Born into a society tolerant of homosexuals, River Otter is confused by the white culture’s persecution of such men. As the war begins to wind down, Otter leaves the only home he has ever known to help Major James Morrow, commandant of Ft. Yanube, build a farm north of the fort. He begins a new life with the handsome major while coming to grips with growing hostility toward natives and rising danger from a local militia bent on eliminating all bloods from the territory.
As his physical attraction for the blond soldier slowly grows into a love perilous to both of them, Otter is distracted by personal challenges. As he struggles to survive the social and political upheaval sweeping the plains, can remain true to his own set of values?
“Would you like to take to bed until the sun comes up?” My words asked more than was obvious.
“Yes, I believe I would. If you will join me in my rest.”
That told me all I needed to know.
James rose and slipped suspenders over his shoulders before stripping away his tunic and boots. When he was settled on the blankets, I lay beside him, sensing his tenseness.
“Otter, you need not do this if it is against your nature.”
“You know my nature. I mated with Billy for twenty-two years.”
“Were there others?”
“Nay. I have lain with no one else, neither man nor woman. Just Billy.”
“You loved him.” It was not a question. “I know you don’t love me, so ...”
“I like you James. A great deal. I admire and respect you. That is fertile soil. Maybe love can grow.”
“I hope so. But this must be done with your eyes open. Billy taught me the Indian philosophy of the Circle of Life. He explained how men fit naturally in that circle and commanded respect for who they were. The white man believes differently.”
I nodded into the darkness. “Yes, he explained that in your culture a man must fit the mold society casts for him. There is little room for departure. The standards are strict, and your people reject anyone who cannot be forced into that mold.”
“So people like me are considered deviants. Sodomists. Apostates.” His voice held a note of sadness. “They will apply those strictures to you, as well. If we undertake this liaison, we must be extremely careful.”
“This I already know.”
“I understand that, but I have to make sure you are aware it can be deadly. If we were to be found out, it could kill us.”
“Does that discourage you?” I asked.
“No, but I cannot accept the risk on your behalf.”
“I am who I am. I do what I do. I live according to my own tenets. I do not purposely harm other men. I do not steal or rob. I am true to my faith as I see it. It does not breech that faith to split the blanket with you if that is what you wish.”
“Not wish,” James said in a scratchy voice. “Need. Desperately.”
“Then here I am.” I placed a palm on his broad chest and smiled into the darkness. “Do you remember when you and Captain Jamieson came to the Mead with your dragoons? The captain went north to scout out the Sioux. You went to the Pipe Stem Draw People.”
“When you returned that night, Lone Eagle and I watched from the secret tunnel in the bathing room while Billy thrummed you.”
“Is that so? Uh, what did you think?”
“Lone Eagle thought it was fun to watch. To me, it was painful.”
“Because you loved Billy.”
“Aye, but I was just a child then, and he did not look at me in that way.”
“Then you know what he did for me.”
“Now, that is what I will do for you.”
“If it is not too much to ask.”
Strange that this commander of men, this seasoned soldier who had been through the mud should be as shy about what he pursued as any youthful swain courting his desires. I slipped out of the flannel shirt I’d donned against the night’s cool air and released the drawstring to my breechclout.
Then I lay waiting as James removed the rest of his clothing.