April Williamson’s heart calls her across the frontier, but only one man—a handsome army scout with a tormented past—can get her safely to freedom.
Daniel McKenzie was an army scout—quiet, capable, handsome…and utterly unwilling to be the trail guide April Williamson needed to reach Kentucky. The Indian attack at Blue Licks was but one bitter taste of the American frontier, a massacre that had taken her father just as cholera had taken her mother. But April would not give up on her dream. At journey’s end was independence, and nothing would stand in her way.
The young widow was beautiful and determined, but the months of travel involved in her plan would be too hard. Without the general’s order Dan would have told any woman no, but April especially. His secret would destroy her—or she might destroy him. April’s kiss was like the country itself. Restless and sweet, it promised a love that denied every boundary and looked only to freedom and the future.
Terry Irene Blain
Terry Irene Blain was lucky enough to grow up in a large Mid-western family with a rich oral tradition. As a child she heard stories of ancestors’ adventures with Indians, wildlife, weather and frontier life in general, so she naturally gravitated to the study of history and completed a BA and MA then taught the subject at the college level. Married to a sailor, now retired, she’s had the chance to live in various parts of the U.S. and has traveled to Hong Kong, Australia, England and Scotland.
“My degrees and my teaching experience make me a natural to write historical romance. Writing historical romance gives me the opportunity to pass on stories of who we are and where we come from while exploring the relationship between men and women. What could be more exciting than that?”
Philadelphia, Spring 1794
April Williamson slowed her pace as she approached the Twelve Tankards Inn. Cool
morning sunlight bathed the wooden steps and wide front porch. To bolster her courage she
wore her most flattering gown, completed before Richard’s death had dressed her in
mourning. Enough time had passed to make the dark-green watered silk acceptable. She
shivered, more from apprehension than from the crisp morning.
Male voices drifted from the common room as she climbed the inn’s steps. On the
porch she paused. For inside, just through the inn’s open double doors, was the man who
could turn her dreams into reality. Please, don’t let me mishandle this. Please make Daniel
McKenzie agree to take me to Kentucky.
Swallowing her nervousness, she entered the inn. The dusky interior caused her to
hesitate just inside the doorway while her eyes adjusted.
Light streamed in from the open door behind her, throwing an elongated patch on the
wide planks of the pegged floor. A stone-flagged fireplace bearing a huge oak mantel
dominated the north wall. Solid oak tables and ladder-back chairs dotted the room which held
only two men and the lingering aroma of bacon and sausage. The men sat at one of the tables,
steaming cups of coffee before them.
The innkeeper’s message had given her just a name—Daniel McKenzie. But which one
was he? Her gaze went first to the taller man. With his dark hair and tanned complexion, he
didn’t appear particularly Scottish. She looked to the second man. Slightly older, he had the
fair skin and sandy-red hair which characterized so many Scotsmen.
While she hesitated, the dark-haired man rose, and with long booted strides started
across the common room toward the fireplace. Concluding the seated man must be Mr.
McKenzie, she moved toward the table with a determination she hoped camouflaged the
butterflies in her stomach.
April stopped before the table, heart beating in her throat. “Mr. McKenzie?” The
smaller man stood to acknowledge her presence and she said in a rush, “I understand your
company has a commission to carry supplies to General Wayne.”
The man nodded.
She hurried on, not giving him a chance to speak. “I would like to accompany you on
“No.” The flat reply came not from the man before her, but from the tall, dark man
standing by the fireplace. Startled, she twisted to look at him.
Lean and hard-looking, he stood tall enough to rest his arm easily across the high
mantel. His muscles bunched under his linen shirt as he brought his arm down. With easy
grace he strode across the room toward her.
A sinking, fluttery feeling intensified with his approach. A new and different feeling,
certainly not the apprehension she had felt up to now.
Tight buckskin riding breeches fit his slender hips and strong thighs without a wrinkle
before disappearing into glossy top boots. Hair, dark as India ink, was brushed straight back
from his brow and tied at the nape of his neck with a plain queue ribbon. And his beautiful
eyes: a striking pale blue-gray with long lashes, framed by high cheekbones and thick, dark
eyebrows. She’d seen that particular shade of blue-gray before. But this wasn’t the time to try
and remember when.
He stopped before her. Under the intensity of his gaze, she instinctively took a small
“No,” he repeated. “The McKenzie and Murray Trading Company transports army
supplies.” His rough-textured baritone held the faint drawl of the frontier. “We don’t take
Fear of failure made her words sharp. “I beg your pardon; I wasn’t speaking to you, but
to Mr. McKenzie.” She gestured to the man standing across the table.
“I’m McKenzie,” the dark-haired man replied. “This is my partner, James Murray.”
A heated flush of embarrassment crept up her cheeks. To think this was the man whose
help she so sorely needed. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Mr. Murray saved her
from doing either.
“Pleased to meet ye,” James Murray said, pulling out one of the ladder-back chairs and
gesturing toward it. “Will ye no’ sit doon?” A hint of laughter flickered in his voice, but she
couldn’t tell whether he directed his amusement toward her or Daniel McKenzie.
With as much grace as possible, she took the proffered seat. In open amusement, James
Murray continued, “Dinna trouble yoursel’, lass. ’Tis common for strangers to mistake us one
for t’other. As ye ken, I am a Scotsman, ma’sel’. I answer to ‘Scotty’ as easily as James.”
Since he’d tried so hard to put her at ease, she smiled her thanks. She watched Mr.
McKenzie out of the corner of her eye. He, too, drew out a chair. To keep her hands
occupied, she tugged a lace handkerchief from her reticule. The neutral look on McKenzie’s
face became a frown.
“Now,” Mr. Murray continued, “tell us why a young lass would want to go to the Ohio
“In any case,” Mr. McKenzie interrupted, “we’re taking supplies only as far as
Cincinnati for transhipment to General Wayne. Then we’re going home to Oak Point in
Kentucky. I won’t return to Ohio until late summer.”
Oak Point! She smothered a gasp and let the sweet words in his faint frontier drawl
wash over her. These traders lived in Oak Point. Her goal of home and independence. His
wonderful words deepened her longing and intensified her determination.
Perhaps fate was on her side. She struggled to keep her composure. She must convince
them to give her passage. Because looking at Dan McKenzie made it difficult to concentrate
and because she sensed Mr. Murray was more sympathetic, she kept her eyes directed to his
“I seem to have started in the middle. Let me explain. My name is April Williamson
and I need transportation to Oak Point.”
Mr. Murray looked intrigued. April chanced a glance at Mr. McKenzie. If anything, his
frown had deepened. With a prickle of annoyance, she turned to him and asked, “Is
“Where are your menfolk?” His voice held a tone of manufactured civility.
Meaning of course, where is the man who takes care of you? He would, of course,
expect a young woman to be attached to some man. A measure of her self-confidence
returned. She had the perfect, irrefutable answer. “I have no menfolk. My husband died last
With satisfaction she noted Mr. McKenzie’s surprise and discomfort. “I’ve inherited
property near Oak Point. I appreciate it’s unusual for your company to take passengers, but
there’s no other means of getting to Kentucky.”
“Aye,” Mr. Murray agreed, “but the trip is verra difficult. ’Tis too much for a visit.”
“It’s not just a visit,” she replied. “I plan to live there.”
“Don’t be silly,” McKenzie looked pointedly at her bonnet and the lace handkerchief
clutched in her hands. “You couldn’t survive.”
“Really?” she challenged. His peremptory dismissal stung. “I survived there for eight
years. I was born in Kentucky.”
McKenzie blinked and his gaze sharpened. A chill shivered up April’s back.
“Why did you leave?”
She drew a deep breath. “My mother and I came to Philadelphia in ’82,” she said,
smothering any emotion in her voice, “after Indians killed my father at Blue Licks.”
A strange look flashed across Mr. McKenzie’s face, the expression so fleeting she
couldn’t identify it.
She must convince McKenzie and Murray to help her. Going to Kentucky wasn’t just a
return to home. Kentucky was her hope of a new life, different from the one she’d been
obliged to live in Philadelphia. The compelling desire for freedom and the frontier came from
deep inside her. A desire that even her closest friends considered so extraordinary as to be
Why should these two strangers understand? A material reason would be easier for
them to accept. “The property I’ve inherited in Oak Point is my only asset. I’m determined to
reach Kentucky,” she said simply.
After a moment, McKenzie leaned forward in his chair, resting his forearms on the oak
table. One look at the closed expression on his face and her heart sank. Instinct told her if she
pushed for a definite answer now, it would be negative. The pale blue-gray eyes under their
dark brows also warned her this man, once an answer was given, would never change a “no”
to a “yes.”
She tried to think of some way to get the response she needed. Unable to give up hope,
she turned to the kindly face of the Scot. “Mr. Murray, is it me you object to, or do you refuse
“Well... ah... ’tis... ah...”
“You have taken passengers to Kentucky before, haven’t you?”
“Aye.” The Scotsman glanced at his partner. “But nae a woman traveling on her own.”
With a small point scored in her favor, she decided to retreat for now. Using her best
smile and most reasonable voice, she said, “I see my query was unexpected. Please take a few
days to consider my request. I promise I won’t be any trouble on the trip.”
The look of patent disbelief on Mr. McKenzie’s face brought her close to panic again.
Desperate to keep the “no” in his eyes from coming to his lips, she impulsively leaned
forward and placed her hand on his.
“All I ask is that you think it over. Please consider helping me.”
His expression didn’t change. After a heartbeat, he looked down and her gaze followed.
The deep tan of his skin accentuated the soft ivory of hers. Touching him confused her. His
warmth imparted a feeling of comfort while at the same time caused her heart to thump at a
disconcerting pace. Unable to move, her hand rested on his large, work-roughened one.
She lifted her eyelashes and her gaze locked with his. The force of his blue-gray gaze
made her throat dry. She gently withdrew her hand and rose to her feet.
Both men stood.
“I apologize for interrupting.” She kept her voice calm. “All I ask is for you to consider
Dan McKenzie sat back down in his chair. He stared for several long seconds at the
open inn door through which the young woman had disappeared. He’d noticed her earlier as
she paused just inside the doorway. Her dress, made of some material which changed color as
the sunlight struck it, had flickered hundreds of shades of green, like a breeze ruffling the
leaves on hillside trees back home.
He straightened in his chair, seeing her in his mind’s eye. Her face resembled a square
more than an oval because of that firm chin. But her mouth looked soft. Between the low
light and her bonnet brim he hadn’t got a good look at her eyes and he wondered what color
they were. But even in the dim light, her hair gleamed like polished mahogany.
She put him in mind of a porcelain figurine on the mantel in a rich man’s parlor. Nice
to look at but of no practical value. On the frontier, practicality measured everyone and
everything. He knew firsthand what the harsh life on the frontier could do to a woman.
A chuckle jerked Dan back to the present. He turned to the grinning face of his partner.
“Well?” Scotty questioned.
“We could take her. ’Tis nae beyond the realm of possibility.”
Dan didn’t bother to reply, but reached for his coffee. He stared into the cup, then with
a resigned sigh looked up. “Yeah, reckon we could. But we won’t. She and her lace
handkerchief should stay here.” He pushed the cup away. “Life’s hard enough for women
used to living out there. The frontier would chew her up and spit her out.”
“I’m nae so sure,” Scotty countered. “I admit she’s a right wee lassie, but she’s got
courage enough to want to go. And she was no afraid of ye, rude as ye were.”
Dan snorted. “She would be if she knew what I am.” At Scotty’s puzzled look, Dan
explained, “Any girl whose pa was killed by Indians might not want to travel with a halfbreed.”
Scotty started to speak, but Dan motioned him silent. “Maybe in Scotland I’d only be a
quarter Indian, but here the son of a half-breed is still a ‘breed.’” Dan accepted what he was.
Funny how Scotty never quite grasped the idea.
“Ach, nae wonder ye looked peculiar when the lassie mentioned Blue Licks.”
Blue Licks! Dan controlled a shudder as the words again knifed across an old wound.
He changed the subject. “Next you’ll tell me she wouldn’t be any problem on the trip.”
“I couldna’ say that,” Scotty replied with a laugh. “Don’t ye go a’ telling my Mary I
said so, but woman ha’ been trouble for man since Adam met Eve.”
~ * ~
“Now, April, you cannot go traipsing off to Kentucky. It’s not suitable, my dear, not at
all suitable.” Mrs. Browne’s voice brought April’s head up from her embroidery.
She’d been wool-gathering, her mind still on the morning’s interview with McKenzie
and Murray. The eight ladies seated in the Browne parlor suspended their conversation and
awaited April’s reaction to their hostess’s pronouncement.
“I’m not ‘traipsing off to Kentucky.’” April paused a moment to ensure her voice
remained respectful. “I intend to live on the property I’ve inherited. Since my parents were
among the first settlers in Kentucky and I was born there, I’ll be going home.”
Mrs. Browne glared at her over the rim of her china teacup. “Utter nonsense! Your dear
mother is turning over in her grave. That wilderness wasn’t a proper place for a widow with
an eight-year-old daughter. Nor is it a place for a twenty-year-old girl, widow or no.” She put
her cup and saucer on the table next to her Queen Anne chair.
Not surprised Mrs. Browne already knew of her plans, April bowed her head over her
embroidery. She suspected it hadn’t taken more than a few hours for word to get around
she’d met army contractors this morning, asking for passage to Kentucky.
She smiled to herself, thinking how apoplectic Mrs. Browne would be if she only knew
about the letter April had written weeks ago. A letter to her husband’s old friend, Anthony
Wayne, who as general of the army, now had authority over the western territories.
“You don’t need to go running off to Kentucky.” Elizabeth Jefferies’s faded blue eyes
twinkled in her wrinkled face. “There are plenty of men here in Philadelphia. Get married
“That’s always your advice,” April replied, biting back a smile at the older woman’s
suggestion. Why, she wondered, would she want to subjugate herself again? When a woman
married, she lost her legal identity. All her property and her decisions given over to another’s
authority. Still, she couldn’t help but smile at enthusiastic Widow Jefferies. “You’ve
suggested marriage four times already.”
“It’s good advice,” the widow countered. “I put my third husband in the ground last fall
with the yellow fever, same as you did your Richard. If an old lady like me is ready for
another husband, you should be, too.” Under cover of the conversation, the spry old woman
leaned over and patted April’s hand. “Get a young man this time, one who’ll treat you like a
wife, instead of a daughter.”
April glanced sideways, wondering if Elizabeth guessed the truth of her marriage.
“Thank you for your advice,” she said politely, “but I plan to remain a widow and keep my
freedom to do as I please.” For the first time she was the one making decisions affecting her
life. She was free. She meant to keep her freedom and she meant to go home to Kentucky.
In Philadelphia her only choices were to marry again or live on the charity of friends. In
either case she’d become dependent upon others, obliged to live her life as they directed. But
in Kentucky she had land—her own land. The start of a new life beckoned. Ever since she’d
written to General Wayne, the thought of going to Kentucky made her spirit come alive. No
matter the difficulties involved in travel, in spite of her fear of Indians, she was going home.
She glanced around the parlor of Mrs. Browne’s spacious two-story house. What a
contrast with her memory of Kentucky. She recalled the single-room log cabin, the clearing
in which it stood, the path to the spring, the barn and the hayloft. She vaguely remembered
the cabin-raising, playing with other children while the men heaved the logs into place and
the women quilted before setting out dinner. And later, the quiet as she snuggled under her
quilt in the attic, contentedly drifting off to sleep to the murmur of her parents’ conversation.
Beautiful and expensive furnishings filled the Browne parlor but laughter and love had
filled the cabin in Kentucky.
The clatter of teacups drew her attention as tea and small cakes were served.
Needlework aside, a lively discussion ensued. Since they lived in the capital city, politics
were as much a topic of discussion for the group, as babies and home remedies.
One lady commented to the group in general. “My Robert said a lawyer from Kentucky
went around to all the Representatives last week, saying how bad the situation is in the West.
This lawyer claims with the British backing them, the Indians are unbeatable.” With a
condescending look, the lady turned toward April and said, “Maybe you ought to reconsider
“That’s right,” Martha Allen exclaimed. “What about Indians? Aren’t you afraid?
Remember?” she said, her face serious, “I was with you last summer when the Indian
delegation from the Six Nations rode in for the Peace Conference. You went positively pale.”
She remembered. Feathers, beads, and buckskin fringes dancing, the Indian delegation
rode bold as can be down the Philadelphia street. While others stared in curiosity, terrible
memories had frozen her to the spot. She’d been four the winter of ’78 when during the war,
the Indians, supplied with British arms and ammunition, besieged the three small forts in
Kentucky. She’d hidden her face in her mother’s lap trying to block out the yelling, the
screams of pain, the bang of gunfire.
“The sight of Indians riding through Philadelphia scared lots of people,” she countered.
What Martha didn’t know was since making the decision to return to Kentucky, April’s
childhood nightmares had returned. Several times in the last six months she’d awakened sick
and shaking, having been chased through her dreams by screaming, half-naked Indians. But
everyone knew Indians no longer roamed freely over Kentucky since the army was pushing
them out of the Ohio Territory. She might be afraid, but she wouldn’t let old fears prevent her
from pursuing her future.
“Whatever will you do in Kentucky?” Martha kept her voice low, glancing in Mrs.
“I can make a decent living as a seamstress,” April replied. “And I’ll have my
Sheltered by the small talk that rose around her, April sat and stitched and planned. She
put on a determined face and carried on as though she knew she would succeed.
Of course the reply to her letter to General Wayne would come, or she would convince
McKenzie and Murray to take her. And if not, then she’d have to think of some other way.
She was going home to Kentucky.
~ * ~
Dan McKenzie arrived at the inn late for supper. He hung his black broad-brimmed hat
on the last empty peg by the door. Across the crowded room, he spied Scotty seated near the
fireplace and maneuvered his way to his brother-in-law’s table.
With minimum conversation the partners turned their attention to pot roast, potatoes,
carrots, and turnips in a thick, dark gravy, followed by apple pie. Hunger satisfied, Dan
pushed the empty plate away. “Everything will be ready by next week.” He leaned forward to
be heard over the hub-bub of voices enveloping them. “Payne had a good selection of horses,
but he’s upped the price this year. He knows we’ll sell the horses to the army at Pittsburgh.”
“’Tis expected. I’ll nae fret as long as we can make a profit.”
“We’ll make a profit, but we’ll earn every penny of it. I saw Colonel Barker and we’re
set with the army supplies. You satisfied with the merchandise for the store?”
“There’ll be nae problem.” Scotty related arrangements made for the wide variety of
goods and supplies for the McKenzie and Murray store in Oak Point. He took a sip of coffee and then,
glancing about the room, said, “I picked up information on our other problem.”
“What problem?” Dan asked, instantly suspicious of the self-satisfied look on the
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