THE BRANDED TRILOGY
LAKOTA HONOR, BLOOD CURSE,
and SACRED LEGACY
by Kat Flannery
Fate has brought them together, but will a promise tear them apart?
In the small town of Willow Creek, Colorado, Nora Rushton spends most of her days locked up in her home with a father who resents her and fighting off unwanted marriage proposals from the wealthy Elwood Calhoun. Marked as a witch, Nora must hide her healing powers from those who wish to destroy all the witkowin—crazy women. What she doesn't know is that a bounty hunter is hot on her trail.
Lakota native Otakatay has an obligation to fulfill. He has been hired to kill the witkowin. In a time when race and difference are a threat and innocence holds no ground, courage, love and honor will bring Nora and Otakatay together as they fight for their freedom. Will the desire to fulfill his promise drive Otakatay to kill Nora? Or will the kindness he sees in her blue eyes push him to be the man he once was?
Colorado Mountains, 1880
The blade slicing his throat made no sound, but the dead body hitting the ground did. With no time to stop, he hurried through the dark tunnel until he reached the ladder leading out of the shaft.
He’d been two hundred feet below ground for ten days, with no food and little water. Weak and woozy, he stared up the ladder. He’d have to climb it and it wasn’t going to be easy. He wiped the bloody blade on his torn pants and placed it between his teeth. Scraped knuckles and unwashed hands gripped the wooden rung.
The earth swayed. He closed his eyes and forced the spinning in his head to cease. One thin bronzed leg lifted and came down wobbly. He waited until his leg stopped shaking before he climbed another rung. Each step caused pain, but was paired with determination. He made it to the top faster than he’d thought he would. The sky was black and the air was cool, but fresh. Thank goodness it was fresh.
He took two long breaths before he emerged from the hole. The smell from below ground still lingered in his nostrils; unwashed bodies, feces and mangy rats. His stomach pitched. He tugged at the rope around his hands. There had been no time to chew the thick bands around his wrists when he’d planned his escape. It was better to run than crawl, and he chewed through the strips that bound his feet instead. There would be time to free his wrists later.
He pressed his body against the mountain and inched toward the shack. He frowned. A guard stood at the entrance to where they were. The blade from the knife pinched his lip, cutting the thin skin and he tasted blood. He needed to get in there. He needed to say goodbye. He needed to make a promise.
The tower bell rang mercilessly. There was no time left. He pushed away from the rocky wall, dropped the knife from his mouth into his bound hands, aimed and threw it. The dagger dug into the man’s chest. He ran over, pulled the blade from the guard and quickly slid it across his throat. The guard bled out in seconds.
He tapped the barred window on the north side of the dilapidated shack. The time seemed to stretch. He glanced at the large house not fifty yards from where he stood. He would come back, and he would kill the bastard inside.
He tapped again, harder this time, and heard the weak steps of those like him shuffling from inside. The window slid open, and a small hand slipped out.
“Toksha ake—I shall see you again,” he whispered in Lakota.
The hand squeezed his once, twice and on the third time held tight before it let go and disappeared inside the room.
A tear slipped from his dark eyes, and his hand, still on the window sill, balled into a fist. He swallowed past the sob and felt the burn in his throat. His chest ached for what he was leaving behind. He would survive, and he would return.
Men shouted to his right, and he crouched down low. He took one last look around and fled into the cover of the forest.
“Upon mine death for the blood ye have shed, Every daughter born to ye shall die before it draws breath, to which ye will know pain and worse, I cast unto ye mine blood curse.” ~ Vadoma
Four years after the Blood Curse, Pril of the Peddlers vows to protect her child against the evil men who hunt her. With her clan unaware of the branded girl among them, Pril has to keep the identity of her daughter a secret. When her child is kidnapped, she is forced to ask Merchant runner, Kade Walker, for his help.
Kade Walker needs to find the gypsy child. Blackmailed and pushed beyond his own moral code, he is determined to do whatever it takes. When he comes across the Peddler clan, he is sure the girl is there, however all hope is lost when the gypsies capture him. Time is running out—until Pril makes him an offer he cannot refuse.
Amidst greed, lust, revenge and love, Pril will need to trust Kade. But as the evil nears and doubt creeps in, will she discover that the enemy has been standing next to her all along?
Appalachian Mountains, Virginia 1723
Pril Peddler lifted the green shawl from her trunk and wrapped it around her bare arms. The change in seasons brought a damp chill to the morning air, and the heavy woolen wrap kept her warm. She peeked at the small face huddled under the blankets at the back of the wagon. The charm above the child swayed on the string Pril had hung it from. A dull ache hummed in her chest when she thought of the horrific loss her clan had been dealt.
The evil was near, and she’d need to work another spell to keep them safe. Late for counsel with her brother, Galius, she kissed the soft cheek of her daughter before heading to the door.
Hand up, she shaded her eyes from the bright sun as she stepped from the back of the vardo. She pulled the heavy burlap curtain down to close the opening and walked toward Galius.
“Your steps are light this morning, Sister. One would think you did not want to be heard,” Galius said as he stirred the coffee beans inside the metal pot.
Tension twisted her gut. He was right; she did not want this counsel. She did not know what to say. She let the flicker of merriment in her brother’s eyes wash over her relaxing the muscles in her shoulders.
“My step is the same.” She poked him with her finger trying to ease her own nerves and his as well.
His lips lifted as if to smile, and she held her breath. It’d been weeks since he smiled. Pril’s heart ached, and her lips trembled.
He held up the bubbling pot. “Would you like a cup?”
She inhaled the aroma of strong coffee beans and nodded taking a seat on a wooden stump by the fire.
He handed her a cup and sat down across from her.
The wood crackled, and sparks jumped from the heat onto the ground in front of her. She tipped her chin concentrating on what to say next. Ever since the murder of her niece, she’d not been able to hold a conversation with either of her brothers without offering apologies. This morning was no different. She could not look Galius in the eyes and see the anguish and sorrow within them.
The Monroes had come again.
They’d never be safe.
She blinked away the tears hovering against her thick lashes. Tsura was asleep in her wagon, while another was lost to them forever. The door of her brother’s wagon creaked open and Milosh’s wife, Magda, stepped out. Black circles settled around her sunken eyes, and Pril felt the stab in her chest once more. Long brown hair fell untied down the woman’s back. The black clothes she’d put on weeks ago hung on her body unchanged and wrinkled from sleep. Milosh came from behind their wagon, a jar of honey in his hand. Pril stood when Galius’ large hand grabbed her wrist.
“They are not wanting to see you today, Sister.”
She heard the regret in his voice, swallowed past the guilt in her own throat and nodded. Milosh hadn’t spoken a single word to her since the death of his child. He blamed her, and it was clear so did Magda.
“I…I’m so sorry, Galius.”
He didn’t reply right away, and without seeing it, she knew he had wiped the tears from his eyes. “Alexandra’s death is not your fault.”
The words were spoken because they needed to be. Gypsies stayed together no matter what. They were family. There was no truth to his words, and Pril knew it.
“Are you going after them?” she asked.
“I hold no power, no spells flow from my lips. I am strong, yes, but they are stronger.” He stared at her, his eyes pleading. “We need the pendant.”
Guilt thickened her tongue; the gritty residue clung to her lips and tasted bitter.
The talisman had been in their family for generations, blessed by each new Chuvani. Vadoma had promised her the pendant before she died, but Pril never saw it, and there had been no time to search for the jewel when they fled.
“Without the pendant we cannot break the curse. We cannot protect our people.”
She knew this. They all knew this, but no one had a clue as to where the talisman was. She’d tried to call an image forward, to make a finding spell, but nothing worked.
“We have lost one of our own. Our clan is frightened. They have lost faith. We cannot fight the Monroes. We have neither the numbers nor the skill.” He took a long drink of his coffee. “And neither do you.”
She glanced at him.
“I know you, Sister. You’re planning to take Tsura.”
Pril sighed. She did not know what else to do. The Monroes were coming for her child. Alexandra had died because of that. Milosh and Magda hated her.
“Running is not going to change anything.”
“It will save lives. It will…help Milosh and Magda to heal.”
“No, it will not. Running will get you and Tsura killed and that is all.”
“How can you look at me when you know what I’ve brought to our family, when you know that this is all because of me?”
Galius blew out a long breath that moved his thick beard from his lips. She watched through tear filled eyes as his bottom lip quivered.
“Vadoma put this burden on you. For that, we do not judge.”
Their sister had died a vile death. She’d betrayed their clan and had hung while being burned. Pril ached for her sister’s guidance and counsel. She yearned to know that what she was doing was right.
“We had a plan, and up until Alexandra’s death it worked. We will rethink and come up with something better—stronger.”
The plan was simple. Dress the girls as boys, and the Monroes wouldn’t find them. But someone had figured out Alexandra was a girl. Someone had told the Monroes. They came for her, stealing the precious child in the middle of the night. The morning two weeks before, as the clan frantically searched for her, a harrowing scream Pril would never forget echoed across the land. Milosh found his daughter’s body by the river, her neck broken.
She raised a shaky hand to her mouth so she wouldn’t let out the sob she held against her lips.
“I have enough for one more protection spell.” She lied; her forehead ached because of it.
He glanced at her, his eyes showing no emotion. “You will concoct another.”
“The spell has the oil Vadoma blessed. Without it, Tsura is at the mercy of the Monroes and so are we.”
Galius pumped his large hands into tight fists. “Surly you can think of another?”
“I cannot. Vadoma placed the blood curse. It is only with the blessed oil that I am able to create the spell to keep danger away. The oil is almost gone.”
He worked his jaw. “That gypsy whore—
She held up her hand to stop him from blaspheming their sister. It wasn’t right. It brought evil to curse your own, and Pril would have none of it.
“Our sister had her reasons. Leave it be.”
“Reasons? She betrayed us. Left us with a curse we cannot break and wealthy plantation owners hunting our very hides—killing our children!”
She hung her head unable to look at him. What could she say? He was right. Her very niece had died but thirteen days ago.
Tsura is a Chuvani, and with that comes great power…
Desperate to escape the memories that haunt her, Tsura Harris returns to Jamestown, the very place her mother forbade her to go. A gifted Chuvani, Tsura has sworn off all magick, thus making her vulnerable to the Renoldi clan, who wish to kill her and take the pendant that is the key to her power.
Red Wolf is hell-bent on living his life on the sea, until he runs into Tsura on the docks. His pride wounded from her rejection years before, he hoped to never see her again. But when the evil Corsair, Romulus Black, demands to know where she is, Red Wolf must protect her, as is his duty.
But is duty and honor his only reason, or does Red Wolf still carry a flame of love in his heart? And will Tsura finally discover her destiny?
Jamestown, Virginia, July 1740
Tsura Harris lifted the hem of her green skirt and stepped up onto the wooden plank. She clutched her reticule in her right hand and reached for the rope with her left. The planked bridge swayed as the boat rocked against the seas. She stared at the water below. White-capped waves crashed along the ship’s hull, rocking the boat. She inhaled, forced her chin up, and took another step. She walked the short distance to the boardwalk, releasing the breath she’d held when her boot touched land. She planted both feet upon the wooden dock and set her shoulders, but the reminder of why she was here intensified the weight upon her chest. Despair was her shadow, and it was with her today.
Her brother’s deep, masculine shout came from above.
She shaded her eyes from the hot afternoon sun and peered up at him. His stature always shocked her. Micah Walker was six foot with broad shoulders and strong arms, a spitting image of their father, Kade. His white shirt gaped open to show the tanned skin beneath, a sign of too many days out on the water. Long blond hair waved in the breeze. Her handsome brother had his pick of the ladies, but still hadn’t settled down. It was a shame. She knew he wanted children and a wife of his own, but his heart belonged to the sea and time would lend him those favors only when he was ready.
“You must wait,” he called and raced past his men carrying crates of goods onto the wharf.
She placed her bag onto the wooden walk and clasped her gloved hands together.
He reached her, his cheeks glowing and dark eyes lit with mischief. Before she could discourage him, he picked her up and swung her around. Her boots kicked the bag, knocking it over, as his strong arms held her tight.
Micah had always been affectionate. He never shied away from holding her hand, kissing her cheek, or teasing her like a brother would. He’d come to her side when she needed him the most. When her life had fallen apart, and she couldn’t see past her own misery to pick herself up. He had carried her, and she loved him for it.
“You cannot go off without wishing me well.” He smiled down at her.
“If you would simply release me, I’d be able to make it so,” she retorted. He was the only one, aside from her mother and father, who she allowed to touch her.
“Very well, nit.” He set her in front of him. The nickname he used for her was one of endearment and came from her pestering him as a child.
“Thank you.” She smoothed her skirt before bringing her eyes to meet his.
“You do not need to do this.”
She glanced away unable to stare at him any longer.
“Come sail with me.”
She shook her head. The urge to leave caused her legs to shake. She couldn’t be around him any longer. His cheerful disposition haunted her and made her think of things she’d rather forget.
“I know you don’t want to speak of this, but—”
“Tsura, you need to forgive—”
“Forgiveness is not within my heart.”
“It surely is.”
She shook her head, careful not to release the many pins holding her thick corkscrew curls in a loose chignon.
“It is in all of us.”
She glared at her brother.
“Do not speak to me of forgiveness, brother. My heart is cold to it.”
His dark eyes watered, and she knew her words had hurt him, but she didn’t care. It was better this way—it was easier.
“Will you not reconsider?”
“Please stay. I will protect you.”
Protection was not what she needed. She could care less if she died. It’d be a relief from the constant pain she felt each day.
“I should’ve taken you to mother and father.”
“Do not speak to them of my presence here.”
“They will understand.”
“Not one word.”
Micah sighed. “As you wish.”
“I must go.” Anger pressed on her spine, and she straightened.
His shoulders dropped.
“Be safe. Trust no one.”
“I port back in Jamestown one month to this day. You will be here.”
It was not a question, and she didn’t know if a month would be enough. Would the time between then and now ever fade from her soul? Would she be ready to return? She didn’t know if she could go back and so she didn’t answer.
“Hiram knows of you coming?”
“Very well.” He straightened and smiled. “Know that I love you.”
She fought the tears. If Micah saw one ounce of sadness within her, he’d throw her back aboard the Jade and take her with him.
“As I you.” She refused to say the words.
He picked up her bag and handed it to her.
“Thank you. Now go. You have work to do and whores to see.” She smirked.
“Ah, that I do.” He pulled her into a final embrace. “You will find your way. I am sure of it.” He held her away from him, and his eyes searched hers. “Remember who you are.”
She pressed on his chest and stepped out of his embrace. She couldn’t help the furrow of her brow or the set of her chin. The reminders of the life she led were never to be forgotten, and because of that she’d be forever lost.
Micah sensed the change in her and left it alone. He bowed, and with a final kiss to her forehead he walked away.
She turned, unable to watch him go, raised to believe it was a sign of weakness, of regret to watch one leave your life. This was meant to be. The world around her had tilted, and even though she wanted nothing more than to go back in time to the lavish house on the hill where she’d felt content, where laughter was but an expression upon her lips, she could not. What had been was no more, and she’d do right to remember it. One year had passed, but the ache inside her soul still remained.
Praise for the Branded Trilogy!
"For something different, transport back to the old west with this paranormal historical, and its alpha hero, and a heroine hiding her secret talents." —Shannon Donnelly, author of the Mackenzie Solomon Urban Fantasy series
"Talented, Kat Flannery knows her Native American history and those who relish the conflict of a heroic half-breed trapped between the white man's world and the Indian will fall in love with LAKOTA HONOR." —Cindy Nord, award-winning author of No Greater Glory
"Kat Flannery’s, LAKOTA HONOR, weaves a fast paced and beautiful prose that lures you through every chapter and leaves you wanting more. The struggles of the main characters break your heart and leave you rooting for them, for their struggles—although different—are similar at the core." —Erika Knudsen, paranormal author of Monarchy of Blood
"LAKOTA HONOR by Kat Flannery will hold your attention from beginning to end. Her ability to intertwine good and evil within the confines of the Indian and white worlds is nothing less than inspired. Nora and Hawk come together in a very different, magical way; she as a healer and he as a killer. The ancillary characters are well drawn. You either like them or hate them. You might also wonder about some of them as the story progresses." —Katherine Boyer, romance reviewer
“Engrossing, enchanting, and suspenseful. BLOOD CURSE (Book 2 in the Branded Trilogy) is the perfect blend of paranormal, history and romance. The prequel is as impossible to put down as its predecessor, LAKOTA HONOR. Flannery deftly weaves a tight plot filled with mystery, emotional detail and heart-thumping action.” —Kim Cresswell, award-winning author of REFLECTION
“Ms. Flannery has crafted a taut story deeply embedded with gypsy lore, along with the fanatical fear of witches that permeated the time period. Pril and Kade's love grows slowly, and surprising betrayals and revelations will keep the pages turning. Tragedy and unwavering perseverance fill this wonderful tale to a surprise ending. A richly-woven tale of early America and gypsy lore.” —Kristy McCaffrey, author of INTO THE LAND OF SHADOWS
“A Cherokee man, a Gypsy woman, a magic ruby, a wonderful, captive love story. One of the few stories that captured me from beginning to end. A compelling love story you can't put down.” —USA Today bestselling author, Rosanne Bittner
“If you loved the first two books in this series, you will absolutely love this one. I couldn’t put it down.” —Paranormal Romance Guild
“A deeply heartrending tale that reaffirms the power of love and forgiveness. SACRED LEGACY will immerse you in a harrowing journey of anger and bitterness that only love and forgiveness can heal. You won’t soon forget Tsura and Red Wolf’s journey.” —Kristy McCaffrey, award-winning author of the WINGS OF THE WEST series
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kat Flannery’s love of history shows in her novels. She is an avid reader of historical, suspense, paranormal, and romance. She has her Certificate in Freelance and Business Writing.
A member of the National Romance Writers of America and Paranormal Romance Guild, Kat enjoys teaching writing classes and giving back to other aspiring authors. Kat enjoys promoting other authors on her blog. She volunteers her time at the local library facilitating their writing group as well as having taught writing classes there. She’s been published in numerous periodicals throughout her career, and continues to write for blogs and online magazines.
Her debut novel CHASING CLOVERS has been an Amazon Top 100 Paid bestseller. LAKOTA HONOR and BLOOD CURSE (Branded Trilogy) are Kat’s two award-winning novels and HAZARDOUS UNIONS is Kat’s first novella. Kat is currently hard at work on her next series, THE MONTGOMERY SISTERS.