Love between a white woman and a Cherokee warrior is forbidden in Virginia in the 1820s. After killing her brother in self-defense, Lyrissa Murphy escapes to the shelter of Crazy Woman Cave. When Gray Horse Redhand tracks her there, he realizes their survival depends on joining forces and traveling to the west. Before they have the chance to leave, their encounter with a dangerous enemy leads to the discovery of an ancient burial and a beautiful spear.
Fleeing deadly pursuit from her unbalanced father, Lyrissa and Gray enter a new, unknown world. There they face threatening encounters with vicious warriors and strange animals, discover a magical future, and fall deeply in love. Their shared desire sustains and encourages them as the mysterious, enchanted spear points the way to the Dragon Fort of the Tuatha where they finally accept their new, unexpected home in the heart of Cabhán Geal.
Lyrissa shivered as she crouched next to the fire. After studying the strange beast, she was already alert for trouble.
Darkness blanketed the canyon, and Gray still hadn’t returned to the camp. Hemmed in by the smothering night, Lyrissa kept a wary eye on the horses, confident they would sound the alarm at the first whiff of danger. The rustles of small beasts and rising insect songs reassured her that no predators stalked nearby.
And still he did not come.
Burgeoning fear crept into the clearing, seizing her breath with cruel talons. She crushed back the urgent need to stalk the canyon floor in search of the man who matched her soul and filled her heart. He was a man, a warrior, more than capable of surviving in this strange wilderness. Why, then, did her fear grow with every heartbeat?
What preyed in the shadows, watching with hungry eyes, waiting for her to wander by? The small hairs on her spine rose in primal alarm. Without thought, she reached behind her, fumbling for the spear from the cave. Gray had shown her the repaired shaft when they moved their camp. In her grasp the spear took on a pale blue glow and thrummed with power.
Judge growled, low and menacing, as he faced toward the trail leading up from the canyon floor, his hair bristling along his spine.
Silence, pregnant with violent possibilities, spread in the woods. A lone, harsh cry echoed from the treetops. Standing at the edge of their tiny clearing, Lyrissa cocked her head, listening as a soft breeze ruffled the leaves. Off to the west, the muffled roar of the waterfall filled the quiet.
Crouching, easing one step forward, Lyrissa inhaled, catching the scents carried on the breeze. Cinnamon, the spicy odor of crushed cedar, and the coppery smell of blood. Edging closer to the fire, facing the darkness with her back to the camp, she closed her eyes.
There! The faintest hint of mint and tallow. Her fingers tightened on the smooth ash staff, gripping with terrified strength.
Abruptly the spear spun within her grip, burning her palm, a low, hair-raising wail building until the cool night air vibrated with the shriek of the spear. Lyrissa’s fist opened, releasing the staff, and the spear flew through the trees, circling their camp faster and faster with a pale-blue tail of smoke in its wake.
After one sharp, high-pitched bark, Judge dived into the willow shelter Gray had built for them to rest in. Cowering on the blankets, he whined in distress.
Suddenly the spear shot off into the dark. Lyrissa raced headlong after it, heedless of the branches and roots blocking her way. With a keening moan, it flew up the wall to the edge of the cliff. Lyrissa rushed up the path in the spear’s wake in time to witness its plunge into the churned ground with an earthshaking thud as she burst onto the moonlit clearing at the top of the cliff. Sprawled dangerously near the edge, Gray still grasped his knife in one bloodstained hand. Two of the dark warriors lay dead nearby in a narrow shadow, tumbled like dirty laundry.
She dropped to her knees next to him, crying out with relief when his eyes met hers. “Where are you hurt?” she demanded fiercely.
With a weary grimace, he shook his head. “Everywhere. Help me up.”
She grappled with his arms, struggling to hold on to the flesh that was slippery with blood and other things she was grateful she couldn’t identify. At last, when he was on his feet, she draped his arm over her shoulder and shoved the spear, butt down, in his other hand. “Did they cut you again?”
He groaned as they shuffled down the trail to the narrow path to the hot pool. “I don’t know. Truly, I just fought to stay alive.”
“You did well. They’re dead. You’re alive.”
“One of them was a white man. He ran when the spear whistled up from the canyon.”
“As I can be. He wore clothing like Neville. We have to leave.”
“Not until you’re well enough.” They staggered back and forth, bouncing off rough tree trunks, cursing at thorny bushes they brushed against, as they made their way to the pool where she bathed him before they returned to camp.
“It would please me exceedingly if you would cease returning to camp more battered than when you left,” she scolded as she sluiced him down with handfuls of warm water. “Our medicine is nearly gone. Our bandages are drying on the line. And my spear is possessed by a demon.”
He cupped her chin in his palm and kissed her tenderly. “I’m sorry you were scared.”
They stood in the moonlight, looking in each other’s eyes for a long moment. Then she said softly, “Well. Don’t do it again.”
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