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Having Lame Wolf at her side helped eased the pain of her father's rejection, but now even the happy memories of Tru's childhood seemed tainted. Lame Wolf kept insisting that Dad still loved her and that he only needed time to adjust. But Tru doubted he would ever change.

One day when she was alone with Lame Wolf, she called her father a bigot.

Lame Wolf would not accept it. "Tru," he said, "I've always tried to respect your father. People carry many feelings inside-some good, some bad. Anger can make the bad ones slip out into the open. Do you know that he once lived among Indians? It happened on a distant planet, where members of a tribe had been transplanted. He told me that he admired their way of life."

Astonished, she replied, "Really? Then why..."

"Tru, you're his daughter. He wants only the best for you."

At that, she put her arms around him. "Duncan, you are the best...and Dad is blind if he can't see it."

As the season turned, Jamie and Anika grew accustomed to the idea of Tru and Lame Wolf marrying. Each day dawned with a chill in the air, and autumn rainstorms turned the pastures green. After school, boys climbed the orchard trees and picked bushels of crisp red apples. Work ended on the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. Once the altar was consecrated, Father O'Day settled into his new quarters and took over Tru and Lame Wolf's preparation for the sacrament of marriage.

Tru extended a wedding invitation to her family, but only her mother came for the ceremony on Christmas Eve. From the beginning, Sam had sided with their father. He called her a fool and a quitter for turning down a place at Starfleet Academy. He said even more hurtful things about Lame Wolf, but Tru suspected he was just repeating what he heard around the house.

Following the ceremony, Tru posed with her new husband for a few last pictures-before the hearth with a large dreamcatcher above it, then beside the Christmas tree with all the boys happily crowded around. After a celebration dinner, she went over to Lame Wolf's cottage to change her clothes. These past weeks, she had added her own feminine touches to his Native American décor. The little home was warm and inviting, like Lame Wolf himself. She had loved him for such a long time, and now they truly belonged to one another. Her father's opinion should not have mattered, but somehow it did.

In a spiral of sorrow, she scarcely heard the cottage door slowly opening. She was sobbing when Lame Wolf came up from behind and encircled her with his strong arms.

"Little True Friend," he said softly, as if she were still five years old.

Ashamed of her tears, she brought herself under control and faced him. He was very handsome in his suit, with a beaded Shoshone headband across his forehead. His long raven hair shone, and his eyes were dark pools of concern.

Looking at him, she thought, Here is all the love I could ever hope for. And focusing on their future, she welcomed his embrace.

***

Pale light filtered through the lacy bedroom curtains when Tru awoke, finding herself in the curl of her husband's arm.

"Merry Christmas," he said with a sweet smile.

"Merry Christmas," she smiled back, her heart so full of love that there was no room for anything else. Since their engagement, a deep yearning for a child had come over her, and now she said, "Just think. Maybe this time next year, there'll be three of us."

Lame Wolf drew her into a kiss, but a sharp rapping sound disturbed them.  Someone was at the door leading to the main house.

Lame Wolf called out, "Who's there?"

Young Cody answered, "Hurry up! Everyone's awake! There's lots of stuff under the tree!"

Tru and Lame Wolf quickly showered and dressed. Out in the main room, the boys were gathered in their pajamas, barely containing their excitement. Father O'Day had organized a Christmas donor program, so each child received some new clothes, candy, and couple of toys. Later came Christmas Mass in the chapel and an early dinner. Cook was home with her own family, but she had baked plenty of pumpkin and apple pies ahead of time. Tru rolled up her sleeves and helped Anika make mounds of potatoes and vegetables for their ham feast. Perhaps it was a strange honeymoon, but she enjoyed the day. She liked to watch Lame Wolf interact with the children. His kindness and patience made her sure that he would be a good father.

Late in the afternoon, Jamie and Anika shooed them away. They donned their coats and went out for a walk. The sun barely warmed the crisp air as they followed a forest trail, hand in hand, to the little clearing that had long been set aside for a special purpose.

"No more delays," Lame Wolf said. "When summer comes, the boys and I will finally set up Deer Camp."  

"Wickiups and Shoshone lore," mused Tru. "I'm coming along."

His lips curled into a crooked smile as he put his arms around her. "By then, your belly will be getting so large that you won't want to live in a wickiup."

"Oh, I hope you're right," she said with a laugh.

He bent down to kiss her, and the touch of his mouth took her breath away.



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