Dr. Matt Tyler left behind the comforts of his privileged upbringing to serve as a surgeon in the Union Army during the Civil War. Now, two years after the war’s end, a discovery one night changes his life forever.
Degan, a young woman of the Seneca Nation, has escaped from vicious white men who raided her village and kidnapped her. Badly beaten and suffering a gunshot wound, she seeks shelter in a deserted barn and waits to die … until Matt finds her. The young surgeon takes her in and treats her wounds.
Her initial fear of this white shaman slowly turns to trust as she recovers under Matt’s care. Though they plan that she will return to her people once she’s recovered, they cannot deny their deepening feelings for each other. When Matt asks Degan to marry him, she refuses to enter white society. How can she live among his people? It was white men who kidnapped her, shot her, and left her for dead. She believes she cannot be Matt’s wife in the white world.
Despite her love for Matt, Degan reluctantly decides to return to her people on the Allegany Reservation in western New York. Matt tries to go on with his life. He begins working at a dispensary in Washington, providing free medical care to the city’s poor. But he remains unable to quiet his strong yearning for Degan.
Can Degan overcome her fear and the cruelty of her past to accept a man from a strange culture who promises his love? And is it a promise he can keep?
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From Chapter One
As he approached his barn, Matt was surprised to see a horse standing just inside the open barn door. Dismounting, he withdrew the rifle holstered to his saddle and walked cautiously toward the stray. Despite the blood on its left flank and both sides of its neck, Matt quickly determined that the animal was not injured. He raised his rifle and cocked it.
“Who’s there?” he yelled into the darkness. With the barrel of the rifle, he pushed the barn door open wide to allow the full moon to bathe the interior with pale light. It was then that he saw a small form crouched against the far wall.
“Who’s there?” He stepped forward, and was stunned by what he saw.
A young woman, obviously injured, sat on the barn floor. She was shaking noticeably and kept wide eyes fixed on the rifle in Matt’s grip. He lowered the gun and set it to lean against the barn door, then struck a match to light a lantern hanging just inside. When he turned the flame higher and advanced a few paces, she frantically glanced around as if looking for a means of escape. Finding none, she pressed herself tightly to the wall behind her as Matt came closer.
Looking at her in stronger light, he could see she was an Indian, he guessed in her mid-twenties. Her dark hair hung in tangled disarray about her face and shoulders, her dark skin smooth over high cheekbones. Her face, hands, and bare feet were covered with dried blood and dirt. A raw and bleeding stripe encircled her neck. She clutched the remains of her dress in the front, deep red cuts around both wrists. Her face was badly bruised and swollen on one side, and blood had soaked through her skirt, he presumed from a wound he could not see.
“My God, where the hell did you come from?” As if the sound of his voice shook him from a daze, he quickly unfastened his medical bag from his saddle. But when he approached her, he realized his foolishness in thinking she would be a cooperative patient. She quickly reached into the straw and produced a sizeable knife. He stopped abruptly and held up his hands.
“You won’t need that,” he said, keeping his tone even. “I won’t hurt you.”
She stared at him, her breath coming in rapid gulps, her fear palpable between them.
He knelt down and searched his medical bag, producing rolls of clean linen bandages which he held out to her. “Can you understand me? I’m a doctor. Let me help you.”
After what seemed an eternity, she slowly lowered the knife, and placed it beside her in the straw. He carefully inched toward her, intending to inspect her injured leg. He thought it best to give her fair warning.
“I’m going to lift your skirt just enough to look at your leg. I think you’re bleeding from there.”