Dakota by Ri

Dakota
by Ri

Part 1

Dakota sat at a small table in a small tavern on the outskirts of San Diego. Looking around the table the card shark felt pretty secure in their company. Dakota Nozama was the best card player in the county and she knew it. Looking at the other players they were a gun fighter, a banker, the tavern owner and the town sheriff. The only one who was acting like an egotistical buffoon was the banker.

“Call,” Said the banker with the most readable poker face this side of the Mississippi. He laid down a high flush sure in his knowledge that he was going to win this hand.

The only other player in this hand was Dakota. The others had withdrawn and were watching to the two competitors intently. Dakota leaned back in her chair, raised her hat so her cool blue eyes were frankly looking at the banker and quietly said, “Five kings.”

“What?!?”

Dakota shrugged her shoulders, “Your the one who insisted on playing deuces wild.”

The banker backed up and started barking curses but before he could move his hand an inch Dakota had her six shooter out and said quietly,” I don’t cheat. I don’t need to. You knew I was a professional when I sat down. Now, I suggest you pull your hand away from your gunholster before I blow your fool head off.”

“But your a woman!”

The gunfighter laughed low and mean, “Shit Greg, What the hell has that got to do with it?”

“No woman is better then a man at anything.”

Dakota didn’t react at all on the outside. But with in her own mind she was disgusted with the fool. She dealt with morons like this all her life. She merely began to pull her chips toward her and walked to cash them in at the bar.

She felt before she saw the fist the heading toward her chin. She hardly moved, but suddenly the fist was in her hand and she twisted it behind the bankers back. In a low penetrating voice she said, “I think I would rethink my actions if I were you, Mr. Tarlington. I am a professional in many things,” She shoved him toward the sheriff and got her cash from the tavern owner. Then she got her duster and headed toward her hotel and some well deserved rest.

* * * *

Jackie was carrying her purchases from the general store to her Father’s ranch. She hated when she had to bring home stuff like this because it left her open to attack. She was a petite blonde and the ranch hands around town liked to rough her up. She had gotten use to it. She just wanted someone to teach her how to defend herself.

“Hey pretty lady,” A mean looking roustabout was standing right in her path between two boulders with no way around him.

“Oh, let me by!” Said Jackie preparing for the attack.

“Nope, don’t think so. You is way too pretty to let by.” He said with a smirk.

“Too bad,” Said a strong voice from above them.

The man looked up and all he saw was a figure in black. “Get yourself your own girl.”

“That’s original,” Said Dakota. “I think the young lady would rather pass by you. My suggestion Mister, is you let her do just that.”

“Who the hell are you to tell me what to do? ” He grabbed Jackie around the waist and started to pull her toward a cave behind a boulder.

A loud Indian war cry was heard and then a whoosh as Dakota landed behind the man. She pulled Jackie out of the man’s arms and threw the roustabout on his butt.

“Why you… Your a woman!!”

“Really? What gave you your first clue? Get lost.” Dakota growled her hat was lowered so all he could see was the glow of her angry blue eyes. Truth be told it scared the man to death, “No woman…”

“Lets get this straight, cowhand. I may be a woman, but I am quite capable of tearing you apart. Now if you were a smart little boy you’d scurry back under the rock you crawled out from, Now!”

The man reached for his six shooter but he was a fraction of a second to slow, Dakota had hers out and shot the man in his foot with a flick of her wrist. “My next shot will be higher and hurt a hell of alot more.”

The man’s eyes widened and he limped out of there as fast as he could. Dakota turned around and was stunned into silence. There before her was literally the woman of her dreams.

* * * * *

Dakota had been having the same dream all her life. She was rushing into the arms of the love of her life and just as she lifted her head and green eyes met blue, There lips only a breath apart, she’d wake up.

Now here she was face to face with the woman in the flesh and she couldn’t swallow.

Jackie looked up and up, the long black legs with silver and blue piping up each side, up to the soft silk black shirt topped by a soft suede black vest up to a very beautiful face framed with long black hair that had fallen down from the black hat as Dakota wiped her sweating brow. This woman had the most beautiful blue eyes that Jackie had ever seen.

‘She looks so familiar, but I know I’ve never seen her before.’ Thought Jackie as she smiled and said with honest gratitude, “Thank you, Thank you so much.”

Dakota finally got herself together enough to smile shyly and reply quietly, “It was my pleasure. Should you be out here all alone without any protection.”

“Unfortunately, I do it all the time. Its just me and my Pa at our ranch and he sends me out to get supplies all the time.”

Dakota felt an unreasonable annoyance at the girls unthinking father. “I think your Father should at least teach you to defend yourself if he sends you out like this.”

Jackie nodded, “That would be reasonable but Pa thinks girls shouldn’t learn such skills…. Uh…. My name is Jackie by the way.” Jackie tentatively held out her hand.

Dakota smiled and took the hand gently into her own replying, “Dakota, nice to meet you.”

The reaction both woman felt by the contact was almost indescribable. It was like their very essence crashed into each other. They were looking deeply into each others eyes and Dakota was desperately trying to focus her mind, “I… uh… would… teach you.”

“Would you?”

“Uh huh.”

“I’d like that.”

“So would I…”

Dakota’s horse had finally found her mistress and whinnied breaking the spell the two women found themselves in.

Dakota and Jackie spun to stare at Dakota’s palomino Meditation. Dakota smiled sweetly at the horse, “Be right with you girl!” Then she turned back to the woman who had captured her heart without lifting a finger. “Uh, can I give you a lift back to your ranch? I need to speak to your father about teaching you anyway.”

Jackie nodded her head, “Thank you, I’d appreciate that.”

“Its my pleasure, Jackie.” Then Dakota helped Jackie onto Meditation’s back and hopped on behind her heading in the direction of the Model T Ranch.

* * * *

The Model T Ranch was typical. Just a ranch house, a barn with some horses and cattle. Dakota took Jackie home,as she tried to get a hold of her emotions. Just the feel of the young woman’s arms around her waist made her feel slightly dizzy.

A tall red haired man saw them approach and said in a very cruel voice, “Jacqueline get off that half breeds horse!”

Dakota tensed, She was already mad about the man’s treatment he’d given to his own daughter. Now he was being a bigot. A misinformed bigot on top of it. Dakota was not a half breed, But she had been raised by Indians and she was very sensitive to cruel words against such a kind and generous people.

“Pa, She is not a half breed and even if she was, she saved my life. We owe her our gratitude and Thanks.” Then Jackie hugged Dakota closer and whispered “He’s drunk, Dakota. Just drop me off and we can talk to him later.”

“No,” Was all Dakota said to her sweet young friend. ‘Leave this sweet creature with that beast. I don’t think so!’ She thought taking the arm around her waist and giving it a gentle squeeze back.

“I said get off, Girl!”

“She has a name.”

“Since I gave it to her, Injun, I can decline to use it!”

“Fine, Jackie you’ll stay in town with me till your father learns some manners,” She then turned Meditation around and left at a gallop.

“Why that Bitch!” The man shouted then realized she was long gone. “I guess the brat will be all right with the Injun for a night. Seein’ shes a woman.” He turned around and went back toward the ranch house.

* * * * *

Once back in town Dakota stabled Meditation and led Jackie to her hotel. “Would you like your own room or would you like to share mine? Either is fine with me.” She asked with a smile, hoping against hope that it will be the latter.

“I really would prefer to be with someone. I don’t want to intrude though. I can be alone. What ever you think is best.” In truth, she was terrified of being on her own, even at the ranch she had her father, he was a drunk, but she wasn’t alone.

“Stay with me. I think it would be for the best if you were with someone right now.” Dakota glowed with joy at the thought that she would at least be with her. She gently took the woman’s hand and lead her to her room.

* * * * *

Both woman were bathed and ready for bed. Dakota in her long johns and Jackie in a borrowed night gown from the owner of the hotel. There was only one bed, Dakota looked at the young woman speculatively and wondered what to do about that.

She shrugged her shoulder and put a pillow and a blanket on the couch in the corner of the large room. Dakota knew it wouldn’t be comfortable but it was better then floor. It was also a hundred times better then making her young guest uncomfortable.

“Why are you doing that?”

“Cause theres only one bed and you get it.”

“Dakota, This is your room. I can’t take your bed.”

“You can if I say so. And I say so, now get in and go to sleep.” Dakota ordered, trying to make herself comfortable on the small couch.

“Dakota, This bed is big enough for four of us. I feel silly. Come on get in.”

Dakota for a split second lost her famous poker face. Her face reflected fear. She felt it flash across her features. It was the fear of losing her self control and doing something she knew was wrong.

“Jackie, Go to sleep.”

Jackie got up and took an arm of the woman on the sofa and gently pulled her toward herself. “Come on, Dakota. Its ok. I want you.”

Blue eyes locked onto green and they both knew that the young woman’s statement was true on many levels. But Dakota was a cautious woman it came with being a gambler, “Ok, Just stop pulling at me.” She replied with a sweet smile letting the young woman know she was only joking.

Dakota got up and very delicately lowered herself next to the young woman she desired so and tried to arrange herself so that there was a large space between them. So much so that she was almost hanging over the side of the bed.

“Dakota?”

“Mmm?”

“Thank you.”

“Your welcome, Now go to sleep.”

Jackie smiled, “Yes, Ma’am.”

Dakota smiled back, “Good girl.”

* * * * *

Dakota was having the same dream she always did. She was reaching out for the woman she loved but this time, When blue eyes met green and their lips were a breath apart she didn’t wake up. She finally got her wish and kissed the woman of her dreams.

Blue eyes slowly fluttered open and then widened, she was kissing Jackie. She tried to pull back but strong arms wouldn’t let her. Thats when Dakota realized Jackie wasn’t asleep and that she was most definatly returning the kiss. With this realization her deepest wish was fulfilled and she kissed the woman she loved all her life.

She brought her arms around Jackie and brought her close. She felt warm and giddy. This was her fantasy come true. A part of her wondered if she was still asleep.

She nuzzled the sweet neck and kissed it and then she went back to the sweet lips and kissed them passionately. When they parted she looked deeply into sparkling green eyes and whispered horsly, “I know this will sound strange, but I’ve dreamt of you all my life… I can’t help but love you… I’m sorry Jackie… I…” Tears were spilling out of the beautiful eyes and again she tried to pull away.

Jackie again held on tight, “Why are you sorry? It’s not silly and I fell in love with you the moment I saw you jump from that rock. I love you, Dakota Nozama.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“Thank you. I love you so much it actually hurts. Come here, you!” She said bringing the lips she desired so much to her own.

* * * * *

Dakota was in the warmth of Jackie’s embrace. She felt like she was floating. She breathed in Jackie’s scent and sighed in contemned.

Jackie felt the same way. She had never felt so safe. Never in her whole life did she feel this loved. It was a miracle to the neglected girl.

Dakota caressed a soft cheek, “Would you like to stay with me? It is up to you, Jackie. No pressure. I just… I don’t want you to go back to your father. If you don’t stay with me then I want you to go somewhere safe… I…” two fingers were pressed against her mouth.

“I want to be with you. Only you. Forever.”

Dakota hugged and kissed her passionately in response. Till a loud knocking on Dakota’s door broke the spell.

“I want my God Damn Daughter now! Damn it Injun! That child has chores to do!”

“Shit, Is that all that idiot cares about. Your his daughter not his maid. Damn.” Dakota jumped out of bed and was opening the door before Jackie could even stop her.

“What!?!” Said Dakota back in the same angry voice as Jackie’s Father. Gone was the sweet soft lover and in her place was the weary angry gunslinger.

The man was taken aback by the dangerous woman in men’s long johns. “I want my kid back.”

“That’s up to Jackie.”

“Well, I want to talk to her.”

“That’s up to her too.”

“Damn it, I have the right to see my own daughter. She’s my property!”

Cool blue eyes turned to ice, “What did you call that girl?”

“I said she was my property, Injun.”

A rage flooded through her whole being at that point and it took every bit of self control not to tear the man apart bare handed. She felt soft gentle hands stroke her back. Jackie was out of sight but her touch calmed the gambler almost instantly.

“I’ll say this once, Little man. Jackie is over 21 years old and is quite able to make up her own mind. If she wants to go to you she will. If she doesn’t she is bright enough to find another way. You are now going to get out of my sight before I forget that you are my friend’s father and I tear you apart with my bare hands. Now go.”

Something inside him told him to go, “I’ll go for now, Injun.”

“Good, Get!” She slammed the door in his face. She turned to face Jackie and allowed the emotions to show. ” I’m sorry, Jackie. I… He called you property and I lost it… I…”

Gentle arms hugged her around her waist bringing Dakota into a tight embrace. “I know. That’s the way he always is. Its ok. I’m staying with you. Forever, Deal?”

“Oh God, “Relief flooded through Dakota’s whole being as she returned the embrace. “Yes, that’s a deal.” She kissed her love passionately, She was overwhelmed by this love it was beyond description. “Forever” She finally whispered against Jackie’s ear as she gave them a chance to catch there breath, but she didn’t let her go.
Part 2 – Defending Yourself
Jackie carefully avoided each attack her assailant threw at her with freshly learned skill. She weaved and ducked to avoid each blow. When she saw the opening that she was looking for she took it and threw a punch right at her attacker’s midsection.

With a huge smile Dakota caught the little hand just as it was about to hit full force against her own gut, “Excellent.”

Jackie smiled back, “Thanks but I have an excellent teacher.”

Dakota laughed and shook her head, “You move very well Jackie. You’re a natural at this; all you needed was some one to take the time to teach you.”

Jackie blushed at the compliment and if they weren’t in public she would have thrown her arms around Dakota and tenderly shown her the gratitude she felt. Dakota loved the pretty pink flush of skin on her beloved’s face and she winked at the young woman knowing that it would deepen that pink shade to a lovely red.

“Dakota.”

“What?” Asked the gambler innocently.

“You are something else.”

“Ain’t I though….Um, Jackie are you going to come with me tonight to watch me play?”Dakota asked suddenly shy. She loved when Jackie watched but she didn’t want to bore the poor girl to death.

Jackie smiled and Nodded, “Sure, Of course I am,”She loved to watch the gambler play she found it so fascinating.

Dakota walked over and put her arm around Jackie’s shoulders as she went through the back door of the hotel,”Ok, Lets change and get some dinner. I know your hungry, Little one.”She said with a knowing grin.

Jackie playfully slapped the gambler on the stomach, “Are you saying I eat too much?”

“Nope, I love a girl with a healthy appetite.”

“Any girl?”

“Nope, just one girl.”

“Oh, Anyone we know?”

“Yep, intimately, “Said Dakota as she lead them up the back steps of the hotel to their room.

“Really, How intimately?” Asked Jackie as they walked through the door to their room.

“Very,”Said Dakota as she closed the door behind them passion burning in her eyes with a move so subtle Jackie didn’t even see it coming Jackie found herself in an embrace within the gambler’s arms.

“Wanna see how intimate “She asked the blonde as she began to slowly undo the back of Jackie’s dress their lips barely apart.

Jackie nodded slightly and then connected their lips with equal passion as she felt her dress fall from her shoulders on the way to ground beneath them.

****

Steely blue eyes observed each person surrounding the table under a tilted black Stetson. Today’s game included Dakota, The Mayor, A gambler named Mcraw, A farmer named Huntington and the owner of the tavern Hank Reynolds. This was a serious game of equal players not the silly game she played with that lout of banker, no wild cards just pure skill. Exactly like the gambler liked it. “I’ll raise you old friend.” Dakota said to Mcraw with a lopsided grin.

Mcraw was a gentleman. He had played Dakota many times and he respected her skill, intelligence and luck. “Will you?” He replied with an amused grin. “I’ll match it. Ok, My friend I have now paid for the privilege, What have you got?”

The most beautiful smile Jackie had ever seen suddenly appeared on the gambler’s face as she laid down four aces and king bumper. A loud groan was heard from around the table and the Mayor in a tired voice said, “I think its time for a short recess.”

Everyone agreed. Jackie walked up to her love with a huge smile of her own, “Well done.”

Dakota actually blushed, “Thanks, Are you hungry?”

“After the dinner you fed me, No I don’t think so,” She replied with a grin.

Dakota shrugged, “Well I have to keep my best girl happy, don’t I?”

Now Jackie blushed, Dakota laughed and put her arm around her shoulder and Said,” Come on Love, I’ll buy you a sasprilla.”

Jackie’s eyes lit up, She loved those and since she had been with the gambler she had gotten at least one every night.

“All right Injun, Enough is enough. Do I get my daughter back or not?” Said the harsh voice of Jackie’s father from behind them.

Two backs stiffened and Dakota suddenly became a dangerous woman in blink of an eye.

“Not,” Said Dakota twirling around to face the older man.

“I told you, Injun, not to try to steal my property. Sheriff.”

Dakota looked at the sheriff with an upraised eyebrow, The sheriff wasn’t afraid of her since he’s known the gambler most of her life but he was stunned at the look of scorn in her eyes. He’d never seen her look like that. Not at him, He shrugged his shoulders and tilted his head to the side to show he was just doing his job.

Dakota was not going to let her friend off the hook that easily,”Bill, I didn’t know you were in favor of slavery.”

Bill blinked not expecting that remark, he pointed toward Jackie’s father and said, “Well he says she is under age.”

Dakota snorted and turned toward Jackie and said, “Tell Bill how old you are Jackie.”

“Twenty three,” Said the young woman crisply looking with angry green eyes at her own father.”It’s really sad when a father doesn’t even know how old his own child is. Pa, please just hire a maid and leave me alone. I don’t belong to you or anyone I only belong to myself.”

The older man took two steps with his hand raised toward his daughter looking for all the world like he was about to slap her. Dakota moved so fast it even threw the sheriff who thought he knew his friends every move. She had the older man in a headlock with his arms behind his back.

“Now apologize to your daughter for threatening her,” She growled in his ear.

“Why?” He growled back.

“Because if you don’t I’ll break this arm,” She whispered in a deceptively sweet voice in his ear.

His eyes widened and he looked at his daughter and said in low growl, “Sorry.”

Jackie didn’t say anything she was too mad. Dakota shoved the man toward the sheriff and said, “Take him out of my sight before I do something he will regret.”

Bill nodded and escorted the man out of the tavern.

“Mayor, would mind if we put a hold on the game till tomorrow night. I’m…I uh…need to…well I…”

“I understand, Dakota. Ok, we will continue the game tomorrow. Will everyone agree I take care of the cash till then?”

There were nods from all the players. Dakota and Jackie briskly left the tavern. Dakota had her arm around Jackie’s shoulder this time in a sweet comforting way. She wanted to get her back to the hotel before she broke down completely.

*** *** *** *** ***

Once safely inside they’re room and the door was firmly shut behind them Dakota enfolded her beloved in her arms and waited for the damn to burst. Slowly Jackie began to cry then sob then she was just falling apart and Dakota gently and comfortably picked up each piece as it fell. She picked up the distraught young woman and brought her to their bed cradling her in her strong arms stroking her hair and whispering soothing words into her ear.

She lowered her arms and rubbed tense shoulders as her mind raced with thoughts of the man who did this to her beloved. That Bastard! I should have broken that arm and his leg too! How can he keep doing this? Jackie is the kindest, sweetest, most loving woman I have ever known. How can he treat his own flesh and blood like she was cow to be traded for a price? The idiot! The unfeeling Bastard. I may still break him in two!!!

Jackie was calming down she pulled back from her beloved’s warmth and looked into loving and compassionate blue eyes. She smiled shyly and said, “Thanks Dakota.”

Dakota smiled back slightly confused. She gently brushed some golden hair behind a pretty ear and asked gently, “What for?”

Jackie was grateful for so many things she couldn’t seem to form the words, She just spread her hands out and said, “Everything.”

Dakota shook her head and kissed Jackie’s cheek, “Well I love you so thanks aren’t necessary. I only want one thing from you and you give that to me without my asking for it, Love. I don’t want or need anything else from you.”

“Not even gratitude?”

“Especially not gratitude.” She then kissed the younger woman so deeply and passionately that Jackie almost forgot what had just happened. She fell back against the pillows as Dakota continued down her neck to her pulse point where she sucked gently enjoying the taste of the sweet skin she found there.

Jackie didn’t care about her father she had something far more pleasing on her mind. That something was lovingly undressing her and slowly working her to parts south and to Jackie Heaven ward.

She closed her eyes and allowed her self to just dive into the sensation of loving bliss her partner was gently creating for her.

“I love you, Dakota.” She said in breathy whisper that was almost inaudible.

Dakota smiled she heard her perfectly and replied, “I love you too, Jackie.” She replied clearly as she moved down the beautiful body to the now exposed and aching breast. She lowered herself and lost her awareness delightfully in the distraction of her own creation…

*** *** *** *** ***

The next morning as Dakota carried a tray with breakfast from the restaurant back to the hotel she was stopped by a brave from her tribe. She smiled and greeted her old friend in his own language. He smiled back but he spoke to Dakota in English.

“You look well, Blackbird.”

“So do you, Lonewolf. How’s Father?”

“He is very well, Thank you. He sends you much love. You will be coming home as unusual during the quarter moon?”

Dakota nodded, “Yes, I want him to meet my beloved.”

Lonewolf’s face lit up, “You have finally found a mate? Is it a sqaw?”

Dakota lifted an eyebrow and her face broke into an amused smile, The tribe accepted her love of woman, but some of the braves felt a good man could change her mind. Lonewolf who always had a crush on her since they were kids knew better. He knew she wasn’t going to change but he did harbor a tiny flame of hope, which she allowed and even sympathized with, “Yep.”

“Is that for her?”

“Oh Shit, Its getting cold. I’ll see you in a couple of weeks. old friend,” She said as she turned to go into the hotel.

“Wait Blackbird, We need your help.”

Dakota stopped and turned concern suddenly crossing her face, “What’s wrong?”

“One of braves was out hunting and he got attacked by a bear. We need your healing skills.

Prancing Bird, actually asked that I seek you out.”

Now both eyebrows rose into the brim of her black hat. This was shocking to the gambler.

The healer had always been jealous of Dakota’s natural healing skills, “She did?”

Lonewolf nodded his head, “Yes, Please come Blackbird, we need you.”

“Ok, Let me get this to my beloved and well come out to the village by noon.”

Lonewolf smiled, “Thanks.”

She nodded her head and rushed into the hotel. I wonder who captured the heart of that wild one?

Thought the brave as he shook his head and returned to the village to tell Dakota’s father his child was returning home.

*** *** *** *** ***

The person in question was still fast asleep as Dakota hurried into their room. Dakota looked down at the sleeping girl and shook her head as placed the tray on a table by the bed That girl would sleep all day if I let her. She smiled and sat on the edge of the bed and tenderly stroked an exposed arm till sleepy green eyes fluttered open.

“Goodmorning Sunshine, “The gambler said smiling down into the beautiful expressive orbs.

“Hi,” Jackie mumbled.

“Come on Sweetheart, Get up all the way. We have to eat and pack a few things we are going to visit some people today.”

The younger woman’s natural curiosity woke her the rest of the way, “Who?” She asked as she rubbed her eyes and then stretched.

“My family.”

Jackie’s face registered shock and then excitement, “I get to go too?”

Dakota laughed at the expression and then leaned in and kissed a pert little nose, “Yep.”

“Wow! That’s great.”

Dakota smiled and winked, “Come on Little one, Eat and get dressed. I need to go and find the mayor to postpone the game for a week.”

“Dakota, Why do you want me to go?”

Dakota stopped in her tracks, she was almost to the door but she was very surprised by the question. “Well several reasons. I want you to meet my family. I have to go help them and I may gone for several days and I don’t want to leave you . And…I want you to meet my father.”

Jackie was not out of the bed and engulfed the gambler in a bear hug, “Thank you!”

Dakota returned the hug but her expression was confused, “What for?”

“Wanting me to meet your family.”

“Sweetheart you are my family.” She pulled back and looked deeply into her eyes and then their lips met in passionate kiss. She then pulled back and smiled, chucking the younger woman under the chin.

“Besides I want my father to marry us.”

“Can he do that?”

Dakota nodded and affectionately caressed Jackie’s cheek, “He can do anything he wants he’s the chief of the tribe.”

*** *** *** *** ***

Meditation was gently trotting toward Dakota’s tribe. Dakota was prepared to be greeted by braves that were guarding the outskirts of their village, But she wasn’t prepared for who was leading them

She stopped her horse looked the leader right in the eye and with out any accent she spoke in his language,

“Greetings we come in friendship and offer our help.”

The leader was a tall man who looked up at the gambler on her horse with no expression on his face, It was a mask of calmness. The man was much older then Jackie expected the head of the guards to be,”You are most welcome to enter our camp in friendship, Blackbird.”Then the man’s face broke into the most beautiful smile that Jackie had ever seen on a man.

In english Dakota replied, “Thanks Dad.” Her expression had blossomed into a matching smile.

She turned to Jackie and said, “Dad, This is the love of my life, Jacqueline O’Brien. Love, This is my father, Wise Owl.”

The tall man walked over and shook Jackie’s extended hand, “Nice to meet you, Little one. When you’re adopted into the tribe we will have to come up with an acceptable name for you. You and my daughter should put your heads together and think of one.”

“Nice to meet you too, sir. Dakota… I mean Blackbird said that I would but I have no idea which animal represents me…”

“I have one or two ideas, “Said Dakota as she got off Meditation. Then she reached up and helped Jackie down smiling down at her as she set her gently on her feet.

“I just bet you do,”Replied Jackie with a huge grin as she looked up into sparkling blue eyes.

Dakota was so happy to be home and to be there with Jackie made her homecoming twice a sweet.

She winked at Jackie then put an arm around her shoulders and looped her other arm through her fathers as they headed toward the village. “So Dad,” She said knowing that her horse would be taken care of by the braves, “What happened?” She asked as she watched Meditation being taken to the caral she knew she would check on her beloved horse after she and Jackie had settled into their tent.

“Luck Deer, was out hunting and he ran into a little trouble…”

“Dad, a bear isn’t little.”

“Daughter, Do you want to hear this or not?”He asked Dakota with a look that only a parent gave a child.

“Sorry, Go ahead,” Dakota said looking sheepish.

Jackie marveled at the loving relationship between father and daughter. She wished she had a parent like Dakota’s.

Wise Owl smiled and rubbed the back of his daughter neck affectionately, “Anyway, He was attacked. Pretty badly. He was bleeding several places and Prancing bird fixed all his wounds and cleaned the cuts but he is still not healing. He has a high fever and she has tried all her herbs to no avail. She finally admitted defeat to me and allowed me to send for you. You know that if you hadn’t left you would have been our healer…”

“Dad, Don’t go into that.” Admonished his daughter.

He nodded, “Do you want see your patient or get settled?”

“I want to see my patient,” Said Dakota firmly.

Wise Owl nodded and they headed for the healers tent.

*** *** *** *** ***

The three entered the healers tent and was greeted by a small woman with a very unwelcoming expression on her face.

“Prancing Bird,” Dakota said quietly slightly nodding her head toward the smaller woman.

“Blackbird,”She replied doing the same.

Wise Owl shook his head paternally and said,”Play nice girls.” He had a great deal of humor in his voice as he gave his daughter a wink.

Prancing bird bowed her head and said solemnly,”Of course, Sir.”

Dakota lifted and eyebrow and answered in a highly amused voice, “Yea, of course, Sir.”

Jackie watched it all from the doorway of the tent, She didn’t want to get in anyone’s way once they started to work on the patient.

Dakota winked at her beloved and then turned to the healer all business, “Ok, what’s the situation?”

“His wounds are healing nicely but I can’t get his fever to break. All of my healing herbs are failing at the task. Your father seems to think that your knowledge surpasses mine…”

“I didn’t say that,” Interrupted the older man from the door way beside Jackie. He smiled at the girl affectionately and winked. Jackie smiled back she relaxed in his presence he was so kind to her. They silently watched as the two healers bickered and examined the sleeping man on the pallet.

Dakota pulled back the blanked and began a careful examination of the small skinny man on the table before her. She gently felt his throat and swallowed there was a noticeable lump in it. She took a deep breath to steady her nerves she knew what she had to do, The man had a goiter and there was only one thing she knew of that would save this brave.

“Jackie, have father show you where you can wash the instruments in my medical bag.”

Her father’s eyes widened as he realized what his daughter intended but he nodded briskly and led Jackie out of the tent.

“He has a growth in throat which must be removed surgically. It was a result of the wounds from the bear combined with his size and his own breathing at the time of the incident. We will open him up immediately if he is going to live…”

“No, You…”

Dakota grabbed the smaller woman by the shoulders and looked into angry brown eyes, “This isn’t about us. Do you want to save his life?” The healer nodded briskly anger still flaring from her eyes.

“Then prepare yourself,”Dakota said as she released the healer and left the tent in an angry rage.

*** *** *** *** ***

Jackie was in Dakota’s tent cleaning the instruments when the angry gambler stormed in.

“Have you finished?”She asked briskly.

Jackie nodded and handed the tray to the older woman. Dakota looked into eyes that were about to burst into tears and mentally kicked herself in the butt, “I’m sorry Love. I’m angry at Prancing bird not you. ..Come here.”She held her arms and hugged the now crying smaller woman. Dakota stroked the soft blonde hair and kissed the top her loves head, “Forgive me?” She whispered.

“Of course, What are you going to do?”

Dakota pulled back slightly so she could look into red rimmed green eyes, “I need you to stay here, Love. I have to open the man up and you don’t need to see that. Just stay here and unpack…”

“No, I want to help…”

“Jackie, It’s not going to be pretty…”

“I don’t care! I want to help.” Jackie’s eyes were now determined.

Dakota shook her head and smiled slightly, “You’re something else.”

“Yep.”

*** *** *** *** ***

The operation was a success now they waited for the fever to break. Dakota had changed into the clothes she wore when she was home. She was dressed as a brave, which surprised Jackie, but she found the black buckskin very attractive on her beloved. For Jackie however Dakota provided a beautiful dress in white buckskin.

When Jackie came out from the changing area Dakota relished the beauty she saw before her. She enveloped the smaller woman in a warm hug and said quietly in a small ear, “You look so beautiful.”

Jackie blushed, as Dakota knew she would and replied, “You look pretty stunning yourself. Why are you called Blackbird? Why are you dressed as a brave?”

“When I was adopted into the tribe my father had to come up with an appropriate name for me,” Dakota had taken Jackie’s hand and led her to their bed. She sat them both down and took a brush from the nightstand and started to brush the beautiful blonde hair.

“I was only six when my parents were killed by Raiders from the army who roared through our town they stole and killed as some kind of a kick. My father found me and loved me on sight. He adopted me as his daughter and heir, which was his right as the leader of our tribe. Apparently when I was a little one I loved to chase and play with blackbirds. Dad said I even wanted to bring them into our tent as a pet. He thought that since I had such a love for the beautiful birds it was an appropriate name. ”

She started to separate the blonde hair and braid it into a long pony tail down Jackie’s back. “As for the clothes, When I was a teenager I achieved warrior status by my ability as a hunter and my abilities on the battlefield. Dad discovered I was very good at planning a counter attack.”She said with a smile remembering her Dad’s shock at how naturally she came up with sneaky effective plans for their warriors.

Jackie began to turn her head but Dakota stilled it as she continued to work on her beloved’s hair.

“Why did you leave? I mean… They love you so.”

Dakota smiled sadly and replied, “And I love them.” She reached into a bag by the bed and pulled out a bunch of green ribbons and started to weave them though the pretty hair, “Did you ever hear of group of people called searchers?”

Jackie began to turn her head again but Dakota stilled it and cleared her throat. Jackie giggled and replied quietly, “No.”

“They are a group of white men who feel it’s their duty to quote unquote rescue every white child from the quote unquote savages. “Dakota’s voice had a touch of anger though her hands were gentle as they continued to work on her loves hair. “Even if that child didn’t need or want rescuing.

When word came to them that I was with this tribe I was already eighteen and a full warrior. I fought beside my fellow warriors against them. Unfortunately one of their number was smart and they not only figured out I was white but a woman. They kept coming back and raiding my village to capture me and talk some sense into me. The idiots never thought I could have been raised by love, Taught not only customs of my people but the history and the heritage of the white man as well.

My wise father taught me so much Jackie, I know three languages thanks to him, I was taught more by him then I ever would of learned in a white man’s school.” Dakota shook her head as she remembered the huge fight she had with her Dad, “Dad and I had a raging fight about me leaving home. I knew if I left on my own those men would stop attacking my people and no more braves would be injured in the name of rescuing me. I took my family name which Dad had found for me long before and I left to find my way in the world.”

She gently turned Jackie around put her a little ways from her so she could see the affect of her new look. “You look ravishing.”

“Yes she does,”Said Wise Owl quietly from the doorway. Neither of the women had heard the older man enter. This surprised Dakota but she wasn’t shocked she deeply trusted her father so he and Jackie were probably the only ones who could sneak up on her. “Have you told her the story of how you became the great white gambler yet?” He asked with an amused expression on his handsome face.

“Nope, I’m saving that for another time…”

“Awww…”Jackie moaned which cause the other occupants of the tent to laugh.

“It will have to wait little one, its time for dinner.”

*** *** *** *** ***

After dinner they retired to Wise Owl’s tent to relax. Jackie smiled at the older man and asked, “May I ask a question?”

Dakota laughed, “Don’t worry Sweetheart, Dad loves questions.”

“I had to Blackbird, You had so many of them,” He replied laughing as well. “What’s your question Little one?”

“Why does Dakota have a permanent tent here? I mean she only visits once a month it seems strange to me.” Jackie eyes dropped to her hands in her lap she hoped she didn’t say anything wrong. Two long fingers lifted her chin till she met affectionate blue eyes. Dakota smiled at her shy beloved, “Please don’t ever fear asking a question, Jackie. I love you and I want you to know everything.”

“The tent is my doing, Little one.” Said Wise Owl smiling at the relationship his daughter had developed with this sweet girl. “One of the conditions of her leaving home was that she would have to visit once a month. I keep a tent for her visits because as tough and self sufficient as she is, She is still my little girl. I love her and I want to see her as often as I can.”

Dakota eyes had tears in them as she met her fathers beautiful hazel eyes. “I love you too, Dad.”

She moved over to her father embracing him and he returned it with equal force. Jackie had silent tears slide down her cheeks watching the affectionate display. Dakota noticed the tears and immediately embraced the smaller woman asking, “What’s wrong?”

Between hiccups of emotion Jackie replied, “I wish I had a father who loved me like yours does…”

“You do now, Little one,” Interrupted Wise Owl with a smile.

Dakota smiled and nodded; “When we’re joined Dad becomes your father too. To me we are already joined so you are his daughter right now.”

“Yes you are,”Said the chief as he hugged his two daughters. They pulled back and sat silently for a few minutes till Wise Owl asked Dakota, “Did you think of a name yet, Sweetheart?”

Dakota nodded, “Swallow, she’s strong and beautiful and pure and she will always come home to me.”

“Good Choice.”

Jackie just hugged Dakota fiercely to herself.”

*** *** *** *** ***

The joining ceremony took place the next evening. Blackbird left her tent dressed all in white buckskin. It was striking because Dakota never wore anything other then black she glowed in the beautiful white outfit.

The radiant bride was dressed in a soft white silk dress, her hair was in blue ribboned braids and she looked ravishing. The wedding parties eyes met in pleasure and approval and then they turned in unison toward Wise Owl. He was dressed as the chief of the tribe and looked quite regal. He smiled at his daughters as he got the wedding mug from one of his warriors.

He began by holding up the mug with which he would officiate the ceremony so the whole village could see it. Then he held it out for the brave to pour wine in and held it out for Blackbird to sip. She took her sip and then smiled brilliantly at her father.

He winked at Dakota then turned to Jackie and held the wine mug for his other daughter to sip. She did so blushingly and smiled shyly at her new father. He smiled sweetly at his new daughter and her smile widened and her eyes shined brilliantly.

He then handed the mug to the warrior and took a blue silk cloth and handed one end toward to Dakota and said, “Here Blackbird.” She nodded and took her end humbly. Then he gently held the other end to Jackie and said, “Here Swallow”. She took the other end bowing her head and then looked over to

Dakota who smiled brilliantly at her new bride and led Jackie to her tent closing the flap. They were joined and the whole village broke out in celebration. A feast was furnished for all to partake some of which was left at Dakota’s flap. The two occupants of the tent were a little too busy to worry about food, it remained untouched till late the next morning. Dakota opened the flap and picked up the tray and then closed it again. A sign of successful wedding night which no one in the village doubted.

*** *** *** *** ***

“This is plain kidnapping, Sheriff. Maybe she gave my little girl drugs? Now the she demon has disappeared with her victim.”

Bill Hodges the town Sheriff had known Dakota since they were both kids. She was honest and kind as well as tough and he knew she would never hurt an innocent much less give her drugs. Bill also knew from seeing Jackie and Dakota together that the girl was with her willingly. In fact she looked devoted to the gambler from what he observed during their last encounter. Bill’s eyes became slithers and his usual kindly expression became one of distaste.

“Joseph if you don’t stop this insane vendetta I am going to haul you in for disturbing the peace.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“Test me.”

Joseph O’Brien was a coward. He backed off from the younger man. He was so full of anger he could only focus on one thing getting revenge on that injun. I’ll get the County Sheriff then…”

“I already cabled him and told him the girl went willingly…”

“Why you…” His face red with rage he threw himself at the younger man. The Sheriff moved quickly and had the offensive man’s hands behind his back, “Joseph, Stop being an idiot. Go home,” Then he shoved him towards the door.

“I’ll go but not home. I’m going to get the county marshal.” He said as left the office in a huff.

Bill knew where Dakota was, “I better warn her,”He said to himself as he barreled out of the door on his way to the indian village.

*** *** *** *** ***

Dakota and Jackie were asleep in their tent nestled against each other under a warm blanket.

Jackie woke up first, which was unusual, but the gambler had been taken yesterday afternoon by her fellow warriors for a bit of a celebration and she was a bit more deeply asleep then was her custom.

When she returned from her evening of heavy drinking around midnight. It was a sleepy drunken brave who fell onto their bed and mumbled to Jackie, “I love you, my wife,” as she drifted off into a deep, deep sleep.

Jackie smiled affectionately as she brushed the dark hair off the beautiful sleeping face beside her, eyelashes fluttered and red rimmed blue eyes looked up at her a bit sheepishly. Jackie kissed her forehead and asked very quietly, “Hangover, My Love?”

The eyes closed and there was a slight moan as she replied, “Yep.”

Jackie gently tried to pull out of her mates arms as very strong arms wrapped around her waist keeping her in place beside the hurting woman.”Where do you think your going, My wife?” She asked quietly her eyes still closed.

Jackie kissed the gamblers nose and replied, “To get some tea for my mate’s headache.”

The blue eyes opened again and Dakota smiled at her mate sweetly,”That is very kind of you but I’d much rather snuggle with you then have your warmth leave me. Even for medicinal purposes.” Dakota rolled slightly so her body was on top of her mates.

She smiled into the twinkling green eyes that met hers, the need to kiss this woman was far more compelling then pain in her head. Once their lips met and the kiss deepened it almost made the gambler forget her pain. She slowly moved her hands up the warm back of her wife’s naked flesh pulling the beautiful woman even closer to her.

Just as they really began to enjoy themselves there was a coughing at the flap of their tent. Dakota glanced at the door and said tersely, “What?” in the language of the people as she continued to stroke her wife’s belly while waiting for a reply.

“Its important, Blackbird.”

Dakota knew it was her father she looked into Jackie’s eyes that were full of compassion and she shrugged. Jackie smiled and reached down to retrieve the silk robe from the floor a wedding gift from her mate. Dakota was still dressed in her black buckskin that she had been wearing when she went out to celebrate with her friends. When Jackie was properly clothed she said,” Sorry Father, Come in.”

He came in and smiled at his two children. He looked at Dakota and with a huge grin said, “You have red eyes Blackbird.”

Dakota rolled her eyes and said, “That’s what’s important, Dad?” She asked switching to english not a little annoyed at the interruption of her honeymoon.

“No Sweetheart,” Replied her father also in English “The Sheriff from town is here. It seems Swallows father is causing trouble. He’s going to get the marshal. He claims you drugged and kidnapped his daughter.”

“What?” Said both women exactly at the same time.

The older man sadly nodded his head, He walked over to Jackie and stroked her hair looking into his new daughter’s eyes, “You look far more coherent then your supposed kidnapper.”

Jackie was very mad but she adored Wise Owl and to get a compliment from was big stuff.

She blushed prettily and with a twinkle in her pretty eyes said, “I am.”

“Hey!” Said Dakota defiantly then she bent down and moaned in pain from the beating that had given her head. The other two occupants of the room looked sympathetically at the crouching woman.

“Let me fix that tea for you now, Love, It will help,” Said Jackie as she crossed to the fire to make tea from the water bucket by the fire.

“Thanks Sweetheart. Dad, what did Bill say?”

“He is still here. Why don’t you drink that and then come and talk to him. He’s in my tent.”

“Ok, That’s a good idea. Thanks.”

The older man nodded and left.

Jackie brought a steaming mug of tea to her mate. “What are we going to do, Dakota? Daddy isn’t going to let this go.”

Dakota accepted the tea and drank deeply from the mug. Then she looked up at the love of her life and sighed. “I know. He doesn’t seem to understand what he is now up against. It’s not just me anymore. Now it is all of my people. I am a warrior and you are my wife if he tries to start something he will start a war. We can’t let that happen. I need to speak with Bill. I need to cut him off at the pass before he starts a war and causes blood shed.”

Jackie swallowed and the tears fell unbidden from her eyes. Dakota put down the mug and embraced her wife, “Why are you crying?”

“It’s my fault. He’s my father…all these young warriors…they could get hurt….because of me…”

“No!” Dakota said a bit too loudly she closed her eyes and thought, I really need to get rid of this headache. “It is not you, it’s him. And no one is going to get hurt because of your idiot father. I promise you Darling. I have a plan,” She caressed Jackie’s cheek and pulled back so she could see into the teary green eyes. “Now we both have red rimmed eyes to greet Bill with.” She observed with a huge smile.

Jackie laughed just as Dakota wanted her to, “I love you Blackbird,” She whispered quietly into the gambler’s ear as she hugged her tightly.

“As I love you my little Swallow. Lets get my head straight so we can have a chat with Bill.” She kissed her wife then sighed as a waive of nausea overwhelmed her.

“Come on Blackbird lay back and drink this so you can feel better,” Said Jackie as she helped her love drink the tea making sure she drank each and every drop. Then she helped her lay back on the pillows of their bed. She followed her down and with their eyes almost hypnotically locked the gambler brought their lips together in a passionate kiss sinking into the healing sensation of their love.

*** *** *** *** ***

Bill was in Wise Owl’s tent sipping his coffee having a friendly chat with the older man. Bill liked the wise old chief he was intelligent and kind with a great sense of fun. He was a great father to Dakota who was always wild. He remembered her playing with the braves and ignoring all the white kids with the rest of the tribe.

They met in the general store she was a tall beautiful sixteen year old. She was a full warrior and dressed as brave. He was an apprentice to then the sheriff and a more shy and awkward boy never walked the earth. Bill smiled as he remembered the beautiful girl walking into the store full of confidence. Smiling and chatting with old Ben Carter the owner of store and buying supplies for the village.

A few of the older boys from a ranch just outside of town came in and started making rude comments about Dakota. Bill watched the friendly blue eyes suddenly turn to ice and decided to jump in to stop her from getting into trouble. He shook his head remembering how those cowhands started beating the crap out of him right in the store.

Suddenly they were all off him and flying out the door into a heap on the ground outside. The beautiful girl held out her hand, “Thanks for coming to my rescue,” She said in perfect english.

“Me coming to your rescue, Ma’am you came to mine.”

Dakota shrugged and said, “Well you tried and that’s all that counts. My name is Blackbird.”

Bill smiled and said, “Bill Hodges, Nice to meet you Blackbird.” They were friends from that day on. Bill knew that this man didn’t know what he was up against, Dakota was a true leader and strategist that’s why she was so good at her chosen profession.

Wise Owl broke into Bill’s thoughts asking, “How long has Swallow’s father lived here?”

Bill looked confused for a second, “Swallow?”

“That’s my name here Mr. Hodges,.” Said Jackie from the door. “We’ve lived her about 5 years since my Mom died of Typhoid.”

Bill looked up and his eyes widened. They were both in their Indian clothes and Bill had never seen them look more stunning. Dakota in black buck skin looking dangerous and beautiful. Jackie was in her white buckskin dress with green ribbons laced through her hair looking sweet and angelic. It was an interesting contrast to her mate whose hair had a tiny braid through the front and the back wild and free befitting Dakota’s personality perfectly.

“Wow, You both look beautiful.”

Dakota laughed,” Even our kidnapping victim? Please note how mistreated she is?” Her voice ringing in sarcasm.

Bill laughed at his old friend, “I should be so mistreated. So old friend what are we going to do?” He asked cocking his head to one side and looking at the tall imposing woman.

“Has he left to get the marshal yet?”

“No, He tried to get a posse from the saloon last night and the brothel. Everyone in town knows how he treated Jackie and so he is going alone today.”

“Excellent, “Dakota said with a glow in her now pale blue eyes that gave him the shivers.

“I have plan, would you like to help old friend?”

Bill smiled and nodded.

“Great, would you mind dressing like a brave for it?”

“Are you kidding? I always wanted one of those snazzy buckskin outfits.”

Wise Owl laughed, “Under every white man is a brave struggling to get out. Come along, William.” And he led the younger man out to get him the appropriate garment.

“Do we have time for this?”

“Oh Yeah, He’s part of my follow up flank. You and I are the first wave. Come on my love I will explain our plan of attack on the way,” She said with a wicked smile as she led her mate out of her father’s tent.

*** *** *** *** ***

Joseph O’Brien started later then he wanted to go see the marshal. He was on his way now and more determined then ever to get his revenge on that woman.

Suddenly he heard an Indian war cry and what at first appeared to be a brave standing fearlessly in front of his galloping horse. With a single movement she used her whip to stop the horse by wrapping it around the rains that were in the older man’s hand. He then saw that it was Dakota who dared stop his horse and sneered at her saying, “Well it about time you dressed the part, Injun.”

Dakota laughed at the man then in a flash she unseated the older man and had him on the ground in a headlock. “Yeah, it is ain’t it.” She replied in her most steely voice. “So old man are you still determined to start a war?”

“What in Sam Hill are you talking about? What do you mean a war?” He asked as struggled to get out of the woman’s firm grasp.

“I’m the adopted daughter of the chief of my tribe and the heir of that title. You start something with me you declare war on out whole tribe. Now old man do you want all that blood on your slimy hands?”

“All I want is my God Damned daughter back!!”

“Why?”

“Because she belongs to me not you….”

“You still don’t get it do you, Daddy?” Jackie asked her father shaking her head. He turned to look at her and his mouth fell open. His daughter had never looked more beautiful. “Your dressed like one of them!”

“No Daddy I am one of them. The tribe has adopted me and if you start this war I will be on their side. You are under a false impression I do not belong to anyone but myself. You are my father and I guess a part of me will love the memory of how you were with me when my Mother was alive, but since her death you have treated me like a servant not a daughter. You have shown me no love. That is what I get from Dakota and her tribe. Her father treats me like a daughter he shows me love and he hardly knows me.

Dakota loves me, I know you don’t Daddy. I think its time you let me go, I really don’t think you want to start this war, do you?”She looked at her father sadly.

Dakota caught her eye and winked making the upset young woman smile slightly. Then she brought the old man on his feet and pointed him in the direction of hill beyond them.”Look, Old man”She said pointing to the braves that gathered at the top of the hill.

Joseph O’Brien looked up and saw the hill filled with braves their focus was on him. He swallowed and looked at Dakota.

Dakota shrugged, “They are ready to go to battle against you. That’s what your facing Mr. O’Brien and there are many more where that came from. Are you ready?” Dakota asked from behind him. She could feel Jackie stiffen. She turned and smiled at her mate and Jackie instantly relaxed and smiled back.

The old man could not take his eyes away from all the warriors. “I…Ok….Uh….Ok, Injun you win…”He twirled and said savagely to his daughter, ” But you are no longer my daughter. I am not your father or even your kin. I disown you injun.” He turned abruptly and walked to his horse, Then he looked at Dakota and asked, “I am free to leave?”

Dakota whistled and the braves left the hill, “Yes, but you listen old man, Your going to regret what you said to Jackie…”

“Are you threatening me?”

“Nope. I don’t need to because it has nothing to do with me. You will know in your heart sooner or later that you just let go of the best thing you created on this planet. Jackie is the best part of you. I really do pity you, old man.” She then walked over to her wife put an arm around her shoulder and escorted her back to the village.

Joseph O’Brien went back on his horse and headed back for the Motel T all alone. He was now all alone in the world and he knew he would regret that for the rest of his life…

*** *** *** *** ***

Jackie was with some of the squaws of the tribe trying to learn how to sew. She was really happy to be apart of the tribe but Dakota wanted more for her mate. She was in her father’s tent watching him work on a pipe he was carving while she cleaned her guns. She sighed and her Father looked at her compassionately asking, “What’s wrong, Blackbird?”

“Dad, do you… I mean…Can I…What I mean is…”

“Daughter you speak three languages do you think you could try and communicate with me in a clearer fashion?”

Dakota laughed lightly at her Dad. Then she sighed again and looked down at the gun she was cleaning, “Dad, Do you think its fair to have some one like Jackie tied to rudderless soul like me…”

“Rudderless?”

“You know what I mean, Dad. I have no roots, no home, nothing to offer her. She deserves the best and I’m…”

“The best. Sweetheart, If your worried about offering Swallow a home,” He raised his arms indicating the village, “You do have one.”

Dakota nodded, “I know, I just would like to offer something from the white world too…”

“So you have a lot of white money, build your a mate a house.”

Dakota’s blue eyes grew bigger, “Dad, That’s right! Your brilliant.” She jumped up and

Threw her arms around her father kissing him on the cheek. “Thank you!”

“You’re welcome,”He replied shaking his head. He was amused his daughter was brilliant, but sometimes the simplest solutions went right over her beautiful head.

*** *** *** *** ***

After dinner that night Dakota fidgeted while helping Jackie clean the dishes from their shared meal.

“What’s wrong? “Jackie asked after she wiped her hands on towel.

Dakota looked down at concerned green eyes that were oh so very close to her. “Jackie, I have an idea I want to discuss with you. I don’t want you to say yes till you think about it though,ok?”

Jackie nodded and sat down on the bed looking deeply into Dakota’s nervous blue eyes.

Dakota sat down next to Jackie taking her hand into her own. She gulped a couple of times and took a deep breath and then plunged in, “Would you like to homestead near town or stay here in the village?”

Jackie looked surprised she didn’t expect it. She had an answer though because she had been thinking about where they would settle too. “I know what I want I just don’t know if it’s possible.”

“What do you want?”Asked Dakota breathlessly.

I would like to homestead near the village not near town. I don’t think it possible though because I think its all government land.” She replied unsure her green eyes looking a bit bewildered. Jackie found herself engulfed into a big bear hug by her mate.

“It’s more than possible, consider it done. I own land right outside the village. Jackie I love you!” Tears where pouring down Dakota’s face, “You are just too wonderful for words.”

Dakota was now stroking and caressing every part of her wife’s flesh till Jackie was beyond responding. Lips met in a passionate kiss, Clothes were quickly discarded and soon the discussion was now on whole different level but the same message was put across, Love.

*** *** *** *** ***

Meditation was now entering Dakota’s property. She was bare back and her riders were in buckskin. Jackie was in front of Dakota and the tall woman had her around her waist holding on tight.

Once they reached the property line Dakota whispered in Jackie’s ear, “What do you think, love?”

It was beautiful green valley surrounded by trees with a lake in the middle. “I thought we could build the house right there, “Said Dakota pointing to a clearing just beyond the lake. “What do you think?”

“Its perfect, Its home.”

Dakota gently kissed her neck and said contentedly, “Yes its home.”
Part 3 – Settling Down
The poker game was in its 6th hour and all of the other occupants of the saloon had left since it was now 1am. Dakota’s eyes flicked to beautiful blonde curled up in a chair fast asleep. I need to get her to bed she looks so uncomfortable that I’m uncomfortable, Thought the gambler to herself. She looked at the others around the table with cool blue eyes and said out loud,
“I’ll call you on that, Bill, “Dakota said with a slight smirk as she confidently pushed 500.00 worth of a chips in the pot. The four men looked at the gambler in astonishment and threw their cards down in disgust.

She smiled sweetly and pulled her winning to her. Bill shook his head and laughed out right. Between chuckles he asked his old friend, “You did that on purpose didn’t you?”

“Yep.”

The mayor was an old friend of the gamblers too but he felt frustrated by her actions, He grunted and asked, “Why Dakota?”

Dakota sighed and looked at him sympathetically replying quietly, “Jack, I have responsibilities now. And the most important one is sleeping uncomfortably in that chair. I had end the game so I could take care of her, so I did.”

With one exception all the men knew and loved both Jackie and Dakota so they understood her needs. The only one who grew angry was the towns new barber Tom Carrie, “That ain’t no reason to outbid us out of a God damn game, Woman!”

Bill looked at the outraged man and said, “Tom calm down Dakota was very fair she didn’t go over our limit…”

“No she went to the God damn limit!” He stood up making his chair tumble back as he left the saloon in a huff.

The commotion woke Jackie up who walked over to Dakota and asked softly, “What happened?”

Jonas Wilkins the town black smith smiled at his pretty friend and replied, “It seems our new town barber doesn’t like to be out thought by a woman.”

“Then why on Earth did he play her?” She asked reasonably as gently stroked her wife’s tense shoulder, bringing a smile to a face that was glowering a second before. Dakota looked into hypnotic sea green eyes and caressed her loves cheek as she replied, “Because the man’s an idiot.”

She gathered her money from the Mayor and said to her wife, “Come on Hon, Lets get some sleep,” She put her arm around Jackie’s shoulders and led her toward their hotel.

Bill’s smile broadened as he watched his friends and he shook his head in wonder, “Now ain’t that a pretty sight? ”

Jonas nodded his head with a matching smile, “Who would of ever thought it possible? The gambler in love.”

Bill looked at the tall man and winked, “Me, I would. Thank God for Jackie,” He replied and reached for his coat. “Come on I’ll buy you some orange juice at the Tavern.”

*** *** *** ***

Gentle fingers were combing out the gamblers long black hair as she felt the tension of the last hour drain from her she also felt a heat rise within her body. She gently caught the arm that was combing her hair and brought the little body she loved into her lap.
She cradled her love in her arms and looked deeply into sparkling eyes, “I love you so much Jackie. Sometimes I simply can’t believe that you feel the same way. I am such a flawed person, I…” A tiny hand interrupted the passionate speech as it covered the gamblers mouth.

“Stop that please, I love you too and I hate it when you say stuff like that. You are the kindest, smartest, bravest human being on Earth and I’m the lucky one.”

Dakota playfully nipped the fingers still covering her mouth and gently began to suck on each finger till Jackie’s eyes closed and she nestled deeper into the taller woman’s embrace. Dakota smiled and bent her head to kiss her love gently on the lips. The green eyes opened and she brought her arms around the dark woman’s neck to bring her down for a deeper kiss. hands began to pull the gamblers shirt from the waist of her pants as larger hands untied the pretty blue dress that Jackie had worn that night.

The vest now lay on the floor as the hands moved to the front of the stiff black shirt undoing each button with nimble little fingers pulling the black shirt off to reveal a black sleeveless undershirt.

The ties were now undone on the beautiful dress and Jackie could feel the gentle pull to remove the garment from her shoulders and down her arms. They both pulled back from the kiss, breathing deeply as they quickly removed the rest of the garments till their bodies were as exposed as their hearts had been all the time.

“You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen except in the dreams I had of you every night, but your real and your mine” Whispered Dakota as she brought her love as close to her as possible relishing the feel of skin against skin.

“I think you’re the most beautiful woman in the world, and I am so blessed that you are all mine, ” She replied as she gently began to kiss the neck beside her tenderly.

Dakota chuckled as she felt the nips and kisses along her neck and whispered huskily, “I know for sure that love is blind.”

At this point Jackie was enjoying her current occupation far too much to respond to that, but she would later, much later…

*** *** *** ***

Dakota woke up with a comfortable weight of her beloved on her chest with a beautifully peaceful expression on her face. She smiled happily, as she smelled the delicious scent of her wife. She was so happy that she just didn’t know what to do with herself. She was consumed by the love she felt for her soul mate. She gently began to stroke the beautiful blonde hair as she thought happily about their new home that she was building near the village.

She sighed because she was going over the top with it, She knew that her dad thought it was ridiculously big for just two people, But this was just so important to her, to them. This had to be perfect it was their dream house. When Jackie looked at the plans that Dakota laid out in front of her, the beautiful green eyes widened, “Sweetheart, Its beautiful, but isn’t a bit big?”

“Yep, It’s my dream house and I really wanted to give you something special…”

“Thank you, “She hugged Dakota to her fiercely, “But you know I really don’t need…”

“I really just needed to give you something special, Sweetheart…”

“You already did, I have the most special gift of all, You!”

“Oh God, “She kissed Jackie deeply and said into her ear as she pulled back slightly, “No, you’re the one that’s special…”

*** *** *** ***

“What are you thinking of?” Jackie asked quietly with her eyes still closed.

Dakota smiled and kissed her on the crown of her head,” How did you know I that I was thinking?”

“I could feel all your thoughts chasing into my sleep and it made me curious,” She said as green eyes fluttered open.

“They did, did they?” She asked as she kissed those luscious lips, deepening the kiss till the smaller woman was completely on top of her.

Jackie pulled back when she needed to fill her lungs and kissed the pretty nose beneath her, “Yep.”

Dakota lips gently moved down Jackie’s cheek to her ear nibbling gently on the lobe she said,” It was about our house.”

As Dakota continued down to her neck Jackie stretched it so she had more access, “Oh, any problems?” She mumbled.

Dakota was now on her way down to a waiting breast and gave a beautiful nipple a lick, “Nope, none…” She then began to suck gently and slowly with more and more passion till Jackie forgot about the house or anything but the delicious sensation zinging through her body. Well go back to the house later…

*** *** *** ***

They were eating breakfast when Jackie brought up the subject of their house again, “Are there problems?”

Dakota was brewing their coffee and looked at her distracted, “With what, Love?”

“The house.”

Dakota smiled and shook her head, “Oh…No, I was…I was just thinking about how big it is and the way you and Dad reacted to its size. You are happy with it, aren’t you? “She asked her love shyly.

“Of course I am,” Replied Jackie sweetly as she hugged and kissed the gambler with all her heart.

They sat down to eat after enjoying a satisfying morning kiss ,”You know I do understand about how you feel about our dream house, I’m so proud of you for what you’ve achieved I really am. I’m proud of anything you do. You don’t need to do anything to show me that you love me though, You do know that by now? Don’t you?” Jackie’s voice got higher and squeakier the more emotion she had pouring out of her mouth. She wanted Dakota to know she didn’t need anything but her love but didn’t know quite how to say that.

Dakota looked up from her meal recognizing that her love was upset, “Of course I know that..I..I just want you to be happy,” Said Dakota as she swept Jackie into her arms enveloping her into a loving embrace and stroking her beautiful hair.

Tears started to flow from the green eyes as Jackie nuzzled her beloved’s neck, She whispered, “But I’m already happy.”

Dakota suddenly began to tickle Jackie till she began to wiggle and bob and then she hugged her close again, “Now you sound happy.”

Jackie rolled her eyes and looked deeply into loving blue ones, “Like I said I am…”The rest of the response was muffled by Dakota’s soft lips that were kissing her deeply almost wiping out any hurt that Jackie had from their conversation. Dakota lifted her bride during their kiss and headed back to bed when there was a knock at the door.

Dakota pulled gently out of the kiss and rolled her eyes at the beauty cradled in her arms as she yelled, “What,” toward the door.

“Its Lonewolf, Blackbird, “Said her old friend quietly.

Dakota gently put her wife back on her own feet and said, “Wait a minute you big oaf,” Then Dakota grabbed Jackie’s silk robe that she had just removed from her wife’s body and gently held it up so she could slip it back on. When Jackie was fully clothed she said, “Ok, Come in.”

Lonewolf came in and smiled at his old friend she was dressed in her black town clothes. Then he looked at the lovely blonde in blue silk and lifted an eyebrow toward his old friend.

Dakota smiled and said, “Lonewolf, This is my wife Swallow, Darling this is my old friend Lonewolf.”

Jackie put her hand out and said quietly, “Its nice to finally meet you.”

Shaking hands with the small woman Lonewolf replied, “Its an honor to meet you. I’m sorry that I missed your wedding I had some trading I had to do with a tribe outside of Los Angeles.”

“Its ok,” Replied Dakota with a wink, “It was important trading. Dad told me you were making a deal for some of our over crops for their horses. Was there any trouble?”

“Nope, It was smooth as silk. “He replied glancing at Jackie’s robe, He winked at her making her blush then continued as Dakota rolled her eyes and put a comforting arm around her wife’s shoulder, “We will get our horses next week. I hear that you two are building a house, Do I get to see it…”

“When it’s done…”

“Hey, Why then I’d like to add my two cents…”

“That’s exactly why you can’t see it till then. It’s our house. Even Dad only gets to see the finished product,” Dakota brought both arms around her wife and drew her as close as possible in gesture of deep love and protectiveness. She wasn’t at all worried about Lonewolf, she truly trusted her old friend, She just wanted to show him that Jackie was now her whole world and she knew that he would understand the gesture. Jackie rested her head on strong shoulder and enjoyed the display understanding what her mate was doing.

So did Lonewolf, He was a bit jealous, not of Jackie or there obvious bond but he wanted that for himself and he couldn’t get the woman he loved to even notice him. He decided he needed help and he knew Blackbird would be honest with him, “Um… Blackbird, would you like to go hunting with me today?”

Both Dakota’s eyebrows lifted, she knew this meant her friend needed to talk and by his expression it was very serious. She looked from Lonewolf’s troubled expression to her wife for approval, She stroked her arm and waited patiently, Jackie looked into the questioning blue eyes and smiled sweetly. Dakota breathed a sigh of relief that she didn’t even realize she was holding and squeezed Jackie closer. “Sure, we’re leaving in about an hour, how about two p.m. at that village?”

“That would be great, thanks,” He said with a big smile and a nod of thanks to Jackie and he was gone.

“Thank you, Love, “Said Dakota gratefully.

“It was no problem, I understand. He needs you.”

“Damn, you’re smart, I love you so, Sweetheart.”

“I love you too,” She mumbled as she was swept back up into strong arms knowing the hour would not be wasted.

*** *** *** ***

The two braves tracked quietly through the forest they were silent as they carefully kept a visual on they’re preys movements. One touched the other hunter gently on the shoulder and two arrows swiftly left bows each making a clean kill on two startled deer. Both braves knelt by their prey each saying a silent prayer of thanks for the food that the brave animals just supplied the village with and their great sacrifice toward that effort. They then busily began to ready each of the deer for the long trek back to the village one brave looked at the other with startling blue eyes and asked in the language of their people, “So?”

Lonewolf looked at Blackbird and smiled sheepishly, “I need some advice from you old friend.” The tall brave just looked at her friend patiently waiting. Lonewolf shook his head and asked quietly, “You’re not going to make this easy for me are you?”

“I don’t know what it all about so how can I make it hard?”

Lonewolf silently watched as his friend tied the deer and readied it to be lifted onto her shoulders for the trek back to the village.”I…I care for someone. I have for a long time but she barely acknowledges my existence.”

Dakota stopped her work and stood up, “Who?”

Lonewolf worked busily on his kill and replied quietly, “Prancing bird.”

“What?” Said Dakota quietly her voice full of disbelieve.

Lonewolf still diligently working on tying his prey said, “You heard me,” He had still had not met her startled blue eyes.

Dakota swallowed and bent down to pick up her prey and waited for Lonewolf to do the same. Of all the woman in the village why did my best friend choose my worst enemy to fall in love with? As she watched him stand up and head back to the village with out waiting for her to join him. Dakota quietly asked from behind him, “What did you want to ask me?”

“How did you win Swallow’s heart? How did you achieve getting such a good woman to love you as much as she obviously does? Your Father told me how wonderful and intelligent she is and I know we are a lot alike in our attitude and charms…Um …maybe you would help me? How did you do it?” Was the stuttering confused response.

Dakota smiled sweetly and replied very softly her face was glowing as she spoke of her love, “Swallow is very different from Prancing Bird. I don’t think it will be the same for you…I ….Uh…dreamed of her all my life. I was just kind to her, protected her….I loved her….I didn’t do anything special.”

Lonewolf turned and smiled at his old friend, “I think that sounds pretty special, Blackbird.”

Dakota actually felt herself blush and she shrugged, this time she lead the way to the village not waiting for her friend. Then she stopped and waited smiling at her friend as they continued side by side. “I loved her all my life, Lonewolf. I dreamt of her before I met her and all I wanted was to kiss her in my dreams to take her in my arms and hold her forever.

We were platonically sleeping in my big bed at the hotel in town, and in my sleep…I….um…I finally got my wish and I kissed her. When I woke up during the kiss I realized she was kissing me back. We never stopped loving each other from that moment on.” Explained Dakota simply looking at the ground as she walked.

“That will never happen with Prancing Bird.”

“No.”

“So what do I do?”

“I think we should talk to the smartest man I know, my Dad.”

Lonewolf nodded and they silently walked the rest of the way back to the village.

*** *** *** ***

Wiseowl was carving a something in his tent when he heard the knock on the flap of his tent, “Yes?” He asked in the language of his people.

“Its me, Dad and Lonewolf,” Replied Dakota in English.

“Come on in, Sweetheart,” Said Wiseowl as he swiftly hid his daughter’s and her bride’s housewarming gift under pillow near his arm.

The two braves entered the chief’s tent, Lonewolf smiled and slightly bowed his head. Dakota casually walked her Dad and gave him a hug and kiss, which was returned with equal affection.

“And where is my other Daughter?”

Dakota sat beside him and blushed, “She is in our tent perfecting the art of her newly learned skill of sewing. She used to darn socks but now she has to learn to make her own clothes and she is enjoying it greatly. About now I think she is probably going to start our dinner.”

Wiseowl nodded and gestured for Lonewolf to sit down.”You’ve had no time to change yet, Blackbird?” He asked noticing his daughter was still in her town clothes.

Dakota rolled her eyes at her father, “I…Um…well we were delayed leaving town and I promised Lonewolf that I’d go hunting with him at a specific time. So I had no time to change when I got to the village,” She replied blushing a rather charming but deep shade of red. She remembered the reason for her delay was that their lovemaking had gone way beyond what they planned and they barely made it to the village before two.

Wiseowl was bursting inside to laugh but he replied in a calm voice, “I see.”

Dakota studied her own hands thoroughly as Wiseowl and Lonewolf’s eyes met across the room the older man winking at the younger man causing Lonewolf to cover his mouth to keep from laughing out loud. “Busy little brave, aren’t you Sweetheart,” Teased Wiseowl knowing full well that only he and Jackie could get away with teasing his lethal daughter.

“Dad,” Said Dakota now fully embarrassed. She reminded him of the teenager that she once was as her big blue eyes came up, She boldly looked both men in the eye and shook her head, “Get on with it all ready Lonewolf, Damn it!” She said her eyes flashing annoyance at his friends amused look and her Dad’s teasing.

Lone wolf suddenly lost his smile as he was forcibly reminded of why they were in Wiseowls tent. “I need advise, Sir.”

Wiseowl bowed his head, he had a twinkle in his eye as he sagely asked, “In what capacity?”

“I need advise on…well I need some help on how to….What I really want to know is…”

“He needs advise on love,” Said Dakota quietly putting a comforting hand on her friend’s shoulder. Lonewolf smiled gratefully at her and then looked at Wiseowl, “I’m in love with a squaw and she doesn’t know I exist. Dakota thought you might be able to advise me sir.”

Wise owl looked at his daughter and said, “You are much more experienced at this then I am, Blackbird.”

“Um, Dad the Squaw and I have a sort of a history…”

“You didn’t?”

“No! Not that sort of history. We really don’t like each other…much.”

Wise owl looked confused, Everyone loved Blackbird. Everyone but…His eyes widened and met his daughters in astonishment. “You don’t mean?” When his daughter slowly nodded her eyes met her fathers with matching expressions of shock and concern, Wise owl then turned toward Lonewolf and asked very quietly,” Prancing Bird?”

Lonewolf nodded his head.

“Well that is an interesting problem but I think I have a better idea then my advice. Blackbird go get your wife.”

“Why?”

“I think only a squaw could figure out a solution to this dilemma. A squaw that has been around our woman for a while and is trusted by them. Also a squaw that we can trust with this information. That’s Swallow.”

Dakota nodded and left the tent.

Lonewolf looked even more uncomfortable then he did before, “Would you like a drink?”

The younger man nodded and they sat in silence while they waited for Dakota and Jackie to return.

Jackie was briefed on all that happened on the way to Wiseowl’s tent and was now seated between her wife and her adopted father. “Um, Lonewolf I think the best thing to do is show an interest in her work. help her as much as you can. Say that you have an interest in the healing arts it will give you a chance to be around her more and for her to get to know you in safe environment.
It will show her what a good kind and caring person you are. I can’t guarantee it will work though. It really depends on how she feels about you.”

“I don’t think she cares anything about me, Swallow. I’m just another brave…”

Dakota shook her head, “No your not, You are a very special guy. You just need to show her. I think Swallow is right, Dad would be difficult to set up an apprenticeship for Lonewolf?”

“No,” Said the older man with a grin, “If he wishes it, It is done.”

Dakota lifted an eyebrow and asked, “Don’t you need to consult with Prancing Bird?”

Wiseowl smiled sweetly at his daughter and heir, “No Sweetheart. One thing you need to learn is that an advantage of being chief is that I order and the tribe follows. You’ll need to remember that when you become chief.”

“Not for many, many years, Dad,” Replied Dakota with a lot of determination. Jackie and Lonewolf nodded their heads in agreement. Wiseowl looked at the love and respect he inspired and shook his head in wonder. “Well make a note of it Blackbird because some day you will be their leader.”

Dakota nodded her head and bent it. She couldn’t stand to think about the day she would assume the roll of chief. It would mean her father was dead and she didn’t want that to happen. She loved him so.

*** *** *** ***

Jackie and Dakota were alone in their tent in the village. Dakota was carving some tongs for the fireplace of their new home. Jackie was showing off her newly acquired sewing skill by making the curtains for their new bedroom.

“Dakota?” Asked Jackie as busily worked on the curtains.

“Mmmm?” Dakota muttered as she concentrated on the wood she was working.

“Do you think Prancing Bird cares for Lonewolf?”

Dakota looked up at her wife and shook her head, “I’m the wrong person to ask, Sweetheart. You know the woman despises me.”

“Are you upset that your dearest friend loves someone who dislikes you?”

Dakota gently put down the tong and the knife and gave her wife her full attention, “No I guess I’m more astonished that he loves her. We always had very similar tastes in…well everything. I fell in love with you and your completely different from Prancing Bird in almost everyway.

She is cold and distant and you’re sweet and open. In fact you’re so friendly I worry that people will take advantage of you. Not very many people like her and with in the first 24 hours of your moving here everyone was head over heals in love with you,” Dakota had to laugh at the deep red blush covering her beloved’s face.

She got up and sat beside her on the bed and put her arms around her embracing her till there wasn’t any space between their bodies. “You are my angel. I just can’t see anyone as I do you. I love you so completely there is no competition on this earth, “Then she bent her head till their lips met in a passionate kiss.

Jackie returned the kiss with equal love and passion, then she nuzzled her head against her partner’s shoulder. “Everyone has different tastes, My Love. Maybe Lonewolf sees something wonderful in Prancing Bird that no one else does?”

Dakota nodded her head and smiled meeting the beautiful emerald eyes that looked up at her so earnestly, “Yea, I guess.” She suddenly had her mind on other things and decided to concentrate on a more easily accessible mystery.

*** *** *** ***

Prancing Bird gracefully accepted Lonewolf’s apprenticeship and the two did become inseparable. However Lonewolf was frustrated because the woman seemed to go out of her way to talk of nothing other then healing and Lonewolf was running out of ideas to bring up for discussion. She was just too good at avoiding them.

Dakota was returning to the village after a day of working on their house, when she heard her name called from behind. She turned to see Lonewolf heading her way as she settled her horse Meditation in her stall. She smiled at her friend as she turned to head toward her beloved, she had a lot to tell her about how their new place is shaping up. She finished almost the whole exterior and wanted to consult Jackie about all the interior rooms. She was stopped by Lonewolf, “May I have a word with you and Swallow?”

“Sure, Come on that’s where I was heading, “She said as she lead her friend to their tent. Then she stopped and called inside, “Sweetheart, Are you descent? Lonewolf is with me.”

“I’m decent and clothed, Come on in Darling,” She replied with a smirk on her face.

Dakota had a matching expression as she entered her tent and kissed her wife and the rubbed noses with the her impertinent wife.”Cute, really cute.”

“Yep.”

“Hmmm”muttered Lonewolf.

“Ooops, Sorry, “Said Dakota with a sweet smile and nudge toward her beloved. “What Up?”

“She won’t talk about anything other then healing. I am so frustrated. She is very kind toward me and gentle, but she shows no affection. Am I making an idiot of myself?”

“No,” Replied Jackie, “Maybe she is unsure of how to do that. I mean all she knows is healing. She has no friends really and no knowledge of how to display affection…Hey wait a minute? I think I have an idea.” She looked at her wife and then at Lonewolf again, “It’s sneaky, underhanded and dishonest but it might work.”

“I’ll do it,” Replied Lonewolf desperately.

Dakota smirked, “You are promoting deception to a woman?”

“Not deception…well not really. It will only work if Prancing Bird really loves him, so it is basically legitimate.”

“What do you want me to do?” Asked Lonewolf willing to try anything at this point.

“Well you’d have to take that herb that is very strong that Dakota told me about…”

Dakota’s eyes widened, “Your kidding?”

“You said if given by an expert it was harmless and you’re an expert…”

“Yes but…”

“Just do it, Damn it, “Said Lonewolf beyond anxious now.

The other two occupants of the room looked at him astonished, Their eyes met and a silent communication went between the spouses, “Ok, Lets get started,” Said Dakota in serious but quiet voice.

*** *** *** ***

Two braves rushed Lonewolf into the healing tent under Dakota’s instruction, “Prancing Bird?” She called anxiously.

Prancing Bird was ready to be annoyed at the invasion of her territory by Dakota till her eyes fell on the wounded brave. “What happened?” She asked anxiously.

“I don’t know exactly, we separated while we were out hunting. I think he must have eaten one of the poisonous berries. He needs some serum of the dicato branch.”

“Yes…um…its over there…” Said a suddenly nervous healer.

Dakota’s eyebrows raised as she went to get the serum. With out the healer seeing it Dakota switched the flasks so the healer would give the antidote to the herb she had given her friend earlier. She handed the brew to the healer who tenderly attended the man on the stretcher. Dakota smiled inwardly and thought, Looks like my beloved did it again. Jackie’s plan is working like a dream. Out loud she said, “Now all we can do is wait, ” She took the flask from a distracted Prancing Bird and put the serum on the shelf and the antidote in her pouch. She then nodded toward the healer and left the tent.

Prancing Bird was keeping a constant vigil over Lonewolf. She would not allow any of her assistants near him. She was constantly hovering over the fevered brave and silently sending prayers to the Gods. Slowly confused brown eyes opened and what the man saw filled his heart with hope. Concerned and tear-filled warm brown eyes met his, he smiled shyly and asked, “What happened,” In a horse voice he barely recognized as his own, even though he already knew the answer.

Consumed with relief and an emotion she didn’t recognize she found she had to swallow a couple of times to talk over the lump of emotion in her throat. “Um… You were out hunting with Blackbird and you got separated. She said she found you unconscience and brought you right here. She thinks you ate poisonous berries.”

Lonewolf nodded and said, “Yes, I was very hungry for some reason. I thought they were safe, you know blackberries. I guess I was wrong,” He said smiling sheepishly.

Prancing Bird smiled sweetly and Lonewolf fell even more in love with her seeing how beautiful she became when she smiled. The smile really transformed her face. She bent forward and gently brushed a lock of hair out of his eyes as she replied quietly, “Well we all make mistakes.”

*** *** *** ***

Dakota and Jackie were eating dinner with Wiseowl in his tent. The Chief turned toward Jackie and asked, “Has my beloved child told you how she became the great white gambler yet?”

“Dad,” Dakota protested gently throwing a small piece of bread at her father.

He smiled at her and shook his head saying, “Now I know I taught you better table manners then that.”

Dakota rolled her eyes and looked at her beloved. Jackie was smiling with her head to one side slightly waiting for her wife to begin the tale. Dakota rolled her shoulders and took a sip of beer, “Oh ok, After I left home I was with Bill in the town saloon watching a game. I had started wearing the clothes that I wear in town and because I was so tall and such a good fighter the idiots stopped trying to throw me out of the saloon.

I became excepted as one of the boys,” Dakota rolled her eyes again and Jackie and her Dad laughed at the thought of any one thinking of her as a male. “Anyway, Bill and I were drinking a beer and watching a game and I was fascinated. I always played games well here in the village and I was a very quick study. I also learned how to gamble and be very strategic about it, I also found that I was intoxicated by the game.

It enticed me, I watched them like a sponge for about an hour, and when one of the players had to leave the table I asked the Mayor, our newly elected Mayor if I could play. I showed him my money that I had earned hauling things for my friend that owned the general store. Their eyes all glowed with greed and since I was girl they thought I was an easy mark…”

“They were wrong weren’t they?” Asked Jackie her voice full of pride.

Dakota winked and smiled affectionately at her wife,”Yes my love, very wrong. I had them wiped out by the end of the game. They were all playing stupid by doubling their bets figuring I had to lose sooner or later. I didn’t. Then I took half my winnings and put it in the bank and then used the other half as a stake in another game. I just kept it up and the same savings plan, I started to make more and more money, I used it to follow the circuit, then I began to win tournaments and well…um…you know….I….”

“You became the best gambler in the whole world,” Said Jackie with such a loving look on her face that the gambler went over to her wife and embraced her kissing her deeply. Then she looked deeply into her eyes and continued, “Not the world, Sweetheart just this side of the Mississippi. And there are many men who would dispute that belief me…”

“Because you’re a woman?”

Yes, my love and because I’m so young. And because I was raised here and because they think they are the best. There is a lot of ego in gambling…”

“No really?” Asked Jackie with fake innocence.

“Come here my love, ” Said Dakota as she began to tickle her wife into submission.

Wise owl just sat in his seat and quietly ate his dinner. He had a smile on his face as he watched his kids playing with each other. Suddenly there was a knock on the flap of his tent and he said, “Yes,” in the language of his people.

“Its Lonewolf sir, May I come in?”

“Yes, come in.” Said the chief as he took his pipe out and began to set it up to smoke it.

Dakota had Jackie on her father’s bed with her hands above her head and she was tickling her till she called uncle. When Lonewolf came in she looked up and then she went down to kiss the luscious lips of her wife. It was a sweet and gentle kiss not passionate since they were on public display at the moment. She then sat up and pulled her wife in her lap putting her arms lovingly around her wife’s waist and putting her head on her wife’s shoulder with a cocky smirk on her face as she looked at Lonewolf who was seated next to Wiseowl.

“You get interesting entertainment, Wiseowl.” Said Lonewolf to the chief with a smirk.

“Yes, my girls are quite amusing aren’t they?”

“Dad,” Said Dakota with the look that everyone knew so well from the gambler. The effect wasn’t too strong since the one giving the look just had a lovesick look on her face seconds before.

Jackie just looked embarrassed and hid her face in her wife’s shoulder. The chief smiled and went to his daughter and lifted her head up till he met her eyes and said, “No need to be embarrassed I love seeing my girls having fun.” And he gave his shy daughter a kiss on the cheek.

Dakota’s arms tightened around her wife and she whispered in her ear, “Not as much fun as we will have later.”

Jackie turned around surprised and Dakota smiled kissing her on her nose. “That’s enough my playful pups I am sure that Lone wolf has come here on an errand.”

“Well…I yes….Um…..thank you….I, uh….”

Jackie and Dakota looked at each other and said “Congratulations!” at the same time then they burst into giggles. Wise owl looked confused, “What are you congratulating him for?”

“Prancing Bird and Lonewolf are betrothed.” Said Dakota calmly to her Dad.

*** *** *** ***

Dakota gently brushed her wife’s hair but her mind was on her friend’s engagement. She just couldn’t get her mind around it. Worst enemy is a bit much, She thought to herself reflectively; It’s more like she is the most annoying woman I know. I find she has no imagination and I don’t find her attractive. She is a very good healer, she’s very skillful but she has no imagination or independent thought outside the norm. As long as they are happy together that’s what counts, it not whether she is my favorite it rather that she is the woman of my best friends dreams, God I hope that’s what she is.

“Dakota,”Jackie said trying to turn her head, Dakota gently stopped her with a smile and asked, “What is it, love?”

“What’s wrong?”

“Why would you think that anything is wrong?”

“Dakota.” Dakota couldn’t see her wife’s eyes but she was pretty sure that she rolled them.

“Well, I was thinking about Lonewolf’s announcement…I wonder if I will lose a friend.”

“Why would you?”

“Sweetheart, You know Prancing Bird despises me.”

“No, I don’t…”

“Oh Jackie, Come on the woman can’t stand the sight of me…”

“I really don’t think so. I do think she is very jealous of you but I can’t see why anyone would want to hate you.”

Dakota turned Jackie around and said gently to her wife’s face, “Jacqueline O ‘ Brien Nozama, You know there are a lot of people who hate me…”

“Dakota Nozama, No I don’t” They were now nose to nose and they both started to giggle. They then began laughing and hugging each other in pure mirth. Dakota shook her head and licked her wife on the nose, who said, “Yuck” and gently hit Dakota on the arm.

“I have the silliest argument with you. Now my love you know I am not liked by several people. I’m a woman, a gambler, a warrior who was raised by Indians, it’s just not a way to win popularity contest in this territory.”

Jackie leaned in and rubbed noses with her beautiful wife as she said,” Most people both here and in town are fascinated by you. Of course I am a bit biased I think you’re perfect and adorable what this will do to your ego I shudder to think.”

Dakota gently pushed Jackie forward till she was lying back on the pillow and brought their lips together for a deep passionate kiss. When she pulled away for a breath she whispered in her loves ear, “My number one fan. You are so adorable. How on Earth did I get so lucky?”

“I’m the lucky one.”

Dakota pulled back so she could look deeply into sparkling emerald eyes, “God, I love you so much.”

“I love you too,” As she pulled the tall woman down for another kiss. Her quick hands started to untie the buckskin that Dakota had on as, Long elegant finger deftly removed the buckskin dress from the body below her. All thoughts of anything other then each other was forgotten for the moment.

*** *** *** ***

Dakota was walking to the coral to get Meditation she wanted to see what progress the painter had made on their house.

“Blackbird!”

Dakota turned at her name and saw it was Prancing Bird heading toward her she took a deep breath and carefully placed her poker face on for the confrontation. “Yes?”

“I….I want to …um apologize.” She said sheepishly.

Dakota was stunned, “What?”

“Yes, I am very sorry I have treated you this way all these years and I wanted to apologize,” She said putting her hand out in a gesture of good will.

As gingerly as she could the gambler shook hands with the small healer. “Um Why?” She asked after letting go and stepping back slightly.

“Why what?”

“Why all of the sudden? I mean this has been going on since we were kids.” Asked sincerely confused Dakota.

Prancing Bird lowered her head ashamed, “I know. But I am to marry your best friend and I need to become at least tolerable to you and your wife. I thought since I started it I should end it.”

Both eyebrows shot up into Dakota’s dark bangs, She swallowed and said, “Wow…I….Wow, yes, that would be good…I…Uh, my wife definitely would like to…”

Prancing Bird smiled and Dakota eyes widened she looked human, “Good, then truce?'” Prancing Bird asked meekly.

“Truce.”

*** *** *** ***

After Dakota returned from the homestead she excitedly told Jackie all about it, The tall dark woman was very happy with the latest development and that made Jackie happy. She was a little afraid there might be some problems between the friends because of Prancing Bird’s jealously. But some how it all worked out. She hugged her beloved she was so happy to see her relaxed and pleased again.

Dakota pulled back smiling she said, “I am ahead of schedule on out house we will probably be able to move in soon, maybe a couple of weeks at the most. Sometimes life can be very good, lets celebrate, shall we,” and at her wife’s nod she carried her to their bed to celebrate their new life in the most special way she knew.

*** *** *** ***

Dakota and Jackie took Wise owl on a tour of the house. Dakota proudly showed her Dad every nook and cranny and breathlessly turned around and asked him, “So?”

“Its beautiful, Sweetheart.”

Dakota’s face broke out in the most beautiful smile and she threw her arms around her father and hugged and kissed him, “Thanks Dad!”

Then he was pulled into a hug by Jackie who said sweetly, “Yea, Thanks Dad!”

“Your both welcome, “He said smiling and pulled a present out of his pouch and handed it to Dakota, “For your new home.”

Dakota went to a counter to unwrap it with Jackie looking over shoulder, with an excited expression on her face. Once unwrapped it was revealed that it was wooden plaque in a style of cartoushe in the style of their tribe. In the center was an owl on the right side was a large black bird and on the left side was a swallow, The bottom was full of corn, The corn was prosperity that the owl was wishing to his heir the blackbird and her mate the swallow. Tears were falling from both women as they both hugged their father and kissed him, “I love you both and I’m so proud of you. Please have happiness in this home that will last forever.”
Part 4 – The Circle of Life
It was a beautiful day and the gambler couldn’t wait to get home. She had a very successful trip to San Francisco. Jackie had stayed home after Dakota had finally convinced her that they would hardly ever see each other during the trip. The poker championship in San Francisco was a non-stop forty eight-hour ordeal with no sleep and hardly any food just straight poker for two days.

The best players in the world played at this tournament every year. Dakota had gone every year and she always ended up in second place. It was annoying for someone who usually won to always come up second. She did win a lot of money mostly in side bets but to not win the game grated on her last nerve. It just was against everything she stood for and she was determined each time to win the whole pot this time around.

Dakota had a very happy smile as she thought of her beloved and Dad’s expressions when they saw the medal that she now possessed. She finally won the damn thing. It was a first time a woman ever won. Not even Belle Star had won that one and she had. Dakota could have flown home on the power of that high.

Meditation suddenly stopped. Dakota could feel it in the air too. Trouble.

“Come on girl, Let’s see if we can help.”

They approached the small settlement she had gone through on the way to San Francisco. It was only 20 miles from her home. A small village of new settlers called Albacore. It was a nice friendly place she liked very much. They were all excited for her and offered her coffee and bread for her journey.

As she came to the outskirts she felt the sting of tears come to her eyes. It was all rubble. The few building they had built were now burnt to the ground. The people looked to have been dead for approximately 24 hours. It smelled horrible. Dakota started to bring Meditation around it, she would tell Bill about this horror when she got home.

Suddenly she heard a cry. Then there was only the spooky silence. She stopped Meditation and waited listening carefully. There it was again that faint cry she got off her horse and headed toward the sound. She was beside an overturned wagon when she heard a baby’s cry.

“Oh shit!” Cried Dakota as she quickly crawled under the wagon to get the poor child. “Oh you poor little thing,” she said nuzzling the babies soft skin. She pulled the blanket that wrapped the child to reveal startling blue eyes and blonde hair. She opened the blanket and saw that the diaper was a horror. The baby boy was about 6 months old and appeared to be healthy but dirty from his ordeal. She gently put the baby back into the blanket and put him on the ground then she dived back under the wagon so she could pull free a bag full of baby things.

“Well lets see if we can get you all cleaned up, young fellow.” Dakota said sweetly as she picked up the infant and carried him to a lake not far from the destroyed village. She carefully washed the baby cleaning every inch of dirt on his body and checking to see if he had been injured at all during the attack. She put on a new diaper and his little clothes.

“That should feel much better, huh?” She said as she tickled his cute little belly. Sparkling blue eyes looked trustingly into her own. “You look so much like us that you could be our son. I wonder?” Said Dakota quietly as she wrapped him in a fresh clean blanket.

A strange feeling came over the gambler and she looked deeply into the eyes that were so much like her own gently running her fingers through the soft blonde hair that was so much like her Jackie’s. “How would you like to be our son? I’m afraid your Mommy and Daddy are gone and…I…you touch my heart kid. I…really want…Come on, Why don’t you come home with me. We’ll let Jackie decide about this, ok?”

The baby gurgled and smiled as if he understood and agreed with what the gambler had said. Dakota smiled and then whistled for Meditation to take them home. She snuggled the boy closer as she waited for her trusted horse to come to them.

*** *** *** ***

Jackie was busily working on the formal dining room at their new homestead She wanted an elegant but inviting and comfortable room. She was working with the art that Dakota had bought to try and make that affect. Suddenly she heard a rider approaching and she gently put the painting she was holding down and rushed to the window. She squealed with delight when she recognized the dark figure on the horse approaching the homestead.

She ran outside with a huge happy smile on her face and stopped dead in her tracks her expression changing to shock. In Dakota’s arms was cradled a baby. Dakota gaged her loves face as carefully as she would her adversaries around a poker table. She could see that she was shocked but not displeased. Relieved she said with a smile, “I got a surprise on the way home.”

Jackie’s eyebrows shot into her bangs, “H..H…How?” she stuttered.

“Sweetheart, Could you please take him? My arms are going to break from holding him for the whole ride home.” She knew as soon as her wife held the little tike looking into that angelic little face she would fall in love with him just as quickly as she had.

Jackie put her hands out to accept the sweet faced boy. Her face simply melted when she looked into those sky blue eyes and saw hair the same color as her own. “You didn’t win him in the poker game did you?”

Dakota was now off Meditation and by her side. She put her arm around Jackie’s shoulder bringing her close kissing her cheek. “No, I found the poor little thing among the dead in the village of Albacore.”

“My God, How many people were dead?” She asked quietly her eyes aghast.

“All of them,” replied Dakota her voice breaking as she said it. “He was under an overturned wagon with a bag full of his things to soften his fall. Um love, umm…” Dakota was trying to approach the subject she wanted to but was very nervous.

“Yes Sweetheart?”

“Um…I…can we keep him? I mean the poor baby is all alone in the world and I… I fell in love with him at first sight. He looks like he’s ours.”

Jackie’s eyes looked into Dakota’s pleading blue eyes and she smiled, “Softy.”

“Only around you…and now him.” The gambler admitted quietly.

“Yes, we can but we have to tell Bill.”

“I know, take him inside and show him his new home while I settle Meditation. Then we’ll walk over to the village to show Dad his new Grandson. We’ll send one of the braves to get Bill.”

“Sounds good…Oh Darling did you win?”

“Win what, Sweetheart?” She asked as she gently rubbed her finger against the little boy’s soft cheek she was totally consumed with the little one at the moment.

“The tournament.”

Dakota looked up at Jackie surprised and then she laughed shaking her head. “Oh yeah, I did. I’m the first woman ever and I won a nice big pot. Perfect for starting a family,” She said with a big smile leaning over their new son to give her wife a tender kiss.

*** *** *** ***

Wise Owl and Bill were talking in Wise Owl’s tent about the marauders hitting villages and towns all around the outskirts of San Diego. Bill was worried and he was consulting the older man to get his advice about what would be the best defense. His worry was that their families would be next.

There was a knock on the flap of the tent and a familiar voice in English said, “Dad are you free?”

Wise Owl’s face lit up and he popped up to greet his beloved child, “Blackbird, Come in Sweetheart!”

Jackie followed by Dakota entered the tent. The older man was about embrace both of his daughters when he saw what was in Dakota’s arms.

“What’s this?” Asked the older man who went to the baby tickling him under the chin. The baby gurgled and looked up at the older man with happy sky blue eyes.

“Isn’t he beautiful?” Asked a glowing Dakota.

“Who is he?” Asked Bill quietly looking at the boy over Wise Owl’s shoulder.

Dakota smiled at her friend and replied, “He’s a foundling. There was a raid on the Village of Albacore. From the looks of things I found the aftermath of raid 24 hours after it happened. This sweet little one was lucky that a wolf didn’t find him before I did. He was in an overturned wagon he landed safely on his satchel it was full of diapers, blankets and babies clothes. His mother wasn’t so lucky her neck was broken and his father was shot and died a few feet away. This poor child was the only survivor.” She finished sadly nuzzling his head against her cheek.

“God Dakota! That is the 5th place these murders hit. That’s why I was here I’m worried about us.” Said Bill very angry.

Wise Owl looked into his daughter’s eyes and saw immediately what she was really asking, “So have you come up with an appropriate name for our tribe yet?”

Jackie smiled and shook her head; “You are really good Dad.”

Wise owl smiled back at Jackie and said, “I’ve known your wife a long time Swallow.”

“Dad,” said Dakota rolling her own sky blue eyes at her beloved and very smart father. She cuddled the baby even closer kissing him on the crown of his head.

“What are you three chattering on about?” Asked Bill totally at sea with the discussion.

“Swallow and I are going to adopt him, he’s going to be our son.” Said Dakota proudly looking at Bill with sparkling eyes.

*** *** *** ***

“Bill looked like he was about to have an attack,” said Jackie as she gently settled their new son into his cradle, which was happily donated to the couple by Wise Owl.

“I noticed that,” said Dakota with chuckle. She was bending down to caress the little boy’s cheek. His little fingers reached up and curled around the long strong fingers. Dakota face broke out into a lopsided grin and she kissed his forehead. “You’ve got quite a grip little man.”

“Just like you, huh?”

“He does seem to be a lot like both of us.”

“Yes he does,” Jackie smiled affectionately at her mate.

“I can’t seem to stop touching him, he’s so wonderful.”

Jackie was gently running her fingers through his hair, “I know I can’t either.”

They smiled at each other. Jackie then reached out and tickled his stomach watching him wiggle and smile up at her. Dakota smiled at Jackie, “Sweetheart what would you like to call him?”

“What name would you like? I think we should find names that suits him in each culture, For the English name do you have a favorite?” Jackie asked smiling at how the little fellow was tugging at Dakota’s hand.

Dakota nodded, “True we should, Um how about after Bill?”

Jackie looked at their son tilting her head and then shook it, “No, I don’t think that fits him, Sweetheart.”

Dakota looked down and said quietly, “When I was old enough Dad got me a lot of information about my family. My father’s name was James, Do you think we could name him that, James Nozama?”

Jackie gently lifted up Dakota’s chin and saw tear filled eyes looking into hers, “I think that sounds perfect. I love you Dakota.” She pulled the face gently to her and kissed her passionately.

When they pulled back Dakota smiled sweetly and said, “I love you too.” Then she looked down at their son in wonder; “I loved him at first sight. Just like Dad did with me. Strange isn’t it?” asked Dakota nuzzling her cheek against Jackie’s.

“No I don’t think so. You have a huge heart and he’s so beautiful. He does look a lot like us I felt the same way, love at first sight.”

“Isn’t it amazing? Beautiful blonde hair like yours and his eyes are the same blue as mine. It’s like God just sent him as a gift to us.”

Jackie turned slowly and rubbed noses with the taller woman. “What a lovely way to put it.”

Dakota scooped her wife up and looked down at the baby, “Excuse us James your Mommy Jackie and I are going to celebrate your arrival in a very special way.”

*** *** *** ***

Jackie’s arms were around Dakota’s neck the skin on skin contact made her need increase. They were kissing deeply and Dakota’s hands were gently caressing Jackie’s soft back.

Dakota flipped them over then started to move down the beautiful body beneath her kissing and tasting her way till she had captured every bit of flesh with her tongue. Jackie was now reaching the pinnacle and Dakota was determined that she bring her wife to it with all the love and passion stirring in her own body.

When she reached the golden mound she saw it was so wet that she could easily enter it with two fingers. She started a driving rhythm with her fingers and captured the erect breast with her mouth. As her tongue and fingers drove Jackie up the spiral she released the breast and climbed Jackie’s leg riding it in the same rhythm till they both fell over the edge together.

She then crawled up the blonde’s body till she was kissing the sweaty brow and nuzzling her tired body with her wife’s. “I’ve missed you so much. I’m so glad to be home.” Dakota whispered lovingly.

“I’ve missed you too,” replied Jackie her breathing finally coming back to normal. “I was so lonely without you I am so glad your safe and in my arms.”

“Mmm, especially the in your arms part.”

“You do know that our new son might break into our sex life, He will need constant care.” Asked Jackie nuzzling her cheek against a strong shoulder.

“Yep, I know that. I don’t mind, do you?”

“No, I love him.”

“I knew you would. Isn’t he wonderful?”

“Yes, he’s just like you.”

“He’s both of us.” Said Dakota kissing her wife tenderly on the lips.

*** *** *** ***

Dakota and Jackie were busy at home converting one of the bedrooms into a nursery. Jackie had put the curtains from Dakota’s den into the nursery because they were bright and cheery. With a crib and other things donated by a doting grandfather it was shaping up into a lovely room.

The baby was in a playpen in the large living room with his busy parents who were both working happily on something for him. Jackie was working on some toys that Bill had brought to make them more suitable for her child. Dakota was working on a bassinet like the one she had seen in San Francisco in a store window.

Wise owl came in with a bemused smile as he took in the happy family scene. “My Grandson seems to have taken over your lives.”

“Happily yes,” replied Dakota grinning at her Dad.

Jackie laughed and looked at her father in law in amusement, “Just like Blackbird Dad, full of surprises.”

“Why thank you love.”

“Oh anytime my darling.”

Wise owl laughed and shook his head. Then he walked over to the playpen and picked up the little boy. He cradled him in his arms and kissed his cheek, “Well James your parents are very doting.”

“Yep and enjoying every minute of it. Um Dad, did Bill get any information on him?”

“His parents had no family. We are now all this little one has in the world.”

Wise owl nuzzled his cheek to the boys and looked sadly at the girls.

“Oh,” Said Jackie, “I’m…I’m glad but it so sad at the same time.”

Dakota nodded meeting sad green eyes, “I know it’s a tragedy. He has us though and we’ll love him forever.”

Wise Owl kissed the top of the boy’s head and said sweetly, “And he knows it. Don’t you James.”

*** *** *** ***

Dakota, Wise Owl, Bill, Lone Wolf and the tribal elders as well as the Mayor and town counsel were seated around a table in the Mayor’s office. This was a summit meeting to try and figure out how to build a defense against the marauders who had hit another village just 15 miles south of them.

“They don’t care who they hit and the are getting closer,” said the Mayor near panic.

“Calm down Tom, Panicking is not going to help us,” said Dakota reasonably putting her hand gently on the Mayor’s arm.

Wise Owl nodded, “Blackbird is quite correct we need to build a defense but we also need to gather some intelligence on the marauders.”

“How?” asked Bill quietly.

“It is Blackbird’s believe they must be located somewhere that would be a central location to where they are striking. Somewhere they can maintain the appearance of a normal life while launching these attacks easily,” replied the older man looking toward his daughter.

Dakota smiled at him and then glanced around the table, “That would be San Diego.

“So what are you proposing?” Asked the Mayor who was now calm.

“I’ll go to San Diego and do a little digging. Meanwhile Dad and Lone Wolf will start working on few plans I have for our defense.

Bill looked at his friend with a knowing look, “Dakota what are you going to do to get this information?”

“I have a few ideas,” Said Dakota smiling wickedly.

*** *** *** ***

“No!”

“But Sweetheart…”

“Absolutely not!”

“How else will be able to put a stop to this…”

“I don’t know. I don’t care! I won’t let you do this!!”

“Sweetheart you know as well as I that I won’t let those ass holes touch me.” Dakota’s voice was a calming purr she was hoping to convince her angry wife.

“What if they hurt you? What if they rape you? I.I…” Tears stung Jackie’s eyes at just the thought.

“I know how to take care of myself. You know they couldn’t lay a finger on me. If I can fool them and get vital information to safe lives its worth it. I want to stop them before more innocents get killed like our babies parents.”

“But why as a whore?”

“Because that’s who they will talk to.”

“But what if…”

“Shh, not a lip, not a finger I promise my love. I promise,” Dakota said as she gathered Jackie in her arms her love had burst into tears. Jackie knew she couldn’t fight it but she was terrified. She buried her face in Dakota’s chest sobbing her fear out. Dakota held her close and ran her fingers through the soft hair that she loved so much. “I promise love, and I never break a promise,” she whispered into an ear of the upset woman in her arms.

*** *** *** ***

Dakota had set up with her Dad to stay with her family while she was away from the homestead. She knew her father would protect them if they came while she was out of town. The chief had set some traps around his daughter’s home to set up a base of operations for the defense of the homestead, the village and town. The homestead was perfect location because it was central.

Jackie was sitting in a rocker in the nursery rocking with her son in her arms. She was singing an old lullaby and looking out the window her eyes not focused.

Wise Owl quietly came in leaning against the door and listen to his daughter in law’s sweet voice as she sang to his Grandson.

“Blackbird will be ok, Swallow.”

Jackie looked at her father in law and smiled, “I know Dad. I just can’t help worrying.

The chiefs face broke out in a huge smile much like his daughters, “That’s called love.”

Jackie nodded, “Yes, She is my whole life. I don’t think I could live without her.”

“Nor could she live without you. I know my child. She is very bright and strong. No man could take advantage of her. Ask Bill, she will definitely get the better of anyone who tries to lay a finger on her.”

“I know, I’ve seen her in action. She is remarkable.”

“So?”

Jackie shrugged and looked sheepish; “I worry.”

“Little James has the most remarkable parents. They love and worry not just about each other but about everyone.”

“Can’t help it. That’s the way we are.”

“Believe me Swallow, I know that.”

*** *** *** ***

Dakota was dressed in beautiful rose red silk robe and nothing else. Her hair was down making her look softer then she normally would. She looked stunning and highly desirable she had already turned down at least six johns. She was really beginning to wonder if she’d find one of the men she was after.

A couple of the men were more then a bit miffed by her turning them down. One pulled a gun on her and she quietly disarmed him and threw him out the window into the town marshal’s wagon. The other tried to slug her she caught his hand in a vice like grip and sent him hurling out the window to the same fate as the man with the gun.

“Well I did promise my little one that no one would lay a finger on me. I never said a thing about laying a finger on them,” She said to herself in the mirror as she brushed her long black hair with wicked smirk on her face.

Another group of men entered the brothel so she went down stairs standing in the back of the reception area to scope out the new comers. Two of the men seemed promising. One in particular seemed to like to brag a lot and mentioned a recent run of luck and how he fell into a way of making a lot of easy money.

She sauntered toward him and put a gentle hand on his upper arm. He turned to look at her and almost fell off of his stool. She smiled seductively flicking her hair so it flew over her shoulder.

“Your beautiful.” He said his voice full of awe.

“Mm, Are you rich?” She purred into his ear still standing slightly back so she wasn’t in his touching range.

“I’m well on my way to becoming the richest man in California.”

“Oh, how are you doing that? Is it better then mining or stealing from old people?”

“Oh yes, much better then that.”

The bartender gave the man his scotch. Dakota took the drink and caressed his cheek then started to walk across the room saying, “How would you like to take this up stairs and tell me all about how your building your fortune.” She turned and simply left with his drink knowing damn well that the creep would follow her.

He did and once she was in her room she handed him his drink and walked to the other side of the room. She stretched putting her hands under her hair running her fingers through it. She knew that this move would show off all her assets to perfection and she watched through her lowered eyelids to see the man almost hyperventilating on the other side of the room. He sat down on the bed and downed the scotch in one big gulp.

She looked at him seductively and began to brush her hair again as she asked, ” So how are you making all that lovely money?”

“Um, I really shouldn’t say…”

Dakota put down the brush and her hands went her belt slowly seeming to be untie it. “I find such talk very stimulating. I may even give you a go for free if you tell me something really interesting.” She said as she undid the bow and kicked off her high-heeled slippers.

“Well… we are taking out some of the peasants in the surrounding towns and villages.”

“Why them?” She asked as she played with the slit in her robe showing a long stretch of skin of her lovely leg.

He swallowed and said, “Easy pickings.”

The other leg came out of hiding as she asked with her head lowered, “Who’s next?”

“A little village 15 minutes away all Injun bastards that probably steal everything they have anyway.”

Anger suddenly boiled up in Dakota she tried to keep herself together till she could find out if it was her tribe. “15 minutes which way?”

“North east, why?”

Dakota sauntered toward him and said, “Just curious, Ok time for you to get what’s coming to you,” She held out her arms and tilted her head to the side with a sexy smile on her face.

He smiled wickedly and walked toward her, when he was close enough she suddenly sneered and sucker punched him in the jaw, “I’ll give you easy pickings you piece of shit!” She growled. She looked at the unconscience man and threw a towel over his head and quickly changed. She threw the creep out the window into the wagon and climbed down the trellis by the window.

She smiled at the marshal and said, “Well here is one of your murderers, Marshal, free and clear.”

“So you caught one of fish, Great!”

“Yeah but I got to go home Roger, my village is next!” She replied as she jumped right into the saddle on Meditation and galloped out of there at top speed.

*** *** *** ***

Lone Wolf and Wise Owl were out setting up the defense for both the village and the town. Bill was staying with Jackie at the homestead to protect her and the baby in case the marauders try to attack them. Jackie was feeding James from a bottle she had gotten from town along with other baby supplies that now filled their home. She cooed down to her child and kissed him as he drank his milk happily.

Bill watched with a sweet paternal expression on his face.

“You’re a good mother, Jackie.”

Jackie looked up at her friend and smiled, “Thanks Bill.”

“Your welcome. Can I ask you a strange question?”

“Sure, What do you want to know?” Jackie carefully took the empty bottle from her son and put it down on an end table. She gently put the baby over her shoulder to burp him. She rubbed his back with soft strokes waiting for her son to burp.

Bill’s smile broadened at the sight as he asked quietly, ” How is Dakota with the baby? I mean I wouldn’t think of her as the maternal type.”

Jackie looked at him with the sweetest smile as she said proudly; “She is incredibly loving and doting. She worships our son.”

“I sure do,” Said a quiet voice from behind them. Jackie’s head turned and she jumped up baby and all. Dakota hugged them both gently kissing her son on the forehead. Then she reached over her son to give her wife a tender kiss on the lips. “I love you both so much you are both my heart.”

Jackie looked into the worried blue eyes and asked, “What’s wrong, Sweetheart?”

Dakota took a deep breath and said, “Those bastards are coming here next, and I’m terrified for us all. Little one, where’s Dad?”

“He and Lone Wolf went to set some more traps for the maunders around the village. They should be back soon.” Said Jackie as she detached herself to put their son in the playpen.

“I’ll go check outside and see if their back yet,” Said Bill.

Dakota nodded and walked beside Jackie hugging her and kissing her passionately. She pulled back and pushing some hair out of her pretty green eyes and said quietly, “Stay here, Sweetheart. I’m going to leave Bill here to protect you…I’m so worried about Dad and Lone Wolf they have should have been back by now.” She kissed her again and then released her and headed for the door.

*** *** *** ***

Two horses approached the homestead at top speed. One rider was yelling at the top of his lungs as soon as he thought he was in hearing range. “Blackbird! Blackbird!!!”

Dakota ran off the front porch toward the approaching horses followed by Bill and Jackie who ran out of the house. Dakota took one look at Lone Wolf’s face and knew something was very wrong.

“Where’s Dad?”

“He’s on his horse, he’s been shot!”

“No!!!!!” Dakota screamed running to the horse. She and Bill with Lone Wolf’s help gently took the wounded man off his horse and carried him into the house.

Jackie had run upstairs ahead of them to get Dakota’s medical bag. She met them in their guest bedroom where Dakota was gently checking her father’s wound. He was unconscious and his vital were all very low. Dakota had tears pouring from her eyes but she appeared calm to the casual observer.

Jackie knew better then that it was purely appearance. She knew her love was falling apart inside. She quietly handed the bag to Dakota as tears fell from her own eyes. She met the grieving blue, Dakota spoke to her in a quiet voice, “The bullet went right through him. He is very bad my little one…I…don’t know if I can do anything at all.” She finally said crying and leaning against a bedpost.

Jackie put her arms around Dakota’s waist hugging her tightly and said, “Stay with him, hold him, talk to him. Even if you can’t do anything medically that will be a God send to him.”

“Jackie…” Dakota turned and sobbed uncontrollably in her wife’s loving arms.

“Shh, I’m here. I love you and I always will. Shh.” Cooed the small blonde to the grieving woman. Both women walked to the bed and looked at the injured man. Dakota lovingly took her Dad’s hand and brought it close to her heart.

“Dad.” She squeaked.

Wise Owl’s eyes flickered open and in a very distant choked voice he said, “Sweetheart…I can’t see you…”

“Shh, Dad everything is going to be all right.”

“Sweetheart…you…chief…”

“No Dad, No don’t say that. Please your going to be ok.”

“I love you so my darling girl…I am…proud….of you…”said the older man struggling to breath. Then he shuddered and stopped breathing.

“No!!!!!!!” Screamed Dakota. She started giving her father mouth to mouth desperately trying everything she knew to get him to respond. Finally when she saw it was useless she fell hysterically across him crying, “No…Dad…please…NO!!! Don’t leave me! NO!!!!!!!!!”

*** *** *** ***

A very angry Dakota stormed out of her house and looked at the shook up brave with narrowed blue eyes. “What the hell happened out there?”

“I’m not sure I wasn’t with him. We were setting traps around the village we had done the traps for town the day before with no problems. We were separate by only a few feet. I heard a shot and a scream. I ran as fast as I could and I found him out cold on the ground with no one around to be seen for miles. Then I gently picked him up put him on his horse and got him here as fast as I safely could.”

Dakota paced as she listened to her friend. She nodded and said quietly, “I’m not blaming you…I…Damn it Lone Wolf, I just lost my father. I’m so…” Dakota punched a hole through a chair on the porch.

Jackie had come out of the house and having just seen what her wife did she called, “Dakota?” Jackie walked over to the angry woman and embraced her, hugging her tightly against her. Dakota hugged her back her head lowered onto a warm shoulder. She nuzzled close as she cried her eyes out again. Bill and Lone Wolf looked at each other and felt very uncomfortable watching their best friend fall apart like this.

Dakota slowly got a grip on herself and said, “We have a village to protect, boys. Let’s get a move on. Jackie I want you and James to come with us to village you’ll be safer with us then alone here. I am going to leave several warriors to protect all the women and children.”

“Dakota, please I want to help…”

“Love, you will help by staying alive and protecting our son.”

*** *** *** ***

The maunders slowly approached the Indian village they were surprised not to run into any scouts as they had on previous raids. Several of their men were caught unexpectedly in some traps. They were left to rot where they lay and continued on toward their target, the village. The two leaders of the group thought that was all the preparation these dumb injuns did and were approaching the first tent as a piercing war cry came from the trees. Suddenly warriors and men from town surrounded them. They were all very mad about what happened to Wise Owl and were ready to tear these men into little pieces.

The leader was all in black and came right down on the back of a stocky man as she shot at the others with unfailing accuracy. The man she was on fell down and she punched him in the jaw knocking him out cold then followed up by kicking him in the groin. Within 20 minutes the whole gang was overpowered. The wounded were treated and transported to the town jail. Dakota already had braves go out and collect the men who were in the traps to bring to Bill’s deputies waiting hands.

Dakota had the two leaders tied up and brought to her father’s tent. She looked at them with icy narrowed eyes and spoke only to her fellow braves in the language of the people.

After letting them sweat a bit when she saw Bill enter the tent and nod his head she turned to them and said, “Who killed the Chief of this tribe yesterday?”

Both men were surprised at both the question and that it was asked in unaccented english.

“Gentlemen, I am being patient but if you don’t cooperate right now it will get very rough for you I promise. And I never break a promise.” She growled as she paced in front of them.

“We weren’t near here yesterday.”

Dakota punched the man in the groin and watched coldly as the man fell over onto his side in pure agony. “That man was my beloved father. Either you will tell me who killed him or you will all suffer the fate of someone who kills a chief of our tribe.”

The two men looked at her blankly scared and baffled by what she said.

Lone Wolf stopped Dakota from striking out at the other man and said reasonably, “Blackbird, Maybe they’re telling the truth? Maybe whoever killed Wise Owl used them as cover for their own agenda?”

The angry blue eyes narrowed as she looked over to Bill and said, “Take this scum to jail. Even if they didn’t kill Dad they did kill James’s parents and deserve whatever they get.” Bill nodded and with the help of one his deputies took the two hurting scared men away from his angry friend.

Dakota then looked at her best friend and asked, “Who could have betrayed Dad like that? Everyone loved him.”

Lone Wolf looked just as angry as Dakota as he said, “I don’t know but we will get them. I promise that. This will not go unavenged.”

“You damn well know that it won’t. Dad deserved so much better then to be betrayed like that. He was good and loving leader and father. He deserved to see his grandson grow up. If I knew who killed him I would…” She left the sentence unfinished but she didn’t have to because Lone Wolf felt the same exact way.

*** *** *** ***

Dakota quietly entered her own tent. Her wife and child were rocking in a large rocking chair another gift from a doting grandfather. She approached them and bent down to her knees.

“I’m so scared, love.”

“Why?” Asked Jackie holding her other arm out to embrace her upset wife. Dakota went into the embrace returning it gently kissing her son on the forehead and her wife on the cheek. “I’m the Chief of this tribe now…my Dad’s gone…I’ve never been with out his loving guidance I don’t know if…”She said quietly tears falling onto Jackie’s neck.

“He’s not really gone his spirit is with you. I feel it. You have all of us who love you and the support of the whole tribe. Everyone adores you. You are not alone as long as I’m around either, you know that right?”

Dakota nodded and kissed Jackie tenderly.

“Could you put James down for a nap I need your undivided attention right now?” She asked quietly.

Jackie smiled and nodded, “Sure he’s a sleepy a little boy anyway.”

Jackie put the baby in his cradle and then took Dakota’s hand and led her to the bed. She brought the tall women into her arms and they just held each other for a while. Dakota felt better both from this loving attention and the words that her wife had spoken. I’ll get through this Dad, With my little one’s help I will get through it. She thought as she pulled the smaller woman even closer.

*** *** *** ***

The baby was now fast asleep and the women were still just holding each other. They were now cuddled under a blanket and Jackie was gently running fingers through the soft black hair. Dakota was still crying she couldn’t seem to stop. All she knew was that someone had taken her father from her before she could tell him how much she appreciated all that he had given her. She knew he knew it and she knew that she had shown it but it was agonizing that she would never again be able to sit down and just talk to her Dad.

“Sweetheart, It wasn’t the marauders who killed Dad. It’s someone amongst the people. I feel it. But I can’t understand why anyone would kill him. He was such a kind benevolent man.”

Jackie was silent for a few minutes as she continued to soothe her beloved with loving caresses and strokes. “Who gains by his death?”

“Me.”

“Besides you Sweetheart, I mean who would gain power other then you?”

“Hmm, The tribal elders, Dad was oldest elder as well as chief it made his word final.”

“So you being so young wouldn’t have that sort of power?”

“No I…” Dakota pulled back and shook her head as if to clear it. “Wow, I never even thought about that. Your incredible. I do have final say but a tribal elder who is older can override me by tribal law.”

“Ok so who would fall into that category? And who would be so ambitious as to kill a well loved and respected leader both here and in town to gain that kind of power? I mean all the town counsel consulted your Dad and everyone here nearly worshipped him. They would have be very ambitious and cold hearted.”

Dakota looked into the clear green eyes as she silently thought of who would fall into this category. She stroked the soft skin of Jackie’s neck and cheek as she went over the 10 elders that made up the ruling group. Of all of them only two came to mind as a possible suspect.

“Two elders Eagle Has Wings or Busy Hawk.”

“Find out if either of them was out of camp when Lone Wolf and Dad were…” She never finished the sentence Dakota kissed her passionately, “Thank you.” Was whispered into her ear as Dakota gently pulled out of the embrace and ran out of the tent.

*** *** *** ***

Dakota was alone in her Dad’s tent dressed as the Chief of the tribe. Lone Wolf came to the open flap bowed formally and said, ” May we come in, Blackbird?”

“Of course, come in,” Said the tall dark woman gesturing toward the pillows by the fire.

Two braves entered. Lone Wolf escorted the older brave to the pillows then stood back and leaned against a tall oak cabinet that tribal papers were kept in as well as some books that Wise Owl had collected over the years.

The elder Busy Hawk was amazed that the beautiful young woman was already dressed as Chief the grieving period hadn’t ended yet and it seemed to go against her character.

“Why are you dressed in ceremonial clothes, Blackbird?” He asked in the language of the people.

“I am here to conduct business as chief so it is best to dress appropriately,” said Dakota in the language of the people as well.

“Business? What business? The elders were not informed there was to be any business.”

“As your Chief I do not have to explain myself. My father taught me our laws very well. I know what I can and cannot do. Do not question me. Now Busy Hawk I did ask you here for a specific reason.” She was interrupted when one of her warriors entered her tent and bowed.

“My Chief I have brought you all the things you have requested.”

Lone Wolf swallowed a smile by biting his cheeks. Dakota was not really a very formal person but to do what they had to do she was pretending. She did look awfully regal in the chief’s robes and her elegance in speech was a bit surprising to her old friend since she was not one to mince words usually.

“I’ll take the satchel, my thanks, Little Dove.” Said Lone Wolf as formerly as his friend taking the satchel from the young brave. He took it to the woman in the chair handed it to her bowed then backed away.

Dakota had to bite her cheeks this time. No one had ever even thought of doing that for her Dad. She telegraphed to her friend through mirth filled eyes that he was over playing his part. “Thank you Lone Wolf.”

The mirth left her as she looked inside remembering what the things in it meant. She saw all that was in there and nodded to the young warrior that he could go.

The old man was beginning to feel worried about why he was there and what business the Chief felt she had to discuss with him.

“May I ask what the inquiry is?”

“You really won’t have to, I will be happy to enlighten you.” She reached in the satchel and pulled out a piece of leather lace from a brave’s shoe. “Is this one of yours?” Dakota asked quietly handing the lace to Lone Wolf who brought over to the old man so he could examine it.

The man looked at it and nodded, “It appears to be, why…?”

Dakota held out her hand and then pulled out a hawk’s feather that was from a hair ornament. It was a distinctive color and shape only one person in the tribe wore it. “Is this yours as well?”

Again she handed it to her friend who brought it to the older man. He examined it and nodded.

She then pulled out the last thing from the bag in her hand with a poker face of a true gambler, which of course she was. It was a long piece of rope. “Does this look familiar to you?”

The old man was now scared but he quietly lied and said “No.”

Dakota’s lips became a grim smile. She stood up and started to pace angrily. She was so mad she switched to english with out realizing it but she didn’t care anyway. “It is funny Busy Hawk, the first two items you claimed with out any hesitation. And yet they are linked with this rope as surely as your sitting in the Chief’s tent.”

“What?”

“The lace and the piece of hair ornament were found in the same tree as the rope. The lace was entwined in the bark. The feather was caught in branch. The rope was made into a ladder to climb that tree. Busy Hawk do you know where that tree was?”

The frightened man said nothing, Dakota moved like a cat till she was nose to nose with him. She was so angry could have killed him but she was holding it back and still was speaking in reasonable voice to the vile man.

“That tree overlooked the area where my father was setting a trap. The person who stood in that tree shot my father. He saw a perfect opportunity thinking we would all blame the marauders since they were known killers. Since you claimed them without a moment of doubt, not being forced or cajoled and because you are the only person to benefit because I have a witness that you bought this rope. I have only one question left. Why? Did you think that you’d get away with this? Did you?” She was about to take the rope and put around the horrid man’s throat when a familiar hand touched her shoulder and soft voice said, “No Blackbird. Please don’t.”

Dakota turned to look into the gentle understanding green eyes that she loved most in the world. “Swallow I…”

“Shh, Its ok…Lone Wolf could you please bring this man into town for Bill to jail and have him put on trial for Wise Owls’ murder.”

“Swallow we have our own laws…” Said Lone Wolf Quietly.

She turned toward their friend. “Please Lone Wolf. I don’t want Blackbird to be put through all that. She just lost her Dad and she’s is way to close to this. I think it would be best if we had a jury trial so my beloved won’t be judge, jury and executioner.”

Lone Wolf had the vile man pulled away from his friend and Dakota embraced her wife with love and devotion. She whispered into her ear, “I’m afraid Lone Wolf is right Sweetheart.” She kissed her tenderly and then pulled back and looked at Lone Wolf and then the devastated prisoner. “I do have an idea, Lone Wolf bring him somewhere here in the village to be imprisoned and then assemble the tribal elders. I will remove myself from this council but I will be the prosecutor at his trial.”

“Perfect,” Said Lone Wolf with a proud smile. “I will put this scum in the animal stockade. Then I will inform the council. Come on you I hope you enjoy the smell,” he said as he shoved the man out of his chief’s tent.

Dakota looked deeply into the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen; “I love you my Swallow.”

“I love you too, My Chief.”

Dakota face suddenly burst out into a real smile for the first time since her Dad died “Chief?”

“Well you are my Chief in every way, aren’t you?”

“Mmm, You’re my Queen.” Said Dakota as she rubbed noses with the small woman then scooped her into her arms and kissed her deeply carrying her to their own tent a few yards away.

*** *** *** ***

The trial of Elders found Busy Hawk guilty as charged. He was to be given poison to take in water. It was an old way for any elder accused of treason to take the honorable way out of this life. He was brought to his tent and allowed to wash and dress in his formal Elders robes and then die in his own bed. It was the most dignified form of execution known to the people.

After he was convicted and sent to his tent to die Dakota left the village. She went to the homestead and straight up to the nursery picked up her son and held him close.

“James, I’m going to give you Dad’s name when I adopt you into the tribe when your old enough. I think that way he will look after you…not that he isn’t already, huh? I hope I will be as good a parent to you as he was to me. I miss him so much baby. I always knew I could talk to him about anything. He was my rock.” Tears fell from her eyes and down her cheeks as she looked into her son’s sweet eyes. He reached up and squeezed her nose and tried to put his little hand in her mouth.

“He loved you and understood you. He worshipped his new grandson. He was sweet and kind to me. He knew we loved him and he loved us all very much. You can’t ask for more in life.” Said Jackie quietly from the doorway to her son’s room.

Sad blue eyes met compassionate green and Dakota nodded. She gently kissed James and put him back in his crib. Then she covered him with his blanket a present from his beloved Grandfather. She lovingly felt soft wool with her finger as she remember his sheepish look as he gave yet another present for the baby.

Then she extended her hand toward her bride and led her to the their room

“Do you think Dad would like us naming James for him?”

“Of course.”

“He did love you too you know. Not just because he felt an obligation to but because he thought you were a wonderful person. He thought you were the best thing that had ever happened to me. So do I…”

“Funny I always thought you were the best thing that ever happened to me.” They now were cuddled on the top of the bed together deeply nestled in each other’s arms. Dakota looked off into the distance over her shoulder for a minute, “I guess this is the circle of life that Dad always talked about. I just wanted our son to really know his grandfather. He was such a remarkable person.”

“He will Love, Don’t you feel his presence with us? I do.”

“Yes, especially when I’m down like I’ve been ever since that bastard took him away from me. He seems to guide me when I need him. Like that trial of elder’s idea, that just came to me out of nowhere. I think that was him. It has his stamp all over it.”

Jackie nodded and then kissed Dakota deeply. They enjoyed exploring each other for a while till exhaustion finally took over and they fell asleep.

The spirit of Wise Owl kissed each daughter gently caressing each soft cheek in a loving fatherly way. Then he walked to the nursery and kissed his grandson. Then he walked into the light that was calling him with the knowledge that his baby and her family were now stronger for the ordeal his death caused them all. He smiled because he knew that love would lead the way.

 

The End

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