Colette has loved Manason since childhood. But as a woman in a land where lumber barons rule private empires, her vow is to his enemy.
Lumberman's daughter, Collete Palmer has always loved timber cruiser Manason Kade -- even though he only remembers her as a child. Leaving Michigan to settle with her family in the Wisconsin wilderness and separated from him by miles and years, compassion and a broken heart compel her to marry another.
Manason longs to plant roots of his own in Wisconsin Territory. But when his new Kade Forest Works challenges the illegal log harvesting of a rival company, Colette's husband will stop at nothing to ruin him. Logging enterprises collide as the territory nears statehood. Then one day Manason and Colete meet again. Now, she will have to choose between her first love and her commitment to her marriage vows, while her faith and an empire in pine hang in the balance.
Her eyes flashed at him and she tugged at his grip, which only held fast as he pulled her closer.
"Kiss me, Colette. Kiss me like you did that night. You can't prove to me that you'd rather be working for old Harris Eastman than marrying me." He leaned toward her, but she turned her head away.
"I'll not be kissing anyone, Joseph, 'specially you."
"Why not?" His fingers gripped tighter, pinching her. "Who are you waiting for, Miss High and Mighty?" She wriggled in his grasp. "Someone. Not a boy like you."
Joseph's expression changed to surprise -- genuine surprise -- and his hands fell away like rocks. He backed off, looking around him.
"Where is he?" he shouted. "Where is this someone? I haven't seen him. And I don't see you looking at anybody else more than me."
Colette's ears burned, and her face flushed with heat. For an instant, Manason Kade's face flashed before her, and she was embarrassed at how quickly his name came to her lips. Why had she said someone? And the rest of it… what did she mean to hurt Joe with such callous remarks?
Light filtered through the trees in streaks and shadows, and still he stood in her path. "I'm sorry, Joe. I didn't mean it. Really."
He grazed a finger along her cheek, but the light that had softened his eyes before was gone. "I think you did. I think you really meant it," he said. "I even finally believe you."
"I wish you wouldn't be angry, Joseph." Tears welled in her eyes. She couldn't help it.
"Don't cry, Lettie. It makes my blood heat up," he said, but he didn't touch her again. He just stared through her as tears spilled from her eyes and ran in rivers down her cheeks. He stared while she backed away and then rushed past him, leaving him standing in the growing darkness beneath the trees with his fists clenched at his sides.