Chapter 10

Sarah couldn't sleep. She tossed and turned… over and over again. Her mind kept replaying Bear Claw's kiss. Future thoughts had been creeping up to haunt her ever since she entertained the thought of Bear Claw wanting to court her.

A few feet away Bear Claw stirred and Sarah stilled. She hadn't meant to wake anyone.

She still wasn't used to sleeping on the floor on nothing but animal hides. As a captive she had nothing but one thin hide to sleep on and she felt the ground under her; bumps and all. It was much more comfortable lying on several furs and to have one to cover up with. It was considered luxurious to the Nez Percé but Sarah still missed her straw mattress and pillows. Someday she'd get used to sleeping this way.

Somewhere during her tossing and turning she dozed off because the next time she opened her eyes dawn was streaking the sky pink and orange through the smoke hole of the tepee. Everyone was already up and getting ready for the new day.

Sarah rubbed the sleepy out of her eyes, sighing. What would the new day bring? Hopefully her release to go out of doors; she missed the outside. If only she could just sit and do nothing else. Would that satisfy Running River who treated her like a worried mother?

As if Running River had heard her thoughts she said, "You should go sit in the sun today, but don't try to ride or move too much."

Sarah had to contain herself. Her first reaction would have been to shoot out of the tepee flap like a bullet but she would have broken a rule before she even had her beloved freedom. Instead, Sara allowed Bear Claw to help her outside. He helped her sit under a giant tree, not saying anything about the kiss they had shared. In fact, he acted as if nothing at all had happened. It upset her more than she cared for him to know.

Bear Claw gave her a warm smile and Sarah's heart squeezed, thinking he would say something about the kiss. She fought off a frown when Bear Claw simply said he had to go take care of the horses. He walked away to leave her alone to her tortured thoughts and hidden tears. When at last he disappeared into the sea of horses Sarah let loose of her torrent of tears. She didn't think she could stop if she wanted to.

Sarah had been right. Bear Claw came back before she knew it. Bear Claw came back before she knew it. She froze up not knowing what to do. Rubbing her tears away would do no good. They only kept flowing.

He silently sat down cross-legged beside her. Sarah felt him staring at her. She kept her face hidden behind the curtain that was her hair.

Sarah's heart thudded as Bear Claw pulled her hair away so he could see her better. "Why do you cry, Wild Flower?"

She couldn't speak, not knowing what to say. Her feelings were confusing even to her. She wasn't the girl that should cry over a boy kissing her just because he didn't mention it. Was she becoming a weakling after being a captive of the Crow? There was no doubt that she felt different after such an experience. It had changed her—and how she looked at her childhood friend.

What is to become of me?" Sarah whispered.

Bear Claw pulled her chin until Sarah looked his way. "You will live here. I said so before." He looked puzzled at her sadness. He didn't know what was truly eating at her.

"I have no family." Sarah choked to keep her tears at bay. She wanted so much to stop crying.

"You have my family."

"Am I to be your sister?" Sarah couldn't stand that idea. She could never think of Bear Claw as her brother- it was ludicrous. Sarah was falling more in love with him every day.

Bear Claw gave a small sigh, looking as if he were trying to read her thoughts. "You don't wish to be my sister?" a strange expression flickered over his handsome face.

Sarah stared him right in the eyes, "No, I don't."

"I don't either, Wild Flower. I don't think I could ever see you as a sister-you're much too pale." Bear Claw went from serious to humorous in seconds but Sarah didn't miss the look in his eyes. It was the same longing look as the one she gazed at him with. He was avoiding the real reason.

Sarah stared at him and Bear Claw fidgeted under her expectant gaze. He stared back, "Because I could never think of you as a sister. As children I entertained the thought," he paused to look down and then back up at her almost timidly. "Now all I think about is how beautiful you became."

Sarah was getting red in the face.

"—and that all I can think about is you. You consume my thoughts. No matter how much I try to resist loving you it fails. Because Sarah, I'm in love with you. So no, I don't want you to be my sister. I want you to be so much more."

Sarah was speechless, unable to do anything but stare at him with her mouth agape. What was so much more? Could she dare to hope he meant as a wife?

Bear Claw took her hand and folded it between his. "I want to ask Toe-ta if I can marry you before the cold season."

The blood thudded in Sarah's ears. She wanted to pinch herself to make sure she wasn't dreaming. She opened her mouth to say something but before she had the chance they were interrupted by war cries.

Bear Claw leapt to his feet to stand over Sarah. The Crow were back. What did they want this time?

Sarah glimpsed Fierce Heart and she felt an icy spear run though her. He was riding toward them full speed. "Bear Claw?" she scrambled to stand behind him.

It's all right. I won't let him hurt you," he said in a strained voice. They both knew he might not can.

Fierce Heart didn't stop his horse until he was right upon them, making Sarah flinch into Bear Claw's back. He dropped down from his horse and got right into Bear Claw's face speaking in English at first and then lapsing into a foreign tongue. "The horse you traded me for my slave has died. I come to take her back and marry her."

Sarah couldn't breathe. She wavered on her feet for more reasons than one. She grabbed a hold of Bear Claw to keep from falling.

"There was nothing wrong with the horse. You cannot have your slave back. She is now my wife." Bear Claw gave the Crow a hard glare.

Sarah tried to keep the surprise off her face. Would saying she was his wife really keep Fierce Heart away? She honestly didn't believe so.

The Crow exclaimed furiously and pointed a finger at them both, speaking in his native tongue. "You will regret it. This is not over. You have wronged me. She is still my slave because your horse was sick. I will have her again. You will not stand in my way."

Only Bear Claw understood his words but Sarah knew something was wrong by Bear Claw's ashen face.

"What's wrong?" Sarah prodded as Fierce Heart was retreating.

"Nothing. You're safe now," he sounded like he was trying to convince his own self and failing. "Let's go back to the tepee."

Sarah let herself be lead back to her prison. Whatever Fierce Heart had told Bear Claw it hadn't been very good.