Tuesday Teaser 2/6/18 Gina’s Wolf Part 3
Here in North Dakota it is still winter. In some places winter is winding down (or it is summer) but we can expect another 6-8 weeks, or more. We’ve had some nasty snowstorms in April in the past. But maybe this year will be an early spring. I love winter, and even I am getting tired of it. I hope you are a=enjoying beautiful weather wherever you are.
I mention weather because poor Gina is going to be quite cold for the next chapter. Again, this is very raw. I think I need to up the tension at the dinner party and make it a little more interesting. The point of the dinner party is to make sure you, the reader, detest Jon and Tanner. I wonder if I need to fill in any more info about the other ladies. They don’t have a big impact on the story, though, so I’m not sure. But the end of this section picks up the pace.
Only her stepfather would throw a dinner party in a tent when the temperature had dropped below freezing. What’s more, he expected ladies to wear low cut dresses to the dinner. Gina wished for a thick shawl to drape over her bare shoulders. Not just because it was cold, but because that nasty old Brother Saul was leering at her cleavage. He was discreet about it, but Gina caught him at it. When she did, the old man just bared yellow teeth in a smile that made her want to vomit. Thank goodness he was seated across the table at her father’s right hand.
Her mother, as the ranking Mrs. Todd present, sat at the foot of the table with Fourth Mrs. Tod on her right and Fifth Mrs. Todd on her left. Gina sat between Jon and Tanner on her stepfather’s left. Her stepfather’s sister, Tamara, was next to Brother Saul. Gina liked Tammy. Too bad she had to sit next to the old man. The remaining seats were occupied by the ranking men of her stepfather’s army.
Dinner was served by young privates in dress uniforms. They brought in baskets of bread, with small crocks of butter, cheese, and jellies, followed by steaming tureens of soup. One of the privates served her a bowl of soup. The warmth and the scent of it was alluring. Cream of chicken. Gina stared at the creamy broth.
Tanner leaned close. “Do you like the soup?” he asked eagerly.
She took a spoonful and almost swooned at the richness of the broth. Since the forces from Omaha had destroyed the camp’s supplies a week ago, meals had been lean. The President and his family had eaten a little better than the army, but all of them had been on short rations. Todd’s men had been combing the countryside for wild game, and augmented their hunting by collecting food from the local population. At the end of winter, no one had vast quantities of food stores left, but the army of Kansas-Missouri ruthlessly confiscated what they found. Gina hated to think she was eating food stolen from people who had worked hard for it, but she was cold and hungry, so she ate.
“Do you?” Tanner said insistently.
“Yes,” she replied truthfully. In the minefield of politics and her stepfather’s insanity, it might be the only truth she told tonight.
Tanner’s grin was smug. “It’s all from our commune.”
Gina lowered her spoon. “The soup?”
Tanner’s sigh said she was an moron. “The cream, the chickens, the eggs, and butter.”
“Oh.” Gina wasn’t sure what else to say, so she went back to eating.
From her other side, Jon offered her a thick slice of bread thickly buttered. “What my idiot brother is trying to tell you,” he said smoothly, “is that the wagons we sent to Falls City to bring provisions arrived today. You don’t need to worry about being hungry.”
“That’s good to know,” she said politely.
Tanner leaned close. “The Brotherhood knows how to work the land. We never go hungry. Our women get their fair share of the food, too.”
Gina plastered an impressed expression on her face. “How very egalitarian of you,” she said gravely.
Tanner’s prominent forehead furrowed in obvious confusion. Gina hid a smirk. She hadn’t expected him to understand words with more than two syllables.
Jon shook his head at her with a condescending smile. “Men and women are not equal. Men, who have more responsibility, occupy a higher status than women. But that is not to say women are unimportant or without worth. They are honored as mothers. That is their glory.”
“We make sure our women are given everything they need,” Tanner put in. “Even rebellious women have food and clothes after they learn how to behave. You’ll find that out next month when you come to Falls City.”
A month. Only a month of freedom before she would have to marry these smug men who thought a women’s worth was measured only by her children? Too bad there wasn’t anything hard in the soup. Gina longed to crunch down on something. She only bent her head and stared at her empty bowl. It was a subservient position the President approved of. It had the advantage of hiding her face.
“There,” said her stepfather heartily. “You will be taken good care of in Falls City. I did right to reward our allies. When those thugs from Omaha snuck into my camp and burned my supplies, they thought we would retreat in ignominious haste. But thanks to good Brother Saul and his Brotherhood, we have plenty of food to last some time. Omaha will regret attacking me.”
Gina almost looked up, but remembered in time to keep her head down. Reminding him that those thugs had also taken his women captive and forced him to agree to a nonaggression pact would be stupid. She chewed bread vigorously.
With another smirk, Tanner pinched her upper arm. His smile was scary. “You don’t want to marry into the Brotherhood, do you?” When she didn’t answer he pinched her harder. “Do you?”
She swallowed bread. “It was unexpected,” she said carefully.
“Maybe you want to run away and marry that Native werewolf.”
Colby. For a moment, she saw him in her mind’s eye, tall and broad shouldered, black hair gleaming in the sun, a stubbornly set expression on his face when he told her she belonged to him. She shrugged indifferently and buttered another slice of bread. “I barely knew him and didn’t like him.”
Tanner’s fingers reached for her arm again, ready to pinch. Her stepfather’s voice stopped him. Tanner might not have recognized that very pleasant tone, but Gina did. She froze, keeping her head bent.
“Young Tanner, my daughter has displeased me, but she is my daughter, and I expect you to treat her with the respect she deserves. Do we understand each other?”
Tanner sat back. “Yes, sir.”
Gina noted the surly tone. She was sure that as soon as they were away from her stepfather’s reach, she would be a mass of bruises. Her future as the wife of multiple misogynistic men turned her stomach. Eating the rest of the dinner seemed impossible, but she forced herself to chew and swallow the roasted venison, the creamed corn, and the dried apple pie. She would need her strength to get through whatever would come next.
After the meal, the ladies were excused so the men could put their heads together and lay their plans. Gina would have loved to linger and listen, but her mother firmly ushered her out. At least she didn’t have to put up with Tanner and Jon anymore. AS the cluster of women approached the harem tent, she turned from the other women.
“Georgina?” her mother said sternly.
“I need to use the facilities,” she said airily.
One of the guards flanking the door flap halted her. “Beg pardon, Miss Todd,” he said diffidently. “The president has instructed us to escort you wherever you want to go.”
“I’m just going to the latrine.”
“Yes, Miss. I will escort you.” Even in the starlight she could see the blush that rose to his cheeks. “You’ll need to leave your wrap here, please.”
“But it’s cold.”
The blush darkened. “Yes, Miss. President’s orders.”
I won’t be likely to run away without something to keep me warm, she thought sarcastically. “Alright. Mom, will you take my shawl?”
Her mother took the wrap with a frown. “You have a chamber pot in the tent,” she began.
“I need some fresh air.”
It really was cold. Gina hurried over the icy ground to the row of tents erected over the latrines. She wanted to escape. In fact, after dinner with Jon and Tanner, she was determined to escape. But running off with a guard hanging on her heels and without provisions or even a coat was impossible. And this young private –Carson? Carleton?—would be in big trouble if she ran away when he was guarding her. She would just be married off to a repulsive commune of misogynists; he would be executed.
She left him waiting a few respectful yards from the latrine tent and did her business as quickly as she could. When she came out of the tent she didn’t see him standing where she had left him. She glanced around, confused. On her second glance she focused on the ground, looking for tracks to show where he had gone, and that’s when she found him.
The gallant young private was a crumpled shape dark against the moonlit snow. A black shadow spilled over the snow around his head. She rushed forward. A large, dark animal sprung out of nowhere to block her path. It was a dog. No, it was a wolf. A wolf? The huge head was level with her waist. Fangs gleamed ivory in a gaping maw. Gina froze, not even breathing. There were dark streaks on the teeth. Blood? Gina finally remembered to breathe.
Her scream died in her throat. The top of the broad head had no fur, only a raw place were blood had clotted. She had seen only one wolf up close in her life. She swallowed a shuddering breath.
“Colby?” she whispered.