Sunday, 18 August 2013

Beneath The Shining Mountains - Linda Acaster

‘Lover? I have no lover! I am chaste. There’s not a man alive who can entice me.’
   Moon Hawk is playing a dangerous game. Her heart is set on Winter Man, but why would a man with so many lovers want to take a wife?
   Challenging his virility captures Winter Man’s attention, but in a village of skin tipis where every word is overheard their escalating game of tease and spar soon spirals beyond control, threatening Moon Hawk and her family with ridicule and shame. Is this Winter Man’s intention? Or are they both dancing to another's tune?
   From buffalo hunting to horse raiding, this is a story of honour among rival warrior societies, and one woman's determination to wed the man of her dreams.

Available as a paperback and ebook.

   Winter Man sat on the damp earth watching his string of horses quietly grazing the remnants of the autumn pasture. He’d gathered his mounts together away from the tipis to decide which and how many he would give to Bear On The Flat, but his mind was reluctant to dwell on the etiquette surrounding the exchange of bridal gifts. He’d lain awake most of the night thinking of Moon Hawk, arousing himself with memories of the way she’d responded to his kisses, dreaming of future nights when they’d be together.
   The tingling anticipation of lying with a willing woman was nothing new to him, but he couldn’t recall when it had been so fierce, or had lasted so long. Making love was an enjoyable pastime, but so were racing horses and wagering on dice. Each excited his spirit in its own way, but only for a short time. What Moon Hawk had fired in him was possessing his senses to the exclusion of all else. 
   He hadn’t given thought to it earlier, but every one of his numerous lovers had known a man before they had lain with him. He’d accepted it without concern; after all, it meant he could enjoy without having to teach. Yet, holding Moon Hawk in his arms had shown him how wrong he’d been. Innocent of the pleasures she could offer or thrill to, her sexuality stretched before him as pure and unsullied as a fresh fall of snow. What power lay in his hands. To watch her grow from a dormant seed into a woman alive with the knowledge of her own sensuality . . . What a source of fascination. And he could have lost her, acting like a fool because of his wounded pride.
   He resented the way Bear On The Flat had manipulated him, it was true. On occasions he resented Moon Hawk, too, for being so sure of gaining him, but he regretted, now, his decision to stand before Bear On The Flat’s lodge in the poorest clothes he could find. He felt ashamed of the aggressive sense of elation he’d experienced when he’d seen the disappointment on Moon Hawk’s face. The rest of the marriage ritual — the offering of horses and gifts to her father and brothers — he’d fulfil with such flair that the people would talk of it for years. He’d make Moon Hawk’s face light again.
   ‘You are deep in thought. Have you decided how many horses you are going to offer for her?’
   Winter Man raised his gaze and smiled at Hillside. ‘Not yet. How many do you suggest?’
   Hillside shrugged and crouched opposite him, pulling idly at a tuft of grass. He looked wary, Winter Man thought, and then he remembered how abrupt he’d been after the hunt, when Hillside had welcomed him as one returned from the dead. He regretted that, too. It seemed that there were a great many things to regret. Since the beginning of the summer the normal stability of his life had been turned upside-down. It was almost as if First Maker had tied his spirit to an unbroken stallion and whipped the animal into flight. Either that or Trickster had got its teeth into him.
   ‘You seem very certain that Bear On The Flat will accept horses from you.’
   Winter Man had confided to no one his and Bear On The Flat’s conversation when they’d lain injured in the wash; he wasn’t going to start now. ‘We’ve settled our differences.’
   ‘What about his sons? Will you be offering horses to them, too?’
   ‘It will be expected that I should.’
   Hillside raised his eyebrows. ‘Are you ready to receive them back with their legs slashed?’
   Winter Man frowned. The thought had crossed his mind. Antelope Dancer was a Fox, like himself. At the last society meeting he had simply stood and walked away when Winter Man had approached. His younger brother, the hot-headed Runs His Horse, belonged to the Lumpwoods, and Winter Man had heard from his own relatives that the young man was losing no opportunity to denounce him. Slashing the legs of offered bridal horses was something he might not wish to pass by.
   ‘I think I’ll give them all to Bear On The Flat, saying that they are for him and his family, and let him sort it out.’
   ‘You’ll have to judge the number you offer him. If his sons refuse to help him collect reciprocal gifts for your family, you may unwittingly insult him by giving more wealth than he can return. Remember, his wife is a captured woman. She has no relatives of her own to turn to.’
   Winter Man rubbed a hand down his face and shook his head. ‘It would have been so much easier if Moon Hawk had just eloped with me!’

Beneath The Shining Mountains is available as an ebook & paperback from:
Amazon USA ¦ Amazon UK ¦ Barnes & Noble ¦ Apple ¦ Kobo ¦
all e-formats Smashwords

Linda Acaster is a writer of historical and paranormal romance, and a guide to writing short fiction. Catch her at: Website ¦ Facebook ¦ Twitter

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