered her daughter into her arms and cradled her.
"You have not seen Buffalo in many years. You were just a girl when he left the village. How will you know him?"
Dawn pulled back and gazed into her mother's eyes. "I know it's been a long time, but I've seen him in my visions, Mother. I will know him, just as you knew my father."
With a sad smile, New Moon gently brushed back a golden curl from Dawn's forehead. "How do you know that this vision is from the Great Spirit?" She wiped away her own tears. "Your father and I love Buffalo, you know that, but he was asked to leave the village. I used to pray he would return and ask to prove himself, but he has not. I do not believe he ever will."
Dawn grasped her mother's hands and pressed them between her own. "I'll find him, Mother. The Great Spirit has revealed my path. " She pulled her mother's hands apart and settled herself against New Moon's breast.
New Moon held her daughter tightly and wept. Dawn's great passion would reap great reward. But as substantial as the reward, so would be the price of her passion. New Moon sobbed softly into her daughter's golden hair.
Three months later – London, England
Raven sat behind his desk, elbows propped on the smooth surface. His fingers formed a steeple and his forehead rested on his thumbs. He gazed absently at the ledger before him. Ornate mahogany furniture gleamed with polish. Bookshelves on two walls held an assortment of books, ranging from classics to legal manuals. The pungent aroma of furniture polish, mysterious oriental spices from the warehouse, and the lingering sweet smell of tobacco wafted through the office. Though aware of these things, Raven disregarded them. To him the elegant office held the chill of a tomb.
The sharp crack of a pistol shot rang in his memory. "That shot was intended for me. You could have been killed," he mumbled to his friend of many years.
"But I wasn't. No one was." William Gaylord Montgomery, Earl of Southwick, stared out the second story office window at the busy street below. "It is just as possible the arsonist and the shooter were working independently. The burning of the warehouse was aimed at you. The bullet was a stray shot fired by some scoundrel intent on making use of the confusion to help himself to some loot."
"I suppose you could be right." Raven tried to focus on the column of numbers before him, but couldn't take his mind off the other possibility, the one that had haunted his dreams the night before.
For weeks a cloud of dread hung over him. If he were back in his native village, he would call it a bad wind. But he wasn't in Chota Town and it was unlikely he would ever be again.
He shifted his shoulders as another chill raced down his spine. If the Bow Street Runner hadn't stepped in front of William when he had, the shot would have entered William's heart instead of the Runner's shoulder. Raven couldn't overlook the fact that he and William were of the same build. In the shadows of a dark alley, where the difference in their coloring couldn't be seen, they could easily be mistaken one for the other.
The dark, heavy cloud that hovered over him settled itself more firmly about his shoulders like a cloak, bringing with it the weight of heavy responsibility for those around him, as well as his own safety.
"We can't take many more disasters like last night's. First there was the fire in one of the ship's cargo hold, and now this one on the docks. One fire might have been an accident, but not two." Raven looked up at the one man in London he could trust with his life.
How well his friend fit his station in life, Raven mused. With his fair good looks and proud bearing, William looked every bit the aristocrat. Raven still marveled that this member of the gentry had become a best friend to a ragamuffin half-breed.
"I agree," William finally answered as he turned toward Raven. He sat down on the narrow window seat.
"Who do we know who wants to ruin you?"
"Phfft. Who do we know that doesn't? But I think there is something more sinister behind all this."
"What are you talking about? Murder? Don't be so dour, ole' man. So you've stepped on a few toes. You're a shrewd businessman. You've done nothing that every other businessman in London hasn't done. Except remain honest, that is. I suppose making a profit while remaining honest does make one a bit of an outsider... a business threat perhaps, but not a candidate for murder."
William pushed himself from the window seat and walked casually to the large mahogany desk where Raven sat with ledgers and shipping schedules spread before him. "You look as though you could use a break. You go stare out the window a while and let me have a go at this mess."
Raven grinned as he took a glance at the piles of ledgers. With a deep sigh and an exaggerated shove against the desk, he pushed himself up and stepped to the side. "There you go." He indicated the chair with an outstretched hand. "I hope you didn't expect an argument from me."
William chuckled and sat down as Raven moved toward the window.
After being told to leave Chota, Raven felt he no longer had a true home and no family in England, except the one man whose identity he sought. William, however, was as closely bonded to him as family. He took the responsibility of William's safety as dear to heart as that of James Fitzgerald and the family he left in Chota Town. He couldn't discount the thought that William's life might be in danger because of their association.
He concluded there was only one reason why these things have happened. "Could it be that I'm getting too close to learning the identity of my father?" he wondered aloud. "Could the man hate me so much as to wish me ruined, or even dead? It wouldn't surprise me, you know. It makes me wonder just how high is the man's position that a bastard son could be such a threat."
"You're really becoming quite paranoid, old man," William responded without looking up. "I doubt very seriously the man you search for has anything at all to do with the present incidents."
Raven leaned against the sill much as William had, and looked down at the street. A coach pulled up and came to a stop just below the window. The bad wind shifted and settled a little heavier around him.
A stocky man whom Raven recognized at once stepped from the carriage to the street. "That's odd."
William looked up. "What's odd?"
"It seems Mr. Brown has come to pay us a visit."
"Captain Thomas Brown? When did the Golden Lady dock?"
Raven shrugged. "This morning, I suppose. Now this is a surprise. The old reprobate just helped a lady from the carriage."
"Oh, really?" William sat back in the chair as he turned his full attention to Raven. "What does she look like?"
"Can't tell a lot from here. She's well-dressed... and wearing a veil."
"A veil? Really? How interesting. A full veil or a half veil?" William waved his hand in dismissal. "Oh, never mind that question, I don't suppose you can tell from this angle."
"It's a half veil. She looked up. I would say she's rather tall, almost as tall as Brown, slender and quite shapely."
"You can see quite a lot from there. Have they entered the building yet?"
"No, Brown is speaking to the driver. Listen William, not a word of the troubles to Brown or his mysterious lady friend. I would like to have it handled by the time Uncle hears of it."
"I won't say a word. Even after all these years, it seems odd to me for you to call Fitzgerald, uncle. Did it ever occur to you to call your adoptive parent, father?
"I called him uncle as a show of respect long before he became my guardian. I am one of his legal heirs, but not his legal son, not by English law at any rate. You know the story."
"Yes, I know the story, what I don't understand is, why you can't be happy with Fitzgerald. He's done more for you than this father you insist on finding. You know, maybe if you didn't hate this mystery man so much, he'd be easier to find. You're letting this hate cloud your judgment. You just might be scaring him off. Have you ever thought of that? You should be happy with what you have. I'd say you have a lot to be thankful for."
Raven held his hand up in warning and glared at his friend from beneath drawn brows. William was heading down a long exhausted path and he didn't have the time or patience to rehash it with him now. "Here they come," he said in a low tone.
A knock sounded at the door just as William stood. He looked at Raven.
"Well, aren't you going to open the door?" Raven asked with a grin.
The knock sounded again.
"So are you." William crossed his arms and stood firm.
Raven sat down on the window seat.
"Oh, I see. You think you will make a better impression on the lady if you're lounging about like Lord Somebody while I open the door. Well, we'll see about that." William walked to the door, opened it, and stepped back.
"It's 'bout time one of yaw opened the door." The sturdy man looked from Raven to William. "What took so long?"
Both men grinned.
Brown strode into the room as if he owned the world. As soon as Thomas moved his considerable girth from the doorway, the lady stepped around him. She stopped for only a moment to glance at William and then at Raven through the cover of her veil before she hurried to stand in front of Raven.
William whined, "Ah, well I can see that I have lost once again to my friend's dark, brooding charm." When no one responded, he politely stepped aside and took a seat in the corner. He leaned back and crossed his legs as if he were about to watch a play unfold at the theatre.
Raven looked his way and arched one brow. William grinned and Raven knew he wouldn't leave, short of being bodily tossed out.
Raven turned his attention to his mysterious visitor. "How may I be of assistance?"
His eyes focused on her veiled face. He felt a twinge of familiarity and the heaviness of the bad wind threatened his balance.
The woman lifted the veil. What greeted him were eyes shining with the warmth of a summer sky. There was a spark of mischief in their blue depths, and he thought at once of another pair of blue eyes. His head swam when he noticed strands of dark golden curls beneath her bonnet that gently kissed her cheeks and clung to her neck. His throat tightened.
Then she smiled... and he knew.
"Dawn?" his voice cracked.
"Yes, Buffalo, it's me."
Reviewed by Faridah Nassozi for Readers' Favorite
In Passion’s Price, Mary Adair used a combination of a masterfully created plot and a selection of vibrant characters to write an amazing story that will give any fan of the historical romance genre a thrilling reading experience.
The combination of characters - a beautiful Cherokee girl living in London but determined not to give up her native ways, a man with a consuming anger who was engaged to a devious woman while his heart belonged to the Cherokee girl, and two very loving and equally mischievous grandmothers and others - produced a definite page-turner.
Dawn's free-spirited lifestyle was like a breath of fresh air to the people in London. She was a girl so beautiful, so stubborn and so determined to get what she believed was rightful hers that she survived her stay in London on her own terms. I loved reading Passion’s Price and cannot wait to read Mary Adair's next book, Passion’s Promise.
Passion's Price is available at Amazon