Digitalis by Ronie Kendig

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Digitalis

Barbour Publishing, Inc.(January 1, 2011)

by

Ronie Kendig

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ronie has been married since 1990 to a man who can easily be defined in classic terms as a hero. She has four beautiful children. Her eldest daughter is 16 this year, her second daughter will be 13, and her twin boys are 10. After having four children, she finally finished her degree in December 2006. She now has a B.S. in Psychology through Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. Getting her degree is a huge triumph for both her and her family–they survived!!

This degree has also given her a fabulous perspective on her characters and how to not only make them deeper, stronger, but to make them realistic and know how they’ll respond to each situation. Her debut novel, Dead Reckoning released March 2010 from Abingdon Press. And her Discarded Heroes series began in July 2010 from Barbour with the first book entitled Nightshade.

This is the second book in the series.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Step into the boots of a former Marine in this heart-pounding adventure in life and love. Colton “Cowboy” Neeley is a Marine trying to find his footing as he battles flashbacks now that he’s back home. Piper Blum is a woman in hiding—from life and the assassins bent on destroying her family. When their hearts collide, more than their lives are at stake. Will Colton find a way to forgive Piper’s lies? Can Piper find a way to rescue her father, trapped in Israel? Is there any way their love, founded on her lies, can survive?

If you would like to read an excerpt of Digitalis, go HERE.

Learn more about Ronie and her books on her Website.




MY REVIEW:

If you like intense, action and suspense filled books that feature members of elite special ops forces and the women strong enough to love them, then Digitalis is probably one book you don’t want to miss.The second book in the Discarded Heroes series, Digitalis features former marine Colton Neeley aka “Cowboy” and Piper Blum, a sales clerk Colton just can’t resist. Afraid Piper will reject him if she learns of his true occupation and his unpredictable and devastating flashbacks, Colton is unaware that Piper has some heavy duty secrets of her own. When their worlds collide, the intensity of the story escalates.

Truthfully, I never thought I’d become a fan of military themed novels but Ronie Kendig has changed my mind. Her books teem with the type of action and suspense that keep me turning the pages, unwilling to stop reading until I know how things are resolved. Although fiction, the threats and crises in each story could easily be seen in current news. Digitalis is very well written with realistic characters and a perfectly paced plot. Dialogue and character relationships seem genuine. A strong message of faith is woven into the story in a natural and unobtrusive manner.

To reveal much more would spoil the story. Take my word for it, this is one book and series you don’t want to miss. I can’t wait for the next volume myself.

The Search by Suzanne Woods Fisher – LitFuse



MY REVIEW:

Although Amish fiction is not my favorite genre, I always enjoy novels by Suzanne Woods Fisher. The Search was not a disappointment, in fact it may be Fisher’s best book yet. I like the way her books are character and plot driven and that the Amish life is a natural part of the story without demanding attention.

The Search contains everything I expect from a good book. It is well written with intriguing and realistic characters, has a well paced plot with a bit of mystery, humor, conflict, and of course, romance. While Bertha was not the primary character, I thought that she stole the show. Her habit of getting words mixed up reminded me so much of my late grandmother that I smiled often.  It was also a pleasure to see the way Bess matured as the story progressed. The story featured more than one point of view but was never confusing. A strong message of faith, forgiveness, and restoration runs throughout. Several plot twists and unexpected developments kept me turning the pages. The Search is a well crafted novel and I highly recommend it.

See what others have to say about The Search here.

This book was provided for review by LitFuse Publicity.

Purchase a copy of The Search here.



ABOUT THE BOOK:

Fifteen years ago, Lainey O’Toole made a split-second decision. She couldn’t have known that her choice would impact so many.

Now in her mid-twenties, she is poised to go to culinary school when her car breaks down in Stoney Ridge, the very Amish town in which her long-reaching decision was made, forcing her to face the shadowed past.

Bess Reihl is less than thrilled to be spending the summer at Rose Hill Farm with her large and intimidating grandmother, Bertha. It quickly becomes clear that she is there to work the farm–and work hard. The labor is made slightly more tolerable by the time it affords Bess to spend with the handsome hired hand, Billy Lapp. But he only has eyes for a flirty and curvaceous older girl.

Lainey’s and Bess’s worlds are about to collide and the secrets that come to light will shock them both.

“Beautifully written, ‘The Search’ is a skillfully woven story that takes readers through unexpected twists and turns on the long country road toward truth. Fans both old and new will find themselves immersed in this heartwarming–and surprising–tale of young love, forgiveness, and coming to grips with the past.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

In no particular order, Suzanne Woods Fisher is a wife, mother, writer, lifelong student of the Bible, raiser of puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind, a gardener and a cook…the latter two with sporadic results.

Suzanne has loved to write since she was a young teen. After college, she started to write for magazines and became a contributing editor for Christian Parenting Today magazine. Her family moved to Hong Kong for four years, just as the internet was developing, and she continued to write articles in a 44-story high-rise apartment, sending manuscripts 7,000 miles away with a click of a key.

After returning from Hong Kong, Suzanne decided to give her first novel a try. For four and a half months, she worked on an antediluvian computer in a cramped laundry room. She didn’t even tell her husband what she was up to. When the novel was completed, she told her family at dinner one night that she had written a book. “That’s why there’s no food in this house!” said her slightly insensitive sons.

Undaunted…Suzanne found a small royalty publisher for that book and wrote three more (all earned multiple awards). With help from an agent, she now has numerous  books under contract with Revell. Also look for Suzanne’s Amish non-fiction, Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World, a non-fiction book of stories and examples about the Old Order Amish, as well as Amish Proverbs, and coming in Spring of 2011, look for Amish Values for Your Family. The Choice and The Waiting are the previous books in the Lancaster County Secrets Collection.

Writing, for Suzanne, is a way to express a love of God and His word. With every book or article, she hopes readers get a sense of what faith really looks like in the daily grind. She hopes they realize that life can be hard, but God is good, and never to confuse the two.

Suzanne can be found on-line at: www.suzannewoodsfisher.com



Suzanne Woods Fisher’s latest installment of the Lancaster County Secrets, The Search,  is just out and to celebrate Suzanne is hosting The Search iPad Giveaway!

One Grand Prize winner will receive an iPad Prize Package worth over $500 and includes:

The Search by Suzanne Woods Fisher



MY REVIEW:

Although Amish fiction is not my favorite genre, I always enjoy novels by Suzanne Woods Fisher. The Search was not a disappointment, in fact it may be Fisher’s best book yet. I like the way her books are character and plot driven and that the Amish life is a natural part of the story without demanding attention.

The Search contains everything I expect from a good book. It is well written with intriguing and realistic characters, has a well paced plot with a bit of mystery, humor, conflict, and of course, romance. While Bertha was not the primary character, I thought that she stole the show. Her habit of getting words mixed up reminded me so much of my late grandmother that I smiled often.  It was also a pleasure to see the way Bess matured as the story progressed. The story featured more than one point of view but was never confusing. A strong message of faith, forgiveness, and restoration runs throughout. Several plot twists and unexpected developments kept me turning the pages. The Search is a well crafted novel and I highly recommend it.

This book was provided for review by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Available January 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.



ABOUT THE BOOK:

A touching tale of secrets and young love in the Amish community, from the series that Romantic Times has called “refreshing.”

Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher has written extensively about the Amish, releasing both fiction and non-fiction books that have won the hearts of reviewers in both in and out of the Amish community. Now comes The Search, Fisher’s latest fiction novel in the Lancaster County Secrets series.

Fifteen years ago, Lainey O’Toole made a split-second decision. She couldn’t have known that her choice would impact so many. Now in her mid-twenties, she is poised to go to culinary school when her car breaks down in Stoney Ridge, the very Amish town in which her long-reaching decision was made, forcing her to face the shadowed past.

Bess Reihl is less than thrilled to be spending the summer at Rose Hill Farm with her large and intimidating grandmother, Bertha. It quickly becomes clear that she is there to work the farm—and work hard. The labor is made slightly more tolerable by the time it affords Bess to spend with the handsome hired hand, Billy Lapp. But he only has eyes for a flirty and curvaceous older girl.

Lainey’s and Bess’s worlds are about to collide and the secrets that come to light will shock them both.

Beautifully written, The Search is a skillfully woven story that takes readers through unexpected twists and turns on the long country road toward truth. Fans both old and new will find themselves immersed in this heartwarming—and surprising—tale of young love, forgiveness, and coming to grips with the past.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Suzanne Woods Fisher is the CBA bestselling author of The ChoiceThe WaitingAmish Peace, and Amish Proverbs. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, W. D. Benedict, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Benedict eventually became publisher of Christianity Today magazine. Suzanne is the host of a radio show called Amish Wisdom and her work has appeared in many magazines. She lives in California.

Angel Harp by Michael Phillips

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Angel Harp

FaithWords (January 26, 2011)

by

Michael Phillips


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Michael Phillips has been writing in the Christian marketplace for 30 years. All told, he has written, co-written, and edited some 110 books. Phillips and his wife live in the U.S., and make their second home in Scotland.






ABOUT THE BOOK:

Widowed at 34, amateur harpist Marie “Angel” Buchan realizes at 40 that her life and dreams are slowly slipping away. A summer in Scotland turns out to offer far more than she ever imagined! Not only does the music of her harp capture the fancy of the small coastal village she visits, she is unexpectedly drawn into a love triangle involving the local curate and the local duke.

The boyhood friends have been estranged as adults because of their mutual love of another woman (now dead) some years before. History seems destined to repeat itself, with Marie in the thick of it. Her involvement in the lives of the two men, as well as in the community, leads to a range of exciting relationships and lands Marie in the center of the mystery of a long-unsolved local murder. Eventually she must make her decision: with whom will she cast the lot of her future?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Angel Harp, go HERE

Wounded Spirits by April W. Gardner

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today’s Wild Card author is:


 

and the book:

 

Wounded Spirits

Vinspire Publishing (November 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to April Gardner for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

April W. Gardner is a military wife who has practiced the art of homemaking all over the world. She spends her mornings homeschooling her two darling children, and her afternoons inside the minds of her characters. In no particular order, she dreams of owning a horse, traveling the nation in an RV, and learning Italian. April is involved in the music ministry of her church and volunteers in their library. She currently lives in the heart of ancient Creek Country—Middle Georgia.

This is her first novel.

Visit the author’s website.


SHORT BOOK DISCRIPTION:

On the frontier, Adela McGirth’s life is simple, rugged, and exactly to her liking. Her greatest concern is whether to marry the settlement’s most eligible young officer. When a distant war among the Natives spills over into a nearby skirmish, life takes a perilous turn. Deep in enemy territory Adela must choose between the man she loves and a baby that has yet to be born; will she be strong enough to wait on God’s provision?

A peace-loving yet loyal Creek warrior, Totka is forced to align with the extremist Red Stick faction whose purpose is to eradicate the Whites from Creek soil. In the midst of battle, Totka is assigned to protect those he is expected to hate–and kill. Life was simpler before his enemy became a beautiful face with a quiet strength and dignity he cannot resist.

Having lived a life plagued with death and loss, Zachariah McGirth is a man on a mission – he’ll have his revenge or die trying. Blinded by grief, he can’t see his way clear of yet another tragedy. Why has God taken everything from him…or has He?

Their lives molded by the course of history, can these Wounded Spirits learn to rely on God’s grace during one of the bloodiest conflicts in the South?

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 258 pages
Publisher: Vinspire Publishing (November 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0981989616
ISBN-13: 978-0981989617

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

McGirth Plantation, Tensaw Settlement
June 1813




Adela shifted her body to allow blood flow to her legs. The mossy ground had long grown hard against her tailbone, and the rough tree trunk dug into her back.

A refreshing breeze blew through the pines lining the northwestern border of her father’s land. It rustled the needles and created a comforting, familiar whistle.

A small meadow lay vacant before her. On the opposite side, the evening sun cast the last rays through the treetops. Squinting, she thought, for an instant, she saw the form of a man. No, it was just a bush moving with the current of the wind.

Surely, she had been waiting nigh on two hours. Her family would be worrying. Just north, civil war raged among the Creeks and threatened to involve the vulnerable Americans in the Tensaw and Bigby settlements. Her parents’ constant fear of danger was well placed.

Soon Mama would call Adela’s father in from the barn and send one of the servants looking for her. Worry was never good for Mama.

Her attacks were rare these days, but she never knew what might set her to wheezing, then coughing.

Adela’s stomach twittered and flipped. She stood then rubbed her lower back. “Please, hurry, Phillip. Please,” she murmured, not sure she could stay much longer.

Unheeding, the sun’s beams continued down the length of the trees then dissolved, leaving only their orange and purple reflection in the sky.

Not wanting to create undue stress on her parents, she gave up waiting and set out toward home. She lifted her skirt to avoid the prickly blackberry bushes, and berated herself for not having thought to bring a lantern. How foolish of me!

“Adela…Adela…” Her name rode on the breeze.

Her heart seized, and then leapt as she recognized the voice. Haste sped her back through the underbrush.

“Phillip! I waited so long.” She panted.. He enveloped her in his work-hardened arms. Phillip was becoming more intimate with her. She wondered if it was too soon.

“I knew you’d wait.” Resting his hands on her shoulders, he stepped back where she could see him. “I couldn’t get away any sooner. Dixon had a list as long as my arm of things for me to do before I leave tomorrow. He hovered like a hawk to see I got them done.”

She pulled his hands from her shoulders and held them between her own instead. “You’re here now, and that’s all that matters.”

“How will I ever last three months without you?”

“What kind of nonsense is that? You’ll do just fine. The adventure of your life is just around the corner. I hardly think you’ll be pining for boring old Tensaw. You just see Savannah treats you well while you’re busy getting your commission, Second Lieutenant Phillip Bailey.”

A stray lock of dark blond hair fell over his eye, and feeling bold, Adela brushed it away. He caught her hand and pulled it to his lips, his coffee brown eyes sparkling in the waning daylight. The warmth of his lips on her fingertips sent tingles of excitement rushing through her, but not without a warning.

I shouldn’t be encouraging him this way. Not while I’m still so unsure… She dropped her eyes, but he mistook her guilt for something else.

“That’s what I love about you, Adela. You’re all innocence and piety.”

He cradled the back of her neck with his hand, and her insides fluttered in a dangerous way. She knew she should move away, but she felt drawn to him, like a mouse to a trap.

Adela cleared her throat, “You speak of love when we’ve only been courting a month. And, I might add, quite unofficially.” His deep affection seemed premature.

“Maybe, but I’ve known I’d marry you from the day we met.”

She’d known him since she was just a girl. A grown woman now,ow had she not noticed he cared? She opened her mouth to ask, but he placed a finger on her lips.

“Are you sure you won’t come with me? It’s not too late. We can marry tomorrow, first thing and—”

“Marry? Tomorrow?You know I can’t. You haven’t spoken to my father about courting me, much less marriage. And there’s Ellie…did you forget? You know how she adores you.”

Phillip gave her a placating smile. “She might hurt for a while, but she’ll see reason. She’s not foolish, simply a bit of a romantic…albeit misplaced.”

Adela chuckled. “Elizabeth, romantic? Determined, more likely. She decided years ago to love you, and it would take a direct message from God to persuade her otherwise.” She propped her hands on her hips, barely noticing the first chirps of the crickets. “Did you know she just rejected an offer of marriage from Mr. Pierce?”

“The schoolteacher and Ellie? Married?”

“Well, he would have liked as much.”

Phillip tipped his square chin and laughed outright.

The sound brought a smile to Adela’s face, but she chided him nonetheless. “Come now, it was a perfectly decent offer.”

Phillip wiped his eyes. “But the man is twice her age, and desperate to be married. Have you seen his cabin? Chaos!”

Adela dismissed his objections with a wave of her hand. “All that aside, I am not prepared to be at odds with my sister. So, she must not find out about us…for the time being, anyway. We’ll address the issue when you return.”

“She has to find out eventually. Why not now?”Phillip crossed his arms and gave her the back of her shoulder. He’d never been one for patience and at the moment, he reminded Adela of a spoiled child denied a piece of pie. She chuckled.

“What are you laughing about?”

“Just now, you reminded me of Mrs. Haverty’s youngest.”

His eyes darkened as he took a step closer. His stiff form towered above her. “You’re comparing me to that little monster?”

Adela sobered at the intensity of his gaze. “It was a silly thought. Please forgive me.”

He studied her in silence.

Warning bells clanged in her mind. Just as another apology formed on her tongue, he let out a puff of air and relaxed his stance. “I just want to take care of you, Adela. I want to build a home for you and provide for you, give you beautiful things and walk with you through town on my arm. Let me talk to your father tonight.”

He could be quite persuasive.Still, she refused to allow him to push her into something for which she wasn’t fully prepared.

She gave a tentative shake of the head. True to form, her hesitance produced a huff of frustration. “If not now, then when? When will that dear sister of yours ever take the news well?”

“Why would I tell her something I’m uncertain of myself?”

He scowled then spoke as if she hadn’t mentioned her ambiguity. “You need to know the moment my feet touch Tensaw soil in August I plan on asking your father for permission to court you properly.” He grasped her chin in his hand and pressed a hard kiss to her lips. “So, you’d best prepare her.”

She took a step back and smoothed out her skirt.,. “Aren’t you the bold one tonight, Mr. Bailey.”

He merely grinned and removed the bear claw pendant that always hung around his neck. “Wear this to remember me by,” he said, holding it out.

“Phillip, it was your grandfathers! I can’t. It’s too important to you.”

“Of course you can. You’re to be my wife. It means what’s mine is yours. I love you, Adela McGirth, and there’s no one else I’d give it to.” His voice rang with longing as he ran his eyes over the length of her, pausing in all the wrong places.

She resisted the urge to cross her arms over her chest. At least the dark of the night covered the blush on her cheeks. Never had a man appreciated her body the way Phillip did, and never had one assumed so much. “You’re being a bit presumptuous. Aren’t you?”

“Not at all. I’m a man who knows what he wants and doesn’t stop until he gets it.” Playfulness tinged in his tone, but Adela heard the truth behind his words. “Take the pendant. If it helps, see it as a gift from a friend. Not as a token of betrothal.”

Seen in such a way, what could it hurt?

She slipped it about her neck then gasped as he pulled her into a fierce kiss. His moist lips moved confidently against hers. Warm hands stroked her back and almost melted her resolve to remain chaste.

“I love you,” he murmured against her mouth.

She knew he wanted a similar reply, but she couldn’t give it. The words caught in her throat, as if uncertainty itself held them from escaping.

She split apart from his searching mouth and sought retreat. “Please, be careful in Savannah,” she managed. “I have to go.” She dropped her arms and ran for home, the claw thumping against her chest.

* * *

Adela climbed the ladder to the loft careful not to wake her sisters. She hung her dress on a peg and slipped into her nightgown. Phillip’s bear claw thudded against her. She clutched it through her gown as panic seized her. Had she hid it from Mama? So intent on getting home, she hadn’t thought of it until now.

Her shoulders dropped when she realized Mama would have questioned her about it if she’d seen.

The wooden timbers of the bed squeaked as Adela climbed in next to Lillian. They had always shared a bed. Even when given the option of each having their own in their more spacious, newly built house, they had both refused, preferring the warmth and closeness the other afforded.

Although the two were completely opposite one another in every way, they held a special bond. Maybe it was Adela’s quiet dependence on God which supported the more flighty Lillian, or maybe it was Lillian’s carefree spirit which drew Adela to her sister’s side. Perhaps, it was the need for an ally against Ellie’s domineering onslaughts.

Regardless, with just a year separating them, she and Lillian understood each other, thrived on their friendship.

Lillian turned over to face her. “Where have you been?” she whispered, her anger barely concealed. “I’ve been worried sick. We all have.”

“Shh! You’ll wake Ellie.” Adela glanced at Elizabeth but their older sister’s breath remained deep and even.

“Well?” Lillian hissed.

“In the woods.”

“In the woods? That’s all you’re going to say? I hope Mama believed you more than I do.”

The fearful look on Mama’s face and the way she’d clung to Adela when she’d walked through the door flashed across her mind. She tasted guilt and couldn’t swallow. “Me too. But I didn’t lie, if that’s what you’re getting at.”

Lillian practically snorted. “That would be something I would do. No, silence would be more your style.” She thumped Adela on the shoulder. “Am I not getting any more details, like where you got that—that—whatever it is hanging around your neck?”

Adela grasped the pendant. “You saw it?”

“Of course. When you got undressed, and if you don’t want anyone else to find out about it, you should be more careful. So, out with it. What have you got there?”

“It’s nothing. I shouldn’t have accepted it.”

“Nothing? I saw the way you were holding it,” she rasped.

“Shh! That’s not what I—” Would Lillian understand? “Oh, never mind.”

“Well, give me all the details. Who is he?”

“How did you know it was from a man?”

“Adela, Adela, ever so naive and oblivious. You and I don’t think the same at all. So, tell me already.”

“If I tell you, you have to promise to keep it to yourself! At least for a while. Promise?”

“Fine, I promise…just tell me.”

Adela took a deep breath, and said his name on less than a whisper.

“What? No! It’s—it’s not as if he has no reason to love you, but you? Lover of all things peaceable and non-confrontational, I never imagined you to be so audacious as to set your bonnet for Ellie’s man!”

“Shh! See why it’s a secret? No one would understand. Besides, he’s not Ellie’s man. And I’m not even sure I feel anything for him.”

“You’ve got to be half mad. You do realize Elizabeth will practically disown you?”

Adela lost the battle against her tears..

“Come on. Don’t cry. I exaggerated. It won’t be so bad. She’ll forgive you…eventually. She’s never really had a claim to him and will see it in time. But you have to tell her. You can’t keep it from her forever, and if she finds out from someone else, it’ll be worse.”

“Lilly, I’ve tried a dozen times to tell her, but I just can’t.”

Adela moaned and Lillian put a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“It’ll humiliate her, if it doesn’t kill her first,” Adela said. “I should have put an end to it before he left, especially since I’m not sure I even love him. But he’s so…”

“Handsome? Daring? Everything a woman could want in a man?”

Adela sighed and fiddled with the claw strung about her neck. “Yes, he’s all that, but there’s something missing…or maybe it’s what he has too much of. A bit too brash, maybe? Too self-confident? He angers easily, and I don’t see much of the Lord in his life.”

“Is that what’s bothering you? Do yourself a favor and stop focusing on his faults. We all have them.” She propped herself up on an elbow then paused. After a moment of silence, soft snoring from the other side of the room confirmed Ellie still slept.

Moonlight from the small window washed Lillian’s face in its glow. Their Mama’s full Spanish blood showed itself most in Lillian. Even in the dim light, she was beautiful. “It’s simple,” she said. “You tell Ellie. She’s hurt. When Phillip proposes, you accept, and in time, Ellie recovers.”

Lillian tugged the pendant from Adela’s grasp. “This was his grandfather’s. I take it Phillip loves you.”

“He claims he does.”

“And you saw him tonight to tell him goodbye?”

Adela bobbed her head.

“Your secret is safe with me, but my advice is sooner is always better than later.”

“I know. I know. I’m such a coward.”

“Hardly.” Lillian patted her hand.

It felt awkward to be the one consoled. The tables were usually turned.

.

“I didn’t plan for it to happen and now…I’m risking Ellie disowning me for a man.”

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard yet. Ellie isn’t that scary. Now why don’t you get some sleep, and we’ll talk about how to handle it tomorrow. I assume there will be a wedding when he returns. You can’t prepare for a home of your own and still keep it a secret. We’ll think of something.”

“Thanks, Lilly. Love you,” she said with a peck to her sister’s cheek.

Lillian flipped over,. Much later, her mind exhausted, she relaxed and followed her sister in sleep.

* * *

Kossati Village, Upper Creek Nation

The cabin door creaked as it opened. Nokos stepped inside careful not to wake the children. He left the door ajar allowing the moonlight to guide his steps. Its soft glow illuminated his little ones piled like counting sticks on the bearskin mat. Four sets of arms and legs were sprawled in every direction.

He brushed a kiss onto each warm forehead. The youngest stirred, flipped to his back, and wiped drool from his cheek.

He had missed them, but the reason for his early return lay in the bed on the far side of the room.

Having removed his weapons, he stretched his aching muscles and crept into bed next to his wife.

Just before leaving on his hunting trip one week earlier, he had revealed to Singing Grass his intentions to join the warring party. She wasn’t pleased.

Civil War had raged in the Creek Nation since the 1811 Grand Council. For over a year, he had publically remained neutral, along with Red Eagle.

Now, he found himself forced to choose sides. With the purpose of protecting their nation and keeping its traditions pure, the Red Sticks were executing those displaying American sympathies.

If the Long Knives were not stopped, the Muscogee would eventually be lead to starvation or worse…slavery. According to the Red Sticks, every American sympathizer must die.

Most in Kossati knew Nokos was partial to the Americans. Yes, their droves of cattle encroached on Creek land, and no, the farmers did not ask permission to run their iron plows through Creek soil. All that aside, he had found it difficult to justify fighting them.

They were powerful and well studied in war. Singing Grass was right…the Red Sticks would eventually be slaughtered.

But unless he pledged his allegiance to the Red Stick cause and soon, he would find himself taken unawares by a band of warriors.

Nokos let out his breath in a gust and sank onto the bearskin pallet.

Singing Grass stretched an arm across his chest, and propped her small pointed chin on his shoulder. “You are home early.” With familiar affection, she traced the lines and circles tattooed on his neck and awakened a hunger within him.

He sought her lips and kissed her deeply. “I did not mean to wake you. How are you feeling?”

“Hungry—all the time.” She hammered his chest with her forefinger. “You left the hunt early to ask me if I am well?”

“It’s no matter. There was no game to hunt.” He tried to keep the frustration from his voice. No need to worry her.

“Nothing? You caught nothing?”

“Three rabbits and a squirrel, as if I were just a boy. No one else had done any better when I left. I doubt one more day would have mattered much.” He pulled her closer. “I would rather be home with you than listening to their talk of war, death, and starv—” He cut his words short.

“You do not have to hide things from me. I’m pregnant–not blind and deaf. I know what is happening.”

“We’ll be fine.”

“You’re joining the Red Sticks. I hardly think it is fine. They will kill themselves in vain. Must you?”

“Yes, I must.” Should he reveal to her Gray Hawk’s warning to be quick in choosing sides? That his name had been whispered among those whose loyalty was in question?

“The prophets are insane! Surely you have not succumbed to their antics?”

“Of course not. I’m no fool.”

The sighting of a star with a fiery tail traveling across the sky a month after Tecumseh’s departure had frenzied the Creeks. It was the “sign”, they said. It was the “arm of fire” Tecumseh had claimed would prove his prophecies were from the Great Spirit. A strongly superstitious people, the sighting had driven the Creeks into the Red Stick faction by the thousands.

True to his word, Tecumseh had left several prophets to train the Creeks to lead their people in the war dances. In most every village, the rhythms and tunes became familiar. With devotion, men and women believed the tales told by new prophets.

“Look what madness has overcome our people,” Singing Grass said. “They are being led to the slaughter! We shame ourselves, and our children will pay. Pushmatahaw is a wise chief. He was right to force Tecumseh from his nation. Because he did, the Choctaw were spared this insanity. If only our chiefs had done the same…”

“Lower your voice,” Nokos cautioned. “Do you want the children to repeat what you say? We’re already at risk. Careless words could be our destruction.”

She sat up, and her single braid slipped from her shoulder and landed on his chest with a soft thud. “What do you mean we are already at risk?”

“My past will not be forgiven. I must clearly oppose the Americans.”

“And what of your past? Will you pretend it does not exist? Will you spit in the faces of those who love you?”

“Red Eagle has joined the war party,” Nokos said, preferring to ignore her difficult questions.

“You should go to Big Warrior, join his White ranks in Tuckabatchee. I hear all who desire peace with the Americans are flocking to his protection.”

“I agree with Big Warrior, but sooner or later, Tuckabatchee will be under siege and his White warriors will be forced to surrender to the Red Sticks. I either submit now or later.” Nokos shook his head. “No. No, I will do as I vowed and follow Red Eagle. He is a clever warrior, and will lead us well.”

The moment Nokos heard the half-Scottish, half-Creek chief had joined the Red Sticks, he knew what he must do. “If Red Eagle, as influential and powerful as he is, has been forced at the threat of his family’s life to join the Red Sticks, how will I avoid it?”

With his gaze, he caressed the mother of his children. She was so vulnerable. And the little ones. Who would protect them when he went away? If he died? At least now, he would not have to fear his own people turning against them. Most found it much easier to wish their enemy’s demise…not so with Nokos.

She brought his attention back to her by running her warm hand down his cheek. “Wipe the worry from your face, husband,” she said, resolve in her voice. She sniffed once then swallowed. “All will be well. Do what you must.” She dropped next to him and clung to his chest, her hair tickling the underside of his chin.

He hadn’t realized how much her approval meant to him until he obtained it. Resting a hand on the slight bulge of her belly, he prayed to whatever god would listen that this dear woman be spared the sufferings and hardships which were the sisters of war.