The delicious aroma of food being cooked announced the kitchen long before Coleman and Black Eagle attained its inner sanctum. With every footfall, the air surrounding them became warm, and filled with an enticing fragrance.
There was a feel in this area of the house that boasted of the best that the white civilization had to offer, and as Black Eagle stepped into the kitchen’s inner chamber, he was surrounded by the bustle of several different women. The moist heat that radiated throughout the place, which he supposed was created by the various stews that were cooking over the fire, was pleasant. He relaxed.
“Stay here,” said Coleman as though he addressed an idiot, instead of a grown man. He then left Black Eagle standing at the room’s wide entrance, while he trod further into the room. Black Eagle could see the Englishman trying to capture the attention of one of the cooks, noted with pleasure that Coleman was not having an easy task of it. Black Eagle breathed in deeply and took in the scene before him more fully.
A few of the women had hiked up their skirts to tie around their waists, although several of the younger women wore no more than a simple shift of white, most likely to avoid accidents from the fire, Black Eagle surmised. Two windows served as lighting for the room, while tables — and there were several — boasted various brass pans, funnels, wooden bowls, many skillets, and kettles. Several dressers against the walls held dishes, and adorning those walls were pans, which were all sorted out by their different shapes.
It was a busy environment, and Black Eagle felt as though he were intruding on a domain that was exclusively feminine. For a moment he experienced a notion of being ill at ease, until someone brushed past him, leaving in their wake an arousing scent of the fresh outdoors and femininity.
Black Eagle’s attention was immediately caught and he gazed at the back of the exquisite creature who had ventured into the bustle of the kitchen. Her dress was different than that of the other women in the kitchen. It was made of an elaborately decorated material, and it was full, particularly at the sides of the waist, a style that Black Eagle had disdained when he had first seen it on the white woman.
But on this creature, it was impeccable. The dress was fashioned in a soft shade of aqua, a color that the women of his village valued. The young woman’s hair was piled up high on top of her head, while silky ringlets of reddish-colored curls fell down over one shoulder.
“Mrs. Stanton?” The beauty’s voice was delicate, barely audible, yet the cook acted as though the woman had shouted, for the cook immediately stopped what she was doing to give attention to the young lady.
“Yes, miss?” said cook.
“Mrs. Stanton, my maid, Sarah, is quite ill, and I beg you to see if we might have some baking soda or other remedy here in the kitchen that might settle her stomach.”
“Yes, miss,” said Mrs. Stanton. “One moment, miss.”
“Of course,” said the vision of loveliness. As the elegant creature waited, she turned halfway around, so that Black Eagle was presented with her profile. Her jawline was strong, her cheekbones were delicate, her nose dainty, and not overly long, and the outline of her lips was full. All at once, and without any warning, Black Eagle’s stomach plummented, and his body reacted in a strong and distinct, yet entirely male fashion.
She was beautiful, she was delicate, the sort of creature that a man would treasure his whole life through, if he could but have her. Moreover, there was a quality about her that would cause a man to wish to please her, if only to see the glory of her smile. A smile that was at present missing from her countenance.
A desire to jest with her, to witness the wonder of her favor overtook him. But he suppressed the longing. There was little purpose in speaking to her in any manner whatsoever, since little would come of it. They were of two different worlds, worlds that held little, if anything in common.
He gazed away from her, but only for a moment. Soon, Mrs. Stanton approached the young lady.
“I have some freshly made chicken broth,” said the cook, “which has been cooked almost the day through. If anything will settle Miss Strong’s stomach, it will be my broth. Shall I take it to her?”
“Yes, please,” agreed the dainty creature. “She is in her room. Do you know of it?”
“Yes, miss,” said Mrs. Stanton, who was an older and heavy woman. Taking hold of a pot of stew, the cook immediately left the kitchen.
And that’s when it happened. The beauty turned in full toward him. She did not acknowledge him. In truth, it appeared that she was searching for something and did not even see him. Black Eagle, however, watching her, found himself unable to resist the impulse to make himself known to her, perhaps to even see if he could cause the enchantress to smile.
Addressing her, he said, “Rarely have I seen a woman who could with a mere glance make a man’s heart sing.”
The beauty’s gaze rose up to take in Black Eagle’s measure. And though her look was less than complimentary, she did reply to him, saying, “Did you speak to me, sir? And without an introduction?”
“I did,” replied Black Eagle at once, “but you must forgive me for doing so. I may never again have the honor of looking upon you, and the desire to witness your smile might make a man forget all else.”
Under his compliment, the beauty’s lips twitched, but she turned away from him, only to swing back in a moment, to say, “Did you tell me that your heart sang?”
“I did,” he responded. “Upon taking a mere look at you, my heart told me that all the happiness there was to be found was possessed here, in this delicate figure of a woman.”
“Naturally,” he went on to say, “if I were a white man, I might never put this observation into words. But I am not a white man.”
“Indeed!” she said. However, her glance again took in his countenance. “Your English is very good for an Indian.”
“He nodded. “A result of various black robes and the Scotsman, who is an English trader, Sir William Johnson.”
She nodded briefly. “You are the first Indian who has ever spoken to me,” she said, “though I have lived here most of my life through.”
“Have you? I regret that I am only now making your acquaintance. And I apologize for my people.”
Again her lips twitched, but no full smile was to be witnessed upon her countenance. She said, “Excuse me. I must bid you farewell, for a friend awaits me.”
Black Eagle nodded. However, as she turned away, he found he couldn’t let her go yet, and he said, “Miss?” repeating the name that Mrs. Stanton had called her.
“Yes?” she replied, bestowing upon him yet another look that took in his appearance.
“Could you not spare this poor heart of mine a tiny smile? Something that he could take with him, to recall at leisure, or perhaps at times that are less than pleasant. After all, the countryside is at war and a man never knows what might become of him upon the morrow.”
Her glance at him was considering. She said, “You speak very elegantly.”
“A result of practice, I fear, since one must express himself well if one is to become a sachem for his people.”
“You wish to become a sachem?”
“Or perhaps a Pine Tree Chief.”
“A Pine Tree Chief? I believe that is the first time I have heard of this kind of chief.”
“That is to be regretted, for they are important amongst my people,” he said. “And now I beg you, could you not spare me a smile?”
She turned away from him. “I could not,” she said and made to pass by him.
“You! Indian!” It was Coleman vying for Black Eagle’s attention. “I have your breakfast prepared. This way!”
Black Eagle nodded at Coleman, then said to the lady, “A brief smile from you would help this weeping heart of mine, and it would cost you little.”
“Has this man been bothering you, milady?” asked Coleman as he approached Black Eagle and the beauty.
“He has,” said the vision.
“I am sorry to hear that, milady,” said Coleman. “Shall I take my whip to him?”
“Oh, no,” the enchantress said, and turning slightly toward Black Eagle, she smiled at him, showing delicate, white teeth. Then she added, “I hope that this will spare your heart the expense of breaking.” And before Black Eagle could grin back at her, she swept away, leaving the kitchen and Black Eagle’s devotion behind her.
He watched her departing figure until he could see her no more. Coleman grabbed hold of him, but Black Eagle made no motion to extricate himself from Coleman’s grip.
“Come along,” said Coleman gruffly. “Your are lucky that Lady Marisa chose to spare you. For what you have done, you could easily be shipped.”
“Is that her name? Lady Marisa?”
Coleman was silent.
But Black Eagle was beyond reproach. “She smiled for me,” was all he said, then he grinned, and without the slightest protest, he allowed himself to be led to the promised meal.
A Berkley Sensation Historical Romance
by Gen Bailey/Karen Kay