Wild Sweet Wilderness


By Dorothy Garlock

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Berry Warfield is only 18 when she leaves the wagon train to find her father’s claim in Missouri, vowing to let no one stop her from earning her fortune.



Dorothy Garlock

An Imprint of Warner Books, Inc.

A Time Warner Company

WILD SWEET WILDERNESS. Copyright © 1985 by Dorothy Garlock. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

For information address Warner Books, Hachette Book Group, 237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017.

A Time Warner Company

ISBN: 978-0-7595-2273-2

A mass market edition of this book was published in 1985 by Warner Books.

The “Warner Books” name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

First eBook Edition: June 2001

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Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen



"I want . . . to . . .

love my husband."



Berry spaced the words to give them emphasis, to be sure he understood.


"Then love him." Simon's voice was light as if he was laughing inside. "There's no law that says you can't."


"I want to be sure that he loves me," she said stubbornly.


He laughed so uninhibitedly that she drew back.


"The first thing you've got to learn about men in this country is that they can woo a woman with soft words if that's what she wants to hear. Never believe soft words, Berry. Pay a mind to what a man does."


"I like soft words," she said angrily.


He laughed and she wanted to hit him. She balled her fist and prepared to swing. Before she could move he was kissing her again with a violence that stunned her. She couldn't tell if he was kissing her or trying to hurt her. After an instant his lips softened and her resistance vanished.


They drew apart slowly. "You may like soft words but you like hard kisses better," he said with a deep chuckle . . .


Later Berry's mind was boiling with emotions. One thought stood out above all the others. She would make him love her and she would make him say it!



Books by Dorothy Garlock


Almost Eden

Annie Lash

Dream River

Forever Victoria

A Gentle Giving

Glorious Dawn


Lonesome River

Love and Cherish


Midnight Blue


Restless Wind

Ribbon in the Sky

River of Tomorrow

The Searching Hearts

Sins of Summer



The Listening Sky

This Loving Land

Wayward Wind

Wild Sweet Wilderness

Wind of Promise

With Hope



Published by





This book is for

Mark Lemon

For all the reasons he knows—





Chapter One

The trail had been long, endlessly winding through a tunnel of leafy trees that reached enormous heights. The train of wagons, carts, and men on horseback, with women and children trudging beside the wagons, came out of the forest and stopped on the ridge overlooking the river. Eyes fastened with fascination on the gap in the forest beyond the wide Mississippi, through which flowed the muddy Missouri River. Every man, woman, and child on the wagon train had heard about the expedition led by Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, which had set out in the spring of 1804, just a year ago, to explore the vast continent west of the Mississippi. The company of thirty-two men had descended the Missouri in a flotilla and nothing had been heard from them yet.

Berry Rose Warfield leaned on the back of the weary oxen that pulled the light wagon and glanced over her shoulder to see if Rachel was awake. Her eyes softened tenderly as they rested for a moment on the sleeping face, before she turned to rap the ox smartly on the rump with a stick and put the beast into motion to follow the wagon driven by the Negro man her father had purchased before leaving home.

Somewhere beyond the frontier settlement of Saint Louis, through thick forest stretching dark and silent, would be her future home. She and Rachel had been reluctant to leave the snug cabin in Ohio. They had argued and pleaded with Berry's father and cajoled to no avail. Asa Warfield had been determined to join the caravan of families going west to the country beyond the great river. He had been fired up by the promise of five hundred acres of good forest land that abounded in game and was rich enough to grow a tobacco crop. It was time for Asa to move on because his whoring and drinking had earned him the contempt of all his neighbors. He had unleashed his explosive temper once too often and was no longer welcome to spend his evenings in the local tavern.

Berry slowed her steps and let the wagon catch up with her so she could look once again at the pale face of the light-haired woman lying on the feather bed. Rachel was flushed with heat and her hands cradled her large, protruding stomach. This was her third pregnancy since Asa had brought her home to the Ohio cabin after buying her bond from the tavern owner. He had told his eight-year-old daughter, Berry, that he had married the girl and insisted that she call her "Ma" although there was less than eight years' difference in their ages. Love had grown between the two, and now, ten years later, they were as close as sisters.

"How do you feel?"

Pale and pretty, with light blond hair that framed a face dominated by haunted blue eyes, Rachel lay unmoving. She had been ill throughout most of the journey. "Better." She smiled at Berry with affection.

"Mr. Benson wants to push on until we get to the place where we'll be ferried across the river before we stop for the night. He thinks we can get there before dark." Berry spoke quietly, but the sparkle of excitement shone in her gray-green eyes.

"Glory! Won't it be grand to be put once again?"

Berry wiped the sweat from her face with the end of her apron and laughed with delight. "When we're put, we'll have to live in the wagons until we get a cabin built."

"At least we won't be moving," Rachel said with a grimace.

Berry's eyes searched Rachel's face anxiously for signs of pain. "We'll make camp soon and you can get out and walk a spell. That ought to make your back feel better. You're not going to lose this little 'un like you did the other two," she said with determination.

Rachel watched the slim girl move up to the ox and give the beast a friendly pat on the back. Berry grows more beautiful every day, she thought. I couldn't love her more if she was my own. How long will it be before Asa works out a scheme to sell her to the highest bidder? He'll separate us if he can. I know he will! I'll kill him first! Her heart beat wildly at the thought of Berry's being subjected to the brutality Rachel had suffered at Asa's hands.

Since Berry had grown to womanhood their roles had changed. She now protected Rachel. Asa no longer dared to cuff her or throw her down behind the curtain and satisfy himself on her body as he once had done. Long ago she had moved into the loft to sleep beside Berry, and Asa spent more and more of his time at the tavern. Rachel was pregnant now because he had caught her in the cabin alone and forced her to submit to him. She had been sick at heart when she discovered she was going to have his child. Now she was resigned to it. Within her was a little life. If it lived, she would love it.

Fortunately, Berry had inherited none of her father's personal characteristics, except for his mid-night-black hair. And although she wore hers braided and swirled in a coronet on top of her head, she couldn't conceal its rich luster. It sparkled in the sunlight as if embedded with a thousand stars. Small wisps of curls broke free and framed a face of high sculptured cheekbones, a complexion like alabaster, and a full, soft mouth that was quick to smile. Her gray-green eyes gazed frankly and inquiringly from beneath curving dark brows, but it wasn't her facial beauty and long supple body that made her striking. It was her bearing. Her head rode on her slim neck proudly, as if she were a princess. She was slender to the point of appearing fragile, but the set of her chin, the candor in her dark-lashed eyes, and her carriage all combined to show strength of character.

Rachel watched the slim body that was undeniably shapely beneath the worn dress. Berry is totally unaware of the eyes that follow her, she thought with a stab of fear. Asa is plotting something. I've seen him watching her, him and that crowd of no-goods he rides with. I'll not let him ruin her life. I'll not!

The wagon train reached the outskirts of Cahokia and their camping area at dusk. The town was one of the three old French towns that George Rogers Clark and his frontier militia had wrested from the English back in 1778. The English had inherited the towns after the French and Indian wars and used them as a base for Indian raids south into Kentucky. Now, Cahokia was used as a trading center and a ferrying port for settlers crossing the Mississippi to Saint Louis, the gateway to the West.

The slave, Israel, unhitched and hobbled the team and came back for the ox. Berry helped Rachel to get down from the wagon, then began to build a cookfire. The bugs and mosquitoes swarmed about her face and she waved them away impatiently. A welcome gust of wind from the river whipped a curl across her temple and billowed her skirts, giving momentary relief from the insects.

With slow patience Berry squatted beside the stones left by a previous camper and arranged dry leaves as tinder. On top of this she spread rotted, crumbly pulp from the center of an old, weathered log. She took a scant handful of gunpowder from a leather bag, closed the neck carefully against the damp air, then squatted down and poured the gun-powder over the rotted pulp, being careful to leave a trail. She took a flint from her pocket and struck expertly, igniting the powder. The blaze raced across to the leaves and punk. The fire caught. Berry hunched her shoulders and nursed the tiny blaze, feeding it handfuls of leaves, then twigs. Smoke billowed up and she squinted her eyes against it. Soon she heard the crackling of the burning twigs. When the blaze was steady she laid larger pieces of wood over them, building them into a pyramid so there was room for a draft underneath.

While Rachel sliced cold cornmeal mush to fry, Berry fried the last of the venison that Mr. Benson, the organizer and leader of the train, had given them from his kill the day before.

"Have you seen Asa since nooning?" Rachel stood aside so Berry could pour fat from the skillet onto a flatiron grill.

"No. But he'll show up for his vittles. He's riding ahead with those two men who joined up when we crossed the Kaskaskia."

"I don't like their looks."

"They look like something the hogs throwed up. Pa says they're trappers. He's swallowed whatever they've been telling him hook, line and sinker. They've got some hair-brained deal cooked up to get Pa's money. I'm not doubtin' that!"

Rachel's eyes wandered around the camp. She felt a shiver of dread. The wagons were scattered, each family taking advantage of the safe campsite to have a little privacy.

"Don't go far from the wagon tonight, Berry," Rachel murmured as she bent over to place the slabs of mush on the griddle.

"I already thought of that."

The big black man approached with arms filled with dead branches for the fire. He bowed his head several times before he spoke. "Ah got the wood, missy." The shaggy head turned from side to side, as if in silent warning.

The man's face was so black that when he spoke, Berry could see only the whites of his eyes and the gleam of his teeth and none of his facial expression. For some time now she had been convinced that he was smarter than he let on to be. He seldom spoke, did the work of two men, and gave Asa little cause to reprimand him.

Asa was more than glad to leave the care of the wagons and the teams in the hands of the women and the slave and ride ahead of the train on his sorrel mare.

"Thank you, Israel. I understand what you're telling me." She smiled, and his broad face split in a wide grin. "Are you hungry?"


"There'll be plenty put back for you."

The slave beamed. "Yass'm. Ah put the hog fat on the wheels." He backed away still bobbing his head up and down.

Rachel, chuckling softly, got down on her knees beside the fire. "Don't it beat all? When Asa brought him home, I didn't think he had a brain in his head."

"Haven't you ever looked into his eyes?"

"His eyes? I've had no reason to."

"He's not as stupid as he lets Pa believe. I think he hides his feelings behind that blank face." Berry turned the meat with a long-handled fork. "Wouldn't it be terrible to be a slave, Rachel?"

Rachel put her hand on Berry's shoulder so she could get to her feet. "What do you think we are, honey? All my life I've been at the beck and call of someone who paid someone else for me. All your life you've had to do for Asa and to put up with his meanness. Women are slaves so they can have a roof over their heads and food to eat."

Berry rocked back on her heels. "It won't always be like this. I'm not goin' to walk around on eggs for the rest of my life. And . . . if Asa touches us again . . . I'll brain him!"

Rachel set the tin plates on the box beside the fire. "He's comin'," she murmured. "He's got three men with him. I hope he don't expect us to feed them all."

"He will, but I'm gettin' Israel's out first." Berry grabbed a plate and piled it high with meat and fried mush. "Throw a cloth on it, Rachel, and set it aside."

Asa Warfield was a short, thickset man with coal-black hair and a clean-shaven face. Years of heavy drinking had bloated a face that had once been handsome; now it was constantly flushed and perspiring. Asa never worked when there was any other way to get what he wanted, and it was evident by the smile on his face as he walked proudly up to the fire that he was working on a scheme that would put money in his pocket.

"Howdy, daughter, Rachel," he said with honeyed exaggeration. "I brought company fer supper."

"I've cooked just enough for us," Berry said impatiently.

Asa's anger flared. "Then cook more, girl. What's the matter with ya? Where's your manners?"

Berry looked across the fire. Two of the men were the trappers her pa had been riding with for the last few days. They stood grinning at her. They were dressed in buckskins and wore knee-high fringed moccasins. One was picking his teeth with the blade of a long, thin knife; the other, an older man with a bushy beard and rotted teeth, leered at her openly. The third man stood apart from the others with his face in the shadows. He too was dressed in buck-skins, but instead of the fur cap he wore a brimmed, flat-crowned hat pulled low over his eyes. Berry gave the three men a scornful look, picked up the plate of food, and went to the end of the wagon, out of sight of those who stood beside the fire.

Her eyes searched the darkness for the black man and found him squatting beside a large oak. She waved and pointed to the plate of food she had put on the tailgate of the wagon. Then she dug into the food box for the salt pork and another loaf of cornmeal mush.

Rachel dished up the food. Asa swaggered forward and took the plates from her hand and passed them to the men. She could tell by his smell that he'd been at the whiskey jug. Apprehension caused her to move with guarded calm as she sidled away from him.

The men hunkered down at the edge of the circle of light with their plates. One of them began telling Asa a tall tale about a happening on the river. When he finished, he laughed and elbowed one of the other men, who made a crude remark and grinned inanely across the campfire at the women. Rachel was filled with a growing uneasiness.

Angry because she and Rachel would have to eat salt pork instead of the venison steaks, Berry slapped the meat into the skillet and moved it over the blaze. She lifted the lid of the iron teakettle, dropped tea leaves into the boiling water, and set it on the edge of the fire to steep.

"They've been passin' the jug," Rachel murmured.

"They won't pester you," Berry promised. "Sit down on the box and stay by the fire."

"It's not me I'm worried about."

"Hand me the plates and don't look at them."

Berry was forking the long strips of greasy meat out of the skillet when one of the men left the group and came to the fire.

"That thar tea done yet, girlie?" The man smelled like a wet goat, and Berry turned her head away, repulsed.

She lifted the kettle. He held a tin cup in his hand and moved close. He rubbed his knee against her leg. Berry backed off and turned to the side; he followed her movement, keeping his leg against hers, and blew his foul breath in her face. Her stomach churned and her body went icy cold, then hot. Seething with rage and indignation, Berry retreated a second time. He followed, pressing closer. Her control snapped. She tilted the kettle toward his cup, then with a jerk of her wrist she moved it. Hot liquid flowed out onto his hand.

"Ye . . . ooo!"

The cup fell to the ground and simultaneously his arm lashed out and struck her across the breast. She staggered back and flung the kettle from her. It hit the ground and the boiling water splashed into the fire, causing a hissing sound. Berry struggled to regain her balance and keep from falling. By the time she had done so, the man, roaring with anger and pain, was reaching for her. "Ya bitch! Ya goddamn bitch! Ya burnt me!"

Berry jerked a long, thin blade from her apron pocket and held it in front of her. Her small body tensed with determination. She'd suffered her last indignity at the hands of trash!

"You touch me, you mangy, flea-bitten polecat, and I'll cut your liver out and feed it to the buzzards!"

"What's this? What's this?" Asa yelled from behind her.

The trapper made a grab for her and Berry lashed out with the knife. He jumped back, shouting curses. "The goddamn bitch ruint my hand on purpose!" he yelled.

Asa lashed out and grabbed Berry's arm and jerked it up behind her. "What the hell's wrong with ya, gal? You're due a whippin'." He tried to pry the knife from her hand, but she held on to it stubbornly.

Rachel jumped up and hit Asa on the arms with her fists. "Leave her alone! She's got to protect herself if you won't do it."

"Get away from me, woman!" Asa roared. "You've shamed me!" He was so angry that his voice cracked. He shoved Rachel aside and she stumbled against the wagon.

Berry twisted away, the knife still in her hand, and ran to Rachel. She stood in front of her, her hand curled around the shaft of the knife, the tip pointed at her pa. All caution left her. Anger, resentment, and disappointment in her father boiled up inside her, and hostility flowed out in angry, unguarded words.

"Don't talk to me about shame," she shouted. "You've shamed me all my life, and my mother before me! What kind of man are you to let this worthless riffraff come in here and rub up against me? And . . . don't you hurt Rachel. If you do, you'd better not sleep in this camp, or I'll cut you! I swear it!"

Stunned by her outburst, Asa stood with his mouth open. His face turned an even darker red as he realized the import of his daughter's words and that other men had heard them.

"Hush up!" he roared. "Don't you be tellin' me what you'll do, you ungrateful little split-tail! You belong to me till I pass you to another man. You'll do as I say . . . both of ya! I'll do with ya what I want, by gawd!"

"We're not slaves, or animals!" Berry hissed. "You'll not treat us as such. We've put up with your meanness and cuffing for the last time." She drew a deep breath, and her next words came out loud and clear so they could be heard by all. "And we don't have to put up with the trash you haul in, neither! So get 'em outta here!"

Asa couldn't believe Berry was saying this to him. Humiliated almost beyond endurance, he lifted his fist to strike her. She didn't flinch or back down. The blade flashed out in front of her and Asa's fist paused in mid-air. The snicker behind him caused him to spin on his heel.

"I ain't heared of no man 'round here what couldn't handle his womenfolk." It was the bushy-faced man who spoke. "Thought ya said they'd come docile-like, Mr. Warfield." He spit into the fire.

Fear circled Berry's heart. What was he talking about? She blurted her thoughts: "What's he talkin' about?"

Asa turned to her with a look of pure hatred. "You'll find out, missy. You'll be sorry for shamin' me like you done."

"I gotta get me some bear grease on my hand, George. Mr. Warfield'll have to get his women in line afore we can get down to real talkin'."

"They ain't goin' to get away with it," Asa promised. "Israel," he shouted. The slave appeared like a shadow at the end of the wagon. "Fill my jugs with Kaintuck' for my friends. Be fast about it or I'll lay a whip to your back!" Asa turned his back and Berry allowed the hand holding the knife to drop to her side. "I'm right sorry my women raised up a ruckus." He tried to put some dignity into his voice when he spoke. "I ain't had a firm hand on 'em. I jist been too busy what with gettin' things sold and bein' on the trail and all. They'll be whopped back in line soon's I get settled."

"What they's needin' is ridin'." The crude remark came from the man with the burned hand, and Berry felt another surge of anger toward her father when he allowed the remark to pass. She heard Rachel gasp when Asa chuckled.

He picked up the two jugs Israel had set on the ground beside him and followed the trappers out of the circle of light. "You comin', Witcher?" he said to the third man, who stood motionless in the shadows. The man murmured something. Asa shrugged and disappeared in the darkness.

Berry looked across the fire at the man in the flat-crowned hat. He was holding his plate in his hand, his head tilted to one side as if he was listening. There was something about the way he stood, motionless but alert, that told her he could spring with the quickness of a cat and that their ordeal wasn't over. This was the first time she had really looked at him. All she could see now was the outline of broad shoulders and slim hips . . . and the hat.

Israel began to feed small twigs and branches into the fire. They caught and burned, the blaze building to light the area. The man stood quietly. It seemed to Berry that he didn't move a muscle until the fire was blazing and the light reached out to him. Then he walked past Israel as if he weren't there and placed his empty plate on the box beside the fire. He continued walking until he stood before the two women.

Berry moved in front of Rachel once again and waved the knife. "Stay back!" She met his gaze with her direct, black-fringed eyes, lifted her chin an inch higher, and thrust out her jaw.

"Thank you for the supper. It was hard to turn down the invite after being on the trail for days." He lifted his hand to the brim of his hat and turned to leave.

"Mister!" It was the polite gesture that caused Berry to speak. He paused and turned, but kept his distance. She looked at him closely. He was extremely tall, but whiplash thin. She'd noticed when he had walked toward them that his movements were so smooth he could have carried a cup of water on his head without spilling a drop. He looked a cut above the other two. His buckskins were soiled but not ragged, and he didn't stink, which was in his favor. He stood with his back to the fire; she couldn't see his eyes clearly, but she knew they were honed in on her. "What're you and them other two varmints hatchin' up with my pa?"

The expression on his face was one of quiet sobriety. He didn't speak, and the silence between them was disturbing. Berry watched him apprehensively.

"I never set eyes on your pa until a couple of hours ago. I've come up from Kaintuck' with a load of trade goods. I'm a trader and a guide. Your pa figured to do some trading with me and invited me to supper."

Berry continued to stare into his face. He's not going to stare me down. The thought made her lift her chin even higher, and she gazed at him with cold dignity. "That tradin' wouldn't have anything to do with me and Rachel?"


On Sale
Apr 12, 2001
Page Count
400 pages

Dorothy Garlock

About the Author

Dorothy Garlock is the author of more than 50 novels that have sold 15 million+ combined copies and are published in 15 languages. She lives in Iowa.

Learn more about this author