This is a sad day and a happy day. This is the last Tuesday Teaser for Wolf’s Lady. After 8 months, I have completed the rough draft of this novella. Yes, at last Sand and Amanda have their happy-ever-after. I’m going to put it aside for six or seven weeks and work exclusively on Wolf’s Princess. Then I’ll come back to it, polish it up, send it out to the beta readers and then publish it on Smashwords for free on or around December 5.
This is the last snippet. What do you think?
Three days later Mrs. Sand Wolfe walked into Omaha’s train station, escorted by her husband and his three cousins, all of whom were loaded down with her luggage. Amanda felt bad about that, but she’d given more than half her things away. It wasn’t as hard as she’d expected to part with her black leather dominatrix boots and collection of whips. She had divided her working wardrobe between the other ladies at Sky’s House and kept only her street clothes, her jewelry and a few mementos of her family.
The station wasn’t crowded, so she had no problem seeing the plump girl in a gray novice dress standing beside the tired-looking man in a threadbare suit. “Daddy!” she cried, and Sand gave her hand a quick squeeze before letting her go.
This might be the last time she would feel her father’s arms around her. Then Sara was hugging her and trying fiercely not to cry. “I have another letter for stone if you’ll take it.”
“Of course I will.” Amanda took the envelope and pushed it into her handbag.
“Tell him … Tell him…”
Amanda hugged her again. “I will. I’ll tell him you’re good and brave. I’ll tell him what a good nurse you are, how you took care of Sand.” She frowned. “And I’ll tell him to get his ass to Omaha and fetch you. I wish you were coming with us.”
“Me too.” Sara sent a glance up at her uncle. “I wish we were all going with you. But we don’t have the money to get me released from the city.” This time her glance was at the City Guardsmen who stood at their posts in the station. Their job there was not only to keep the peace, but also to interview anyone coming into the city and anyone going out.
“It won’t be too long until you leave Omaha,” Amanda said bracingly. “We’ll see each other again soon.”
“Soon,” Sara agreed.
Amanda looked at her dad and touched a hand to the brooch pinning her mother’s shawl closed over her heart. “I’m going to miss you.”
“I’ll miss you too, little girl.” His eyes were misty. “Your mother would be so proud of you. You’ve come through hard things and still you’re standing tall. You’re going to have a fine life, with a fine man.”
Amanda kissed his cheek. “Daddy, please don’t be embarrassed, but I have to tell you. The hard things? You mean working in Sky’s House, don’t you? Well, that wasn’t so hard. I didn’t mind it. Not so much, at least. But now that’s over, and I’m glad. I never have to worry about how to please an appointment. I never have to worry again about what to do, or say, or wear, to make a man happy. Sand is happy with me no matter what I wear, or do, or say. He loves me.” She swallowed a trembling sigh with a smile. “And I love him.”
A tear slipped down her father’s face, making a wrinkle into a silver river. “Then I know you’ll be happy, little girl. Give me one more kiss, then you better get back to your husband and get on that train.”
She tore herself away from her family and found Sky and Sand waiting for her. She gave Sky a hug. “I’m going to miss you, you know,” she told him.
“I’ll miss you too. We’ll see each other again. I’m not staying in Omaha forever. Just until…” He glanced quickly around, noting how close some Guardsmen were. “Just until business is settled here.”
“You should come now,” she urged. “Think of Rose.”
A shadow crossed his face, so quick she almost missed it, but he shook his head. “I can’t. What would happen to Ms. Mary? Think of Cayla, Aimee, Tasha, and all the other ladies.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “What about all the women in Omaha? No, I can’t leave yet.”
Sand clasped his hand. “I understand,” he said. “You’re doing a good thing.”
Sky slipped an envelope out of his coat pocket and handed it to Sand. “Give this to Rose, will you?”
Sand was wearing jeans and a slightly too-tight undershirt. He held the letter with one hand and patted himself with the other, looking for a place to put it. Amanda took it and put it in her bag with Sara’s letter to Stone. “We’ll be sure she gets it.”
Dean Erikson approached with a clipboard under his arm and gave her a deep, respectful nod. “Mrs. Wolfe, are you ready to conclude your release paperwork?”
Amanda pulled the whistle from around her neck, dragging her long hair out of the beaded neck loop. “I am.”
She read the form that said that she was no longer a resident of Omaha and signed her name with large, bold letters. Dean countersigned and gave her a copy. “Keep your whistle. It will remind you of what Omaha has become.”
That was an odd thing for a Guardsman to say. Amanda put the whistle back over her head and sent a glance at Sky, wondering if he had gained the lieutenant’s loyalty.
“Safe travels, Mr. and Mrs. Wolfe. Omaha will miss you.” Dean offered a hand to Sand and spoke in a very low voice. “We’ll be watching Askup. Thank you for letting us deal with him.”
Sand showed his teeth in a silent snarl. Amanda put a hand over his clenched fist. “Thank you, Lieutenant. Sand, did our luggage get loaded?”
With an obvious effort, Sand pulled himself back. “Snow and Paint took it on the train already. We should go.”
They walked slowly through the station to the platform outside. Sky, her father, and Sara went with them. Dean and another Guardsman came too, a few yards behind, their gazes on Sara. Did they think Sara was going to hop on the train to escape Omaha?
After one last round of hugs, Amanda allowed Sand to help her up the steps to the train. The conductor tipped his hat and opened the door for them. Snow and Paint were already in the car, keeping the other four passengers away by the force of their glares alone. Amanda walked to the seats Paint indicated and stood at the window with her back pressed against Sand’s front. On the platform she saw her father put an arm around Sara, and the girl lean her forehead against his shoulder. Amanda knew her cousin was crying. Sky stood a little behind them, arms folded, face sober.
“This is so hard,” Amanda whispered, pressing her hand on the window. “I’m glad to be going home with you, but I’ll miss my family.”
“I know. They’ll come to the den soon and then we’ll all be together.”
The train jerked, then crept forward. Her father raised a hand. She smiled for him until the platform was left behind and she couldn’t see him anymore, and then she collapsed in her seat, fighting tears.
“Well, this is stupid,” she said, trying to make her voice cheery while she dug in her bag for a handkerchief. “I told myself I wasn’t going to cry.”
Sand took her hankie and wiped her eyes. “Nothing wrong with crying. I sure like the way your eyes look when you cry. They’re bluer than the sky.”
She gave him a tiny frown.
“And your skin gets kind of pink when you cry. It’s real pretty.”
She snorted and took the hankie back to blow her nose. “I’m fine now.”
The warmth of his arm around her shoulders was comforting. “You know, I heard what you said to your father.”
She sniffed and looked up at him. “You did? About what?”
“Uh-huh. You said that you didn’t have to worry anymore about how you should act or what you should wear or what you should say to make a man happy. And that’s right. I know that a lot of your appointments wanted you to dress up a certain way, like maybe a little girl, and pretend to be that while you were with them.” He gazed down into her face with a solemn smile. “I don’t love you because of what you wear. You don’t need to pretend to be anything for me. I love you, Amanda Irene Felts Nelson Wolfe, and you can dress whatever way you want as long as you keep loving me.”
Damn it, that started the tears again. She dug her hankie back out. “I’ll always love you. And I know you love me. You gave up your revenge on Terry Askup for me.”
For a fraction of a second the shoulder she leaned her head against stiffened. It relaxed immediately. “Taking you home with me is more important. Sky will take care of Askup.”
When she put the handkerchief back in her bag her knuckles brushed over the two letters there. The one from Sara was fat, and so was the one in her suitcase, the one Sara gave her a week ago at supper. The one from Sky was thin, probably only one page. Poor Sara, pouring her heart out to a man who barely responded. Poor Rose, getting a letter that probably covered no more than half a sheet of paper.
It was easy to feel sympathy for those two women because while they languished without their husbands, she had hers sitting right beside her. She lifted her hand to one of his long, thick braids and slid her hand down it.
“I love you, Caleb Running in Sand Wolfe.”
She tried to pronounce his name in Lakota, which she had learned at their wedding, and was sure she had butchered it. But a happy glow lit his eyes. His kiss was tender.
“I can’t wait to show you off to my Clan,” he told her. “They will love you.”
With every whoosh of the train rolling over the tracks, Omaha fell further and further behind her. Her old life was over; a new one was beginning. She settled into her seat faced forward to meet that new life head on. Sand’s hand clasping her own reminded her she wouldn’t be walking into a new life alone. The man she loved would walk beside her.
Look for the complete, polished story to be available the first week of December!