Blackwolf's RedemptionBy: Sandra Marton
Blackwolf Canyon, Montana, 5:34 a.m.,
one hour before the summer solstice, June 21, 2010
THE moon had set almost five hours ago. Still, night clung tenaciously to the land.
The high, rocky walls of the canyon seemed determined to hold to the chill of darkness; a razor-sharp wind swept down from the surrounding peaks and whipped through the scrub, its eerie sigh all that disturbed the silence.
Sienna Cummings shivered.
There was a wildness to this place, but in these last moments before the dawn light pierced the bottom of the canyon, she could almost sense the land’s ancient, often bloody history.
A heavy arm wrapped around her shoulders.
“Here,” Jack Burden said, “let me warm you up.”
Sienna forced a smile and stepped free of the expedition leader’s embrace.
“I’m fine,” she said politely. “Just excited. About the solstice,” she added quickly, before Burden could pull his usual trick of turning whatever she said into a suggestive remark.
No such luck.
“I’m excited, too,” he said, managing to do it, anyway. “Lucky me. Alone with you, in the dark.”
They were hardly alone. There were four others with them: two graduate students, an associate professor from the Anthropology Department and a girl Burden had described as his secretary. From the way she looked at him, Sienna doubted if that was her real job, but that was fine with her; for the most part, it kept her obnoxious boss from sniffing after her.
Except at certain moments.
Like right now.
Never mind that they were about to view something remarkable. That soon, the sun’s light would be visible between the huge slabs of rock a third of the way up Blackwolf Mountain. That a shaft of that light would stream down and illuminate a circle some holy man had inscribed on a sacred stone thousands of years ago. Never mind that this would be the first summer solstice in decades that outsiders had been allowed in the canyon at all, or that everything here was about to change because the land was about to be sold to a developer.
All Jack Burden could think of was seducing her.
Yes, there were laws against sexual harassment. All she had to do was file a complaint with the university—and then live with the knowledge that her career would stall. It was the twenty-first century, women were the legal equals of men….
But in some of the ways that counted most, nothing had changed.
Some men still thought it was their right to take what they wanted, especially when it came to women.
“It’s almost time,” one of the grad students said breathlessly.
Sienna drew her thoughts together and focused on the jagged peak ahead of them. Half an hour, was more like it, but the waiting was part of the experience. She’d been on lots of ancient sites; she’d seen the summer sun rise at Chaco Canyon, traced the glyphs on the great temple at Chichén Itzá. One magical night, she’d been permitted to walk among the monoliths at Stonehenge.
And yet, there was something special about this place.
She could feel it. In her bones. In her heart. She would never say such a thing to anyone—she was a scientist, and science scoffed at what people claimed to feel in their bones. Still, there was something special here. About this night. About being here.
She must have made a little sound. A whisper. An indrawn breath, because Jack Burden leaned toward her.
“Aren’t you glad I brought you with me?” he said.
He made it sound like a gift, but it wasn’t. Sienna was months away from her doctorate; she had studied Blackwolf Canyon for two years. She had earned her place on this expedition. She knew everything about the canyon, from the ancients who had settled it, to the Comanche and Sioux warriors who had fought for it, to its mysterious last-known owner, Jesse Blackwolf, though what had become of him was uncertain.
He, too, had been a warrior. He’d fought in Vietnam a decade before she was born, returned home in what should have been triumph—and virtually disappeared.
She’d tried to find out what had become of him, telling herself it had to do with her studies, her thesis, but it wasn’t true. The man had captured her imagination. Ridiculous, of course. Cultural anthropologists studied cultures, not individuals. But there was something about Jesse Blackwolf….