from Hearts Stolen

HEARTS STOLEN Historic Christian Romance, set in 1839-1844 Texas Book Two of the Texas Romance series Main Characters : Rosaleen 'Sassy' Fogelsong Nightengale (15 in Chapter One, 1839), Levi Bartholomew Baylor (26 - teenage  nephew in Vow Unbroken ), Wallace Rusk (24),  Laura Langley (15), Charley Nightengale (4); Appearances y Henry and Sue Buckmeyer and Rebecca Baylor from Vow Unbroken.) Premise : No problem is too hard for God, no obstacle too big. Synopsis : Unbeknownst to loved ones, a headstrong young wife is snatched off the prairie by two Comanche Braves, carried north of the Red River, and traded to their war chief for ponies. After five years, a small detail of Texas Rangers rides into camp, and she determines that day will bring freedom or death.She'll remain captive no more.

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 Read Chapter One: Just thinking about him made Sassy want to stick her tongue out like she used to do to her father when he ordered her around. But Charles had married her, and she promised to love, honor, and obey him. She loved the man alright, leastwise she guessed she did. If he’d only treat her like a wife, not a child... Of everyone, he should understand most that she was grown; coming on sixteen, as mature as she would ever get. Rosaleen he’d called her. She hated her given name. Pshaw, she could do both, visit her mamma and have his ol’ supper ready. As the sun peeked over the treetops, Sassy leaned forward and tickled the mare’s ribs with her heels. “Haw, pretty girl; we don’t have all day. He said he’ll be back by dark.” Stretching her gait, the mare flew over the rolling terrain. The wind whipped Sassy’s hair behind her. Oh, how she loved riding, always had. In barely any time, she slowed the mare into a lope and topped the last hill before Kickapoo Creek where she always let Bliss get a sweet drink, but not too much, from the easy flowing stream. With only another eight miles to her folks’ place, she might make it in time for some breakfast leftovers. She clicked her tongue. Bliss cleared the far bank then her snort and shiver pulled Sassy’s attention to follow the mare’s gaze. Two bare-chested Indians sat on painted ponies. The bigger one pointed a long handled club at her and whooped. Sassy hammered her heels into the mare’s ribs. The gray shot forward hitting a full gallop in fewer than ten strides. Calm, stay calm, but her heart beat like the nines. She’d never lost a race in her life, not on Bliss. She definitely couldn’t lose this one. With a good lead, she’d outrun the little ponies. But as much as she pressed the mare, Sassy didn’t feel the horse giving the normal punch she counted on. Never should’ve run almost the whole way to the Kickapoo. Should have thought… She glanced under her arm. They cut the butter and were closing in. Her heart skipped a beat. She tensed and held her breath. Willed her horse to run faster. She slapped the reins back and forth across Bliss’ neck. Laid low on top her mane. Where should she go? Was anyone nearer than her Daddy? HSwhoopsBehindHerThe whoops behind her moved closer. Everything happened in slow motion. One of the Indians came even. He glanced over and smiled a sickening grin. She couldn’t breathe. No God, no. His dark skinned hand reached toward her mare’s head. Sassy yanked Bliss the other way, but he grabbed the bridle. No, God. He reined his paint squealing words Sassy didn’t know. Bliss matched the slower pace of the pony beside her. Sassy swiped at his hand. “Let go! Get your hand off my horse!” She slapped his arm with the ends of her reins. The second rode up on the opposite side and grabbed hold of her arm. He yanked his horse to a stop. Bliss ran right out from under Sassy. She went flying through the air screaming. Gravity claimed its due, and she hit the ground. She stumbled then found her feet and ran. Her stupid petticoats and skirt tangled around her ankles. She tripped and ate a mouthful of black dirt. The Indians laughed. She scrambled to her feet and faced them, spitting dirt, her fists balled. “Come on, you think you can take me.” They looked at one another and spoke strange words. One punched the other on the shoulder, grinning. “Sure, go ahead. Have your fun. I’ll show you.” They slid off their ponies. The smaller of the two started toward her, jumping out of reach each time she took a swing. The bigger one moved in closer. Sassy jabbed hard with her left fist and caught him square on the jaw. “Haw! Teach you to mess with me.” Didn’t grow up with five brothers for nothing. Reeling, he rubbed his face. The smaller boy laughed at him, slapping his belly with one hand, waving at the air with his other. Sore Jaw shouted angry words and pointed, and the other quit laughing. He looked at her and grinned that same sickening smile when he’d grabbed Bliss. “Come on, you little coward. Scared of a girl?” He stepped in fast. A swift kick to his gut doubled him over. Both his hands grabbed his middle. An upper cut caught his chin solid. Dazed him. She jabbed his nose with a left. Followed with a haymaker to his jaw. He stumbled back and to the side. The big one laughed and pointed obviously making great fun of his friend. Little Coward glared, barred his teeth and ran straight at her. Stepping sideways, she tripped on her torn bloomers. Hit her square and knocked her backwards. He landed on top, straddling her. She couldn’t breathe, needed air. He held her arms down with his knees and spat in her face. “Aaagghh. Get off me.” He hit her hard, harder than any of her brothers ever had. She bucked and bumped then rolled full circle out from beneath him then away. Taking full advantage of his lost balance, she kicked him again. Scooted backwards on the ground glaring. The savage would never make her cry. He scrambled to his feet, leapt at her. Hit her again and again in the face, stomach, chest and arms. Sassy crumpled to the ground and curled up. He kicked her until the bigger one pulled him off. His words sounded angry. Little Coward stood over her and spat on her face. She lay perfectly still. Her head pounded against her skull, like a busted watermelon, its red meat lying out in the sun. Everything hurt. Sore Jaw grabbed her hand and pulled her up and forward, but her feet offered no foundation. Her legs refused to hold her erect. He ducked one shoulder and threw her over it. Could her upside down view be a sign of her life now? Nothing would ever be right again. Little Coward sneered. Her arms dangled toward the ground swinging as her captor walked. He threw her over Bliss, her stomach across the saddle then tied her hands and feet to the stirrups. Oh dear Lord. She should have listened to Charles.Fleurline PageBREAKSOnly after Swift Arrow crossed many creeks and the sun lay well below the horizon did he stop his march. Once he cut her loose and hobbled his new gray pony to graze, he relaxed, sat on his haunches, and chewed on a chunk of buffalo jerky. In the last of the day’s pale light, he studied the fiery haired female as she lay on her side. He held out the dried meat, and though knowing she wouldn’t understand the People’s tongue, asked, “Want something to eat?” She spit at him then rattled off strange words. Crazy woman. Even with her hands tied behind her back and her legs bound, she struggled against the leather straps. Never had he seen or heard about a white woman fighting like this one. Even now, her face ugly and swollen, both eyes blackened, she glared with hate. Little Beaver stood. “I will kill her and eat her liver. The old ones will sing about this day for years.” Swift Arrow jumped to his feet. “She is worth many ponies. No one will kill the woman. I subdued her. She is mine.” “Ha. Only after I beat all the fight out of the white wild cat. You must share her price.” His friend glared then held up two fingers. “No, three.” He added a finger. “Bold Eagle will give his best horses for that fiery head.” “Agreed, but you will not touch one hair.” He tossed the last bite of jerky at the white woman. It landed a hand’s span away from her mouth. He faced his friend. “Rest now. The moon will show our way tonight. We cross the river before anyone knows she’s gone.”

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Sassy wanted the piece of meat, but wasn’t about to eat it off the dirt, or let that Indian think she would accept any crumb he had to offer. She wasn’t sure exactly what Little Coward had in mind, but from his tone, was grateful that the bigger one had put an end to it. She closed her eyes and willed her self to rest. Sooner or later, one of them would untie her, and then she’d be gone. Instead of sleep, the morning’s events replayed again and again before her mind’s eye. Each command Charles issued and all the angry words she’d loosed right up until he left. Every rebellious step she took after that haunted her. Would he guess what had happened to her? Would anyone ever know? He would see she’d taken Bliss, but would he bother to check on her? He might think for a day or two that she was upset and staying at her parents’. So wrapped up in his logging, the man might not have even come home. Wouldn’t be the first time he stayed in the woods all night without so much as a word. Or an apology. Or boo, or anything. The more she pondered her predicament, the more tears tried to well. But no matter how bad things got, she would never let the Indians see her cry. None of her brothers had ever seen her cry since – when? She couldn’t remember, but she hadn’t been too old when she decided they’d never get her goat again. Her brothers. If they only knew, they would come for her. Images of her family flooded her soul. Mama and Daddy. Would she ever see any of them again this side of heaven? Oh Lord! Why did He let it happen? Had she really been that bad? She only wanted to visit her mother and help her get the apples put up. Maybe take home something out of Mama’s garden for Charles’ supper. Strong hands jerked her to her feet. Sore Jaw threw her over Bliss then tied her as before. She already hurt all over and hated riding like that. He said something to his partner, then they were off again. Upside down, she couldn’t recognize anything, but figured they headed north for the Red. Charles Nathaniel Nightengale, neither a horseman or a hunter, would never come for her there. Even if he wanted to, his wagon and mules would never make it over the trail her captors traveled, through dense woods and across more creeks than she could remember. Maybe she should have counted them. After way too long, Sore Jaw stopped and slid off his mount. He walked ahead. On his return, he untied her feet completely then released her hands still tied together. He pulled her off, looped a long piece of leather, and lowered it around her neck. Nodding, he motioned for her to mount. She climbed into the saddle, thankful to be allowed to ride erect; more than she’d hoped. How she appreciated any small favor. Maybe her head wouldn’t throb so bad. Sore Jaw, definitely nicer of the two, secured her hands to the horn then her feet to the stirrups and each other again, the strap crossing under Bliss’s belly. Oh, how she wished she’d obeyed her husband and stayed home and cleaned house and weeded the garden and fix his dinner. What would she give to start the day over? Her poor mother would never know if she was even dead or alive. She wondered how long Charles would wait before he even went over there to collect her. That’s when they’d all know, and surely way too much time would’ve passed to pick up any trail. Doomed. Her happy life over. Sore Jaw slid one of his open palms fast across the other. His gesture told her, ‘If you try to escape’. He tugged a bit on the leather thong. She got the message. Shortly, they broke out of the woods and walked straight across the river’s bank into the water. Now, she really got the message. If she tried anything here, she’d be drowned. Oh Lord. Once across the Red… Comanche territory. In the moonlight, with Little Coward riding in front of her and Sore Jaw behind, a single tear ran down her cheek. How could she ever be saved? No one was coming for her.

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