(¸.•´ (¸.•`★.¸¸,. •°´★
CHERI KAY CLIFTON
I have known Cheri for a few years now and she is not only a talented author but a delightful lady. I hope you enjoy this feature on her Wheels of Destiny Series Books.
Born in Nebraska, Cheri Kay Clifton loved researching the Oregon Trail, historically known as the “Gateway to the West.” Her passion for those brave pioneers, Native Americans and 19th Century America led her to write the epic western historical Wheels of Destiny Trilogy. “I feel the historical old West is a major part of our heritage and we should enjoy learning about it. Hopefully, by reading the fictional genre I write, my readers will not only enjoy the story but the historical background as well.”
Cheri is married to her high school sweetheart and has one grown son. If she’s not riding on the back of her husband’s Harley, she’s writing the Book 3 in the epic western historical Wheels of Destiny Trilogy.
Laura Westbrook expected to face her share of challenges crossing the continent on a wagon train. But when she saves the life of the courageous white warrior, Grey Wolf, she finds the pathways between pride and prejudice, love and loyalty far more difficult to travel.
Having buried deep within him the horrific memory of his family’s massacre at the hands of a rogue band of Pawnee, young David thrives under the care and tutelage of his rescuer, Cheyenne Chief Black Arrow. Trained to become the proud warrior named Grey Wolf, he finds his life changed again by the beautiful and strong-willed Laura, who encourages him to reclaim his forsaken heritage and face the secrets of his haunted past.
From the rugged Nebraska plains to a Cheyenne village, from an army fort to a small town in California, destiny leads Laura and Grey Wolf on a trail of passion and danger that culminates in an astounding revelation.
Laura reveled in the exhilaration of riding Sonny at a full run. The wind whipped past her face and threatened to pull her long hair from its combs. Laughing, she stole a glance behind her.
Lucky rode fast at her heels, his blue roan about to overtake the Morgan.
“Laura, stop!” Lucky yelled. He leaned over and grabbed her reins, yanking both horses to a jolting halt.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she railed.
Lucky raised an arm and pointed. “Look what’s coming down that hill. The way you were riding, you’d have been on top of them.”
“Oh, my stars, is that … are they …” Her heart lurched with a giddy flutter. “Indians?”
Lucky squinted his eyes. “Cheyenne, I’d say.”
Three Indians made their way down the slope, their horses’ legs completely hidden in the tall, swaying grass. A riderless horse trailed behind the leader.
Lucky twisted in the saddle and looked back. “Here comes Dan. He’s good at parleying with the Indians. Knows how to use their sign language.” He eyed Laura sternly. “You better go on back to the wagons.”
Laura caught the way he fingered the handle of his holstered gun while he followed their progress down the hill. “Do you think there might be trouble?”
“Ain’t enough of them to take on a whole wagon train, so it’s not likely. Then again, you never know what goes through those savages’ minds. They’re not exactly pleased with us tramping over their hunting grounds.”
Laura gripped the reins tighter, restraining Sonny’s skittish prance as Dan halted his horse close by. “I’m surprised to see the Cheyenne this far east,” he said. From the even tone of his voice, he didn’t sound worried.
Reaching the open road, the Indians veered in their direction. “Looks like they’re pulling a travois with somebody on it.” Dan gestured with a jerk of his head. “Laura, you go on back. Lucky and I’ll see what they want. I told the folks to circle up for the night. Couple wagons need repair anyway.”
Telling Lucky to stay behind him, Dan urged his horse forward. He halted in front of the lead Indian who wore a tanned-hide shirt, heavily fringed and decorated with an elaborate design of colored beading across the shoulders and down the sleeves. More beads ran the length of his fringed leggings and covered his moccasins. A wide breastplate made of bones hung from his neck. At the end of each long, black braid of hair, two large white and black-tipped eagle feathers were tied. But it wasn’t just his colorful clothing and ornaments that marked this Indian a chieftain; more evident was the stoic pride chiseled on the Indian’s face.
Mesmerized by what she saw, Laura had no intention of turning tail and running. These weren’t some glorified pictures in a book, but real-life Indians. She eased Sonny closer, wanting to hear their conversation.
“I meet as friend,” Dan said, his English words pronounced slowly in conjunction with the movement of his hands. He waited for the Indian to indicate his acknowledgment, and then continued signing. “I lead my people north to flat river and west over mountains,” he said, lowering his hands to his sides.
Lacking any facial expression, the Indian made several motions with his hands and fingers, then spoke in what must have been his native tongue. He slid from his horse, his look indicating he expected Dan to dismount, too.
They walked past the large pinto and knelt beside the travois. The Indian continued to talk and gesture with his hands.
Lucky turned in his saddle and glared back at Laura. “Confound it, Laurie, get back to the wagon,” he said under his breath through clenched teeth. “Why?” Laura demanded, her eyes boldly meeting his.
“Because Dan said to. It could be dangerous.”
“They don’t look dangerous,” she whispered. She stood up in her stirrups, stretching to see past the two other Indians astride their horses. “There’s someone lying on that litter. Do you suppose the person’s sick?”
Lucky frowned. “How should I know?”
Laura dismounted and started toward the travois. She’d taken only a few steps when the two Indians vaulted from their horses and leaped in front of her, their long lances braced horizontally across their bodies.
“Laurie!” Lucky jumped from his horse, grabbed her arm, and swung her around. “For
God’s sake, girl, haven’t you got a lick of sense?”
“Let go!” Laura pried his fingers from her arm.
“Just where in blazes do you think you’re going?”
She turned to Dan who’d stepped around the pinto. He looked a bit bewildered, while the older Indian seemed to glare right through her. “All I want to do is take a look at him. Maybe there’s something I can do.”
Dan signed to the chief. “She means no harm. She—”
“Dan,” Laura interrupted. She tried sidestepping the two Indians, but they countered her every move. She sighed with impatience and looked between them. “Dan, why don’t you tell him
I’m a nurse?”
Dan walked around the Indians whose eyes remained riveted on her. “Listen, Laura, you’ve got to understand how unusual it is for them to see a white woman …” he hesitated, frowning, “especially one with your looks, sashaying around them and speaking out like you’re doing!”
He turned to Lucky. “We could have a problem on our hands. That man lying over there is Chief Black Arrow’s son. He’s badly injured, and the Indians think white man’s medicine can heal him.”
“Then why don’t you tell the chief there might be something I can do for him?” “It isn’t that easy. Once you touch the man, it means I’ve agreed to be responsible for what happens to him.”
“How was he injured?”
“He was mauled by a grizzly.”
Laura inhaled sharply. “My Lord, I must go to him,” she said, darting past Dan and Lucky before they could stop her.
Just as the warriors lunged for her, Black Arrow’s stern shout stopped them. Knowing she’d have to get past the chief, she cautiously stepped up to him. She pointed her thumb to the middle of her chest and said her name. Boldly determined, she pointed behind the big pinto, and then waited, her eyes seeking his for permission.
For the longest time, Black Arrow watched as the wind blew long strands of her hair about her face. Laura supposed its bright auburn color held his fascination. He reached out and fingered a lock of it. After his gaze roamed over her from head to toe, he spoke, the words rolling off his tongue in that rhythmic high-low pitch. Then he moved aside for her to pass.
Laura lowered her eyes, sensing it was the respectful thing to do. Relieved she’d met with the Indian’s critical inspection, she stepped around the pinto.
As she knelt beside the travois and looked at the man, she gasped aloud. A dark beard and mustache covered the man’s pale, white face. Long, golden-brown hair brushed the top of his shoulders with a few damp strands straying over his forehead. Nothing about him resembled an Indian except for a red-beaded band circling his head.
“Why … he’s a white man!” she exclaimed.
Family deception kept Jennifer O’Malley from marrying her first love ten years ago, West Point officer, Glen Herrington. Now a Civil War widow, she leaves war-torn Richmond, determined to find her destiny. She makes the long journey west in search of Glen, only to discover he is a notorious outlaw with a price on his head.
At the end of the war, Glen Herrington musters out of the U.S. Cavalry and hires on to Wells, Fargo & Company as an undercover agent. When Jennifer confronts him locked in a jail cell, the embers of a love too long denied burn deep inside them both, yet Glen is honor bound not to reveal his true identity.
As life-long secrets and life-threatening dangers abound, Glen and Jennifer fight to reclaim their destiny in each other’s arms.
Glen Herrington spat blood from his mouth, then glared up at the Confederate guard. “I’ll see you in hell!”
Lifting his fist to hit Glen again, the guard glanced at Captain Sneed, the warden on duty. The captain’s angry smirk was all the approval the guard needed. Over and over, he swung his fist at Glen’s face, the last powerful thrust sending Glen and the chair he was tied to crashing to the dirt floor.
Captain Sneed leered down into Glen’s battered face. “Sooner or later, Major, we’re gonna find out who you’re gettin’ your information from and they’re the ones gonna see you in hell.”
The burly guard grabbed hold of Glen’s arm and yanked him and the chair upright. He rubbed the back of his knuckles and sneered. “Sir, do I need to persuade the blue belly some more?”
Peering out of swollen eyes, Glen saw Sneed about to nod his assent when sounds of a female voice drew the warden’s attention outside the solitary cell. Frowning, Sneed held up his hand and shook his head. “Throw that hood over his head, Benson and lock him back up.”
With a last menacing glance at Glen, Sneed stepped from the cell just as another guard hustled around the approaching woman and grasped her shoulder. “Ma’am, I’ve asked you to halt. You are not authorized beyond the hospital quarters.”
With an armload of folded blankets, she jerked to one side. “Unhand me, Jeeters! You know who I am and why I’m here. If it wasn’t for me and the town’s charitable donations of which your mother is a contributor, you wouldn’t be wearing those shiny boots. I’ve been throughout this prison a number of times and this day shouldn’t be any different.” She peered around the guard and through the doorway.
“I’m sorry, Ma’am, but I have orders. This cellar is for dangerous prisoners, spies, and slaves under sentence of death. You cannot — “
“Corporal Jeeters,” Sneed interrupted, “who have we here?” A forced smile hitched the corner of his mouth. “Why, Mrs. O’Malley, I see you’ve brought blankets. God knows our soldiers need them,” he said, standing directly in front of her.
“And …” she said, raising an eyebrow, “for the prisoners as well, brought to them by the Sanitary Commission.”
Jennifer stepped aside the warden to get a better look at the prisoner inside the cell. Her heart skipped a beat. Dear Lord, it was him. The rumors she’d heard repeated throughout Richmond were true after all. Another notorious Union spy had been revealed. Major Glen Herrington had been caught and incarcerated right here at Libby Prison. For a long moment, her eyes met his, direct and probing. Then the guard threw a black cloth over Glen’s head and Captain Sneed led her by the elbow down the hall.
“Mrs. O’Malley, we are grateful for all the contributions of food, clothing, and blankets that you bring, don’t get me wrong. However, you must realize for your own safety, you or any visitor cannot come through this prison without proper authority.”
Jennifer found it hard to compose herself. So shocked was she to see Glen for the first time since … since she had been a mere twenty years old … and he … in her mind’s eye, she could see an image burned into her memory of him at twenty-four, so distinguished in his West Point uniform. Nine years ago, yet it seemed like yesterday.
And now he was a war criminal, his face beaten and bloody, with a dark growth of whiskers and disheveled black hair hanging over his forehead. If it wasn’t for the rumors, she might not have recognized him. Oh, yes, you would, she chided herself. No matter how long it had been, you’d never forget those steel grey eyes. As that old familiar yearning seeped into her heart, she was thankful when the captain’s voice penetrated her thoughts.
“… and Major O’Malley would have me court-martialed if anything inappropriate happened to his wife.”
Jennifer thought better of voicing the retort that instantly came to mind. Sneed’s maltreatment of prisoners that she’d witnessed numerous times could just as well get him court-martialed. Still, not many would side with her and any complaints she brought to the attention of Libby Prison’s commanding officer would only serve to embarrass her husband. Most knew the infamous reputation of the prison but turned a jaundiced eye.
Although Jennifer was against the North’s war of aggression and understood the need for statehood rights, she did not approve of prison brutality on either side. And though she kept her personal thoughts to herself when it came to the politics of war, she wished the fighting would cease and the country could join together in peace as one whole and free nation again. In order for that to happen, the Federals would have to be victorious. Something she knew her husband, a staunch secessionist, would lay down his life to prevent.
As Captain Sneed led her up the prison stairs, she tried to shut out the mental picture of Glen’s tortured body. Union soldier though he was, she knew what she must do. With her mind made up, she would take the risk and set the necessary plans in motion.
BOOK 3- MEETING HER DESTINY
coming in 2016