I'm looking for reviews...and offering rewards. If you have read any of the Civil War Brides Series, will you please head on over to Amazon, B&N, Goodreads (and any other places you can leave reviews) and leave one?
Do all of this by Sunday, October 30th and for every 5 reviews you leave (either one for each book, one at each site, or a combination), I will give you a link and a code for a free download of a book of your choice from the series (including the brand new The Bride Star)!
Email me at email@example.com once you're done and let me know where you left the review and what you reviewed, and I'll send you the code.
Feet stomping the ground, voices raised in unison, the arena roared back to life after a moment of calm. Rayne Green stood backstage and listened to the large mob yell for an encore while her childhood friend and tour manager, Shaye, talked over her headset, frantically giving instructions to the concert staff bustling around them.
Having just delivered a two-hour sold out concert to a highly receptive crowd at the Allstate Arena just outside of Chicago, Rayne waited backstage for Shaye to give her the cue to perform an encore.
“Rayne! Rayne! Rayne!” they screamed to the beat of an imaginary drum.
Rayne’s head of security, Trevor Miller, watched Shaye intently while Shaye’s assistant, Kimber LaRue, watched Trevor. Rayne smiled as she observed Shaye in her element, oblivious to the daggers her assistant was sending her. Trevor adored Shaye and would do anything for her. He would not, however, do the same for Kimber.
“Time to go.” Shaye pushed Rayne back out onstage.
Sprinting into the middle of the stage, Rayne faced her fans. “Thank you, Chicago! You’re a great crowd.”
The stadium erupted in applause. Motioning to her band, Rayne waited for the music to start and launched into her latest number one hit. Barely able to hear herself above the crowd, she smiled with satisfaction. She lived for this. Her music, received enthusiastically by other people, helped her forget about the current state of her life, and the realities that encompassed it.
As she finished the song, Rayne looked stage right to see if she could do another. Shaye held up one finger, so Rayne turned back to the crowd with a smile. “We’re going to play something brand new for you guys. It’s going to be on my next album and I hope you like it.”
She signaled the band to start the song and smirked as her drummer missed the beat. He recovered quickly, but she couldn’t wait to give him hell later. They referred to him as a living metronome and it was rare for him to screw up.
She chose a slower number for the encore, and she almost laughed out loud as cell phones, instead of lighters, went up in the air. As the song ended, the crowd went wild, demanding one more, but Shaye motioned it was time to go.
“Good night, everyone. Thanks for coming. I love you!” Rayne yelled and ran off the stage as the crowd went wild.
“Great show, Reggie,” Shaye said. “Time to meet and greet, then off to the hotel.”
Shaye had given Rayne her nickname in high school when she’d found out Rayne was a baseball fanatic and her initials were R.E.G.
“What’s tomorrow again?” Rayne wiped the sweat from her face.
“You have your show at the House of Blues, then it’s off to Akron.” Rayne’s make-up girl powdered her face and fixed her lipstick as she and Shaye confirmed her itinerary. “The foundation wants to meet with you as well if you have time. I can fit them in over lunch tomorrow, but only if that’s okay with you.”
Three years ago, Rayne had started a charity to assist battered women and children escape from their abusers, and part of the sales of every concert went straight to the foundation.
“Yes, that’s totally fine.” Rayne handed her towel back to the woman. “Let’s go meet the vultures.”
Shaye led her to the press area, Trevor close behind, and then stepped back to let Rayne do her thing. Rayne noted Trevor stood sentry behind Shaye, his hand on her back. Rayne raised her eyebrow in his direction, but he didn’t budge.
“Rayne, how do you like Chicago?” one of the reporters asked.
“I love Chicago, are you kidding me?” Rayne glanced at a piece of paper Shaye handed her as she answered the reporter’s questions. “It’s one of my favorite cities, even with the humidity.”
“What’s going on with Shaunessy?”
Without missing a beat, Rayne said firmly, “We’re just friends.”
“So, no truth to the rumor you’re pregnant?” another reporter asked.
Rayne laughed. “Not with him or anyone else.”
“What’s your reaction to the critics who say you aren’t as good as Pink?”
Rayne rolled her eyes. “The critics would be correct. She’s amazing! She can sing rings around me.”
“What about a romance?”
“Is that Jake Fox?” Rayne held her palm over her eyes to shield them from the lights. “How are you? We haven’t seen you in a while.”
Shaye put a hand on Rayne’s shoulder, effectively stopping any other answers from the star. “Time’s up, folks!” Shaye interrupted. “Rayne has a tight schedule.”
Amidst disappointed rumblings from the reporters, Shaye escorted Rayne from the press box and into the hallway, where she shook hands and signed autographs. A group of local contest winners were a little rowdier tonight, so Trevor and his staff were working double-time just to keep hands from grabbing at her.
“It’s a good thing you’re not wearing anything loose,” Shaye whispered. “This crowd would rip it straight off you.”
Rayne’s skintight, patent leather pants sat low on her hips, a black lace bustier pushed her full breasts up and left her navel, complete with piercing, exposed. Her steel-toe, black, leather boots stopped just below the knee, zipper and buckles working together, as both form and function, finished the outfit.
The tattoo of Pegasus on her left shoulder blade was the perfect accessory, as was the diamond-studded snake wrap that wound her shapely bicep. She had a small diamond stud in her nose and large gold hoops in her ears.
“I thought you hated what I was wearing?” Rayne whispered.
Shaye smiled. “I don’t hate it. It’s just a bit revealing and something I could never wear.”
Rayne laughed. “You could so wear this, Shaye, you just wouldn’t.”
Shaye scrunched up her nose. “Oh, please! I’d reveal the muffin top from hell in those pants.”
Rayne groaned. “Quit with the fat talk, missie. You have a killer body.”
“Says the woman with zero body fat and the courage to show her belly ring.”
“You’re such the prude, Shaye Butter. It’s a wonder I keep you around.” Rayne used the nickname she’d given her when they were teenagers.
“I’m the only one who calls you on your crap.”
Rayne nodded. “Oh, right. I forgot about that.”
“You might want to hand me those hoops, Reg.” Shaye held her palm out. “Someone could rip them out.”
Rayne removed the earrings and placed them in Shaye’s hand just as an eager fan separated from the group and made an attempt at them. Trevor grabbed the man by the throat and pushed Shaye out of the way simultaneously.
“Shaye! Watch what you’re doing. The vultures will grab you to get to Rayne,” Trevor reprimanded as Rayne grabbed her arm and pulled her further within the group of bodyguards.
Before Shaye could comment, her cell phone went off and she raised her eyebrows when she looked at the screen.
“Why the look?”
“My mom.” Shaye hit the ignore button.
Rayne raised an eyebrow. “Are you arguing again?”
“Of course we are.” Shaye shrugged. “Never mind, I’m going to ignore it.”
“Rayne, is there anything I can assist with?” Kimber interrupted in an obvious attempt to get face time with the star.
Kimber LaRue, Shaye’s pseudo assistant, hovered. Although, Shaye wanted to hire someone more qualified, Kimber was the record company CEO’s niece, so Shaye ultimately had no say in the decision. She was stuck with her and in pure Shaye fashion, tried her best to be gracious. Rayne referred to her as the dingbat and several of their staff did so as well.
“Shaye’s got it all under control, Kimber,” Rayne said.
“Okay. Great.” Kimber wisely shut her mouth.
Trevor moved away from the group of fans and pushed the girls further down the hall. People lined the walls all the way to the limos and buses waiting outside. Rayne tried not to laugh, but the look on Kimber’s face was entirely too much for her. Shaye got pulled away, but not before she heard Kimber swear under her breath.
“I heard that,” Rayne said to the girl. “Watch it.”
“What did she say?” Shaye asked.
“Nothing, Butter. Ignore her.”
Interrupting their conversation, the venue manager had several questions for Shaye, so Rayne turned again to greet her fans and let Shaye take care of the paperwork. Shaye joined Rayne again a few minutes later and continued her vent as though she were never interrupted.
“I just don’t get her!” Shaye scowled. “Why is she so hostile? I’m her boss.”
Rayne let out a snort. “She’s jealous.”
“Trevor.” Signing an autograph, Rayne didn’t look up, seamlessly catering to her fans while still holding a conversation with Shaye.
Rayne giggled. “He has a huge crush on you and she has a huge crush on him. Never a good combo.”
“He does not.” Shaye shook her head.
Before Rayne could respond, someone pushing their way through the crowd distracted them. “Hey! Raining cats and dogs!”
The girls turned and, while Rayne’s face lit up, Shaye scowled in disgust. A tall skinny man rushed toward them. Tattoos and piercings covered his extremities, and his Mohawk was dyed several shades of red.
Trevor moved to grab the man quickly, but Rayne stayed him. “Jared? What are you doing here?”
“I followed you, babe. Wanna get out of here?”
Shaye grabbed her arm. “Rayne, we should get back to the hotel.”
“Don’t you have a church service to go to?” Jared piped in.
“Jared, be nice.” Rayne sent him a look of admonishment.
Jared snickered. “Maybe you’ve got some injuns you need to save.”
“Jared!” Rayne scowled. He held his hands up in surrender. “I’ll be back before midnight, Shaye, I promise. Come with us?”
Shaye sighed. “I can’t. I have work to do. My boss is a slave driver.”
Rayne laughed. “You can always take a break. You might actually have fun.”
“Fun with Jackass Jared?” Shaye retorted. “I’ll pass thanks.”
“Okay, okay.” Rayne laid her hand on her arm. “Seriously, Shaye, I’ll be back soon. I just need to blow off some steam.”
Shaye took a deep breath.
“Come on, Shaye-No-Lay, don’t be a prude,” Jared interrupted, using the name he used to call her in high school.
“God, Jared. Are you still twelve? Lay off,” Rayne snapped.
Shaye shook her head. “It’s fine. He’s stunted, Rayne.”
Jared snorted. “You wish I was stunted.”
“That was a really good comeback, Jared.” Shaye gave him the thumbs up. “Do you even know what stunted means?”
Jared snapped an expletive and Shaye laughed. Pulling her headset off and looping it around her neck, she drew Rayne aside, out of Jared’s earshot. “I don’t trust him, Rayne.”
Rayne smiled. “He’s harmless, Butter. You know that. He’s a blowhard—always has been. Even in high school.”
Shaye frowned. “He’s been accused of some pretty major stuff, Reggie.”
“Come on.” Rayne glanced to Jared. “Who would believe a wimp like him would actually be able to hurt anyone!”
Shaye rubbed her forehead. “I just don’t have a good feeling about this.”
“It’s all good, Butter. Seriously. I just want time away from the crowds, you know? Be with a familiar face for a few hours?”
Shaye’s head whipped up. “I’m a familiar face.”
Shaye’s hand flew to her heart. “You’re sick of me already? It’s only been ten years!”
Rayne wrinkled her nose. “You know what I mean.”
“I know it gets old, Reg.” Shaye sighed as she pulled out a stick of gum and offered a piece to Rayne. “I just don’t want you to do anything stupid.”
“Me? I’ve never made a bad decision in my life.” Rayne popped the proffered gum in her mouth.
Shaye laughed as she shrugged the backpack she’d been lugging around all night from her shoulders. “Okay. Here’s your bag with your cell phone and a change of clothing. Go and have fun. Just be careful.”
“Yes, mom.” Rayne hugged Shaye and then let Jared lead her away from the crowd and into his car.
The further Jared drove from the concert venue, the more uncomfortable Rayne grew. She took a deep breath in an effort to calm her frayed nerves.
Shaye was right, damn it.
“Are you taking me to your school?” Rayne asked with a nervous laugh. “Or your dorm?”
“No.” Jared changed the radio dial and then looked at her quickly. “We’re going somewhere less public. Although, people might join us later.”
Rayne’s head whipped to her left. “What people?”
“Well, not really people, per se. Ghosts. The place is haunted.”
Letting go of the breath she hadn’t realized she was holding, she snapped, “Whatever!”
“No, it really is.”
“Where are we really going, Jared?”
Jared hit the turn signal and pulled off onto a side street. “My roommate, Kevin had this friend from New Zealand—”
“Fascinating,” Rayne said sarcastically.
“If you’d let me finish!”
“Anyway, Hannah was a dancer and was also studying forensic law, but that’s beside the point. Anyway, she had a dance studio in this old building and disappeared one night.”
“So?” Rayne took a swig of water from the bottle Shaye left in her bag.
“So...her roommate, Victoria disappeared like a month later.”
Screwing the cap back on her water, Rayne rolled her eyes. “From where?”
“The same place.” Jared pushed in the lighter on his console. “She had a photography studio across the hall.”
“Seriously?” Rayne pulled the lighter out before it was finished.
“Yeah, the whole university was in an uproar. They condemned the building and boarded it up.”
Rayne narrowed her eyes at him. “No, I mean, are you seriously going to smoke right now?”
“Don’t tell me you’re turning into Shaye?” Jared pushed the lighter in again.
“You’re not going to smoke, Jared, I have a show tomorrow. Live with it.”
“Fine!” Jared snapped. “I’ll smoke when we get to the building.”
“And you’re taking me there, now?” Rayne asked somewhat irritated. “To an abandoned building?”
“Yes. But it’s cool. A bunch of us go there to drink sometimes.” Jared glanced at her. “Come on, Rayne. You were the one who wanted to get away from the crowd for a while. This is the perfect way.”
Rayne settled her head on the headrest. “Fine. But I have to be back at midnight.”
“When did you become such a prude? Shaye-No-Lay is rubbing off on you.”
Rayne glared at him. “Don’t call her that! She’s totally cool and if you weren’t such an ass, you’d find that out.”
“Are you suggesting I get to know the ice queen?”
“You know what? Forget it. Just take me back.”
Jared set the brake and turned off the ignition with a smirk. “We’re here. Come on, it’ll be really cool.” Jumping out of the car, he made his way around the front and lit a cigarette as he walked toward the side door, effectively ignoring his passenger.
Disgusted with herself for not listening to Shaye, Rayne eased her way out of the seat, grabbed her backpack, and followed Jared into the building. As they made their way down the hall, Jared pointed to an unremarkable doorway. “Don’t go through this door. If you do, you’ll get stuck. It’s the stairwell and in order to get out, you have to walk up and then cross to the opposite side.”
Nodding, her heart raced. “Okay.”
He led her down a dark hallway and into what she assumed was the dance studio. There was a large set of mirrors with a bar on one side of the room and the floor was hard wood.
“Is this where the kiwi girl danced?” Rayne walked the room.
Pulling out a metal water bottle, Jared poured the contents into a cup as he watched Rayne investigate the room. “Yep. Victoria’s photo studio is across the hall.”
Rayne’s eyes swept the room. “Doesn’t seem haunted.”
Jared moved closer to her and handed her the cup he had just filled.
“What’s this?” she asked suspiciously
She pushed it away. “I don’t drink.”
“On tour,” she clarified.
Jared shrugged and handed it to her again. “Right. Well, it’s just water.”
“Okay.” She peered inside. “Thanks.”
Taking a small sip, she was relieved to find it tasted just like water, but the way he watched her made her pause. She didn’t remember him being so intense in high school, always the class clown. Heavily pierced and tattooed, but harmless.
After a few minutes, Jared ran his hand down her arm. “I’ve missed you.”
She shrugged him off. “Don’t be weird, Jared.” She stepped away and tried to put distance between them. “You know we’re friends.”
Jared dragged his lower lip ring into his mouth and smiled. “But I’ve always wanted you, Rayne. You were the goal.”
He caught her again and settled a hand on her hip. “Yes, the goal. Everyone wanted you. You must know that.”
Rayne blinked as the room began to swim slightly. “I’m not feeling so hot.” The cup fell to the ground and the remaining contents spilled across the floor.
“Oh?” he said a little too innocently. “Sit down over here.”
Rayne rubbed her forehead. “What did you put in my drink?”
“Nothing.” He wrapped an arm around her waist. “I would never do that.”
“What did you slip me, Jared?”
“Shhh,” he crooned. “Baby, we’re all alone. I know you’ve dreamed about this for a while.”
Pushing her against the wall, he started to kiss her neck. Rayne was disgusted, but also losing her ability to think. Pushing at him, she tried to pull her face further away from him.
“Get off me,” she snapped.
“Please. You were always the biggest slut in school.” He slid his finger down her collarbone and slipped it into her cleavage. “Don’t go prudish on me now.” Moving his hand lower, he grabbed her breast and squeezed.
“Stop, Jared, you’re hurting me.”
He wrapped his hand around her throat and painfully forced her face up. A tear slipped down her cheek as she tried to get her emotions under control. “Shhh. Just let the stuff do it’s magic. You’ll love this.”
“No, Jared. Stop.”
He continued his assault, so she waited for just the right opportunity and as soon as she had it, shoved her knee between his legs as hard as she could.
“You bitch!” he screamed as he fell and doubled over in pain.
She ran with no idea where she was going. Rayne tried to stay upright as the world spun around her and went through the first door that opened. The stairwell. The door closed with a loud click. She tried the handle—it was locked. “Crap!”
The stairwell was hot humid and smelled of old age, compounded with the heat outside. She likened it to Shaye’s grandmother’s house, only mustier somehow.
She tripped several times walking up the stairs, her legs growing heavier with every step. At the top, she found herself facing a large room that looked as though it hadn’t been touched in a hundred years. It was a perfect replica of a Victorian Era parlor, and she moved forward, running her fingers along the back of a deep green horsehair sofa. A wave of dizziness overtook her and she grabbed the back of the sofa, its coarse texture rough against her palm. She attempted to dig her cell phone out of her purse, but with her vision blurring, coupled with confusion, she couldn’t manage even this simple task.
She stepped around the sofa, her legs feeling like hundred-pound lead weights. It grew harder and harder to put one foot in front of the other, and when she made an attempt to sit down, the sofa seemed to disappear and she was staring at a muddy road unfamiliar to her.
Shaking off her confusion, she looked down and the rich oriental carpet swam before her. No longer able to think straight, and missing her opportunity to sit on the sofa, the carpet loomed closer and as she went down hard, the floor was no longer the floor. Mud and dirt seemed to greet her as everything went black.
* * *
Samuel Powell sat in his office, a stack of outstanding paperwork piled before him. He was head of Special Prison Task Forces, and he stared at the invoices on the top of the stack. The prisoners received the highest level of care and ate better than any soldier out on the field.
“Hell, they eat better than I do,” Sam grumbled out loud.
Despite his young age, only twenty-four, he was a highly respected lawman. One who had in the past, apprehend some of the most dangerous criminals in the area. He specialized in the most difficult cases of missing persons and murder, the cases no one else wanted.
He took his current position as a favor to his friend, Christopher Butler, who worked in President Lincoln’s war cabinet. The war office needed someone they could trust to ensure the prisoners did not escape and someone to interrogate the ones coming in. Sam decided settling down for a while might be a good idea, so he accepted the job.
He’d originally thought it would be more of a challenge. Christopher’s wife, Hannah, had commented several times on the slowness of his job, even going to so far as giving his special assignment a new name. Babysitter of the Elite Accused of Treason – or B.E.A.T., as she had once joked, and the title stuck. He smiled at her strange term. Sitting back, he ran his hands through his hair with a deep sigh.
“Is the B.E.A.T. that bad today?”
Looking up in surprise, Sam saw his friend, Laughing Crow. The tall Indian grinned as he leaned against the doorframe; his arms were crossed over his wide chest.
“Slow,” Sam grumbled.
“You should have told Christopher, no.”
“I thought you were doing something useful with your weekend.” He smirked.
Crow chuckled as he pushed his large body away from the doorframe and moved further into the office. “She bored me.”
Leaning back in his chair, Sam stretched his legs out onto his desk. “Quit choosing whores and you might find a woman who offers a challenge.”
“White women are never a challenge.” Crow grunted as he sat across from Sam’s desk. He’d left his long hair free and it slid over his shoulders as he shook his head.
“Why don’t you marry a Muskogee?”
Crow pulled off his gloves and slapped them across his thigh. “As I’ve said many times before, I will never marry.”
“Why don’t you join me this weekend?”
“I have to head out to the farm to check on the staff.” Sam picked up his nib pen and signed a sheet of paper. “With the decision to free the slaves in Maryland, I need to make certain they don’t need assistance with friends or family.”
Crow raised an eyebrow. “Or others?”
Sam smiled. “Or others. Yes.”
“Do you think there will be trouble?”
Sam frowned. “I don’t know. It’s possible. There are southern sympathizers close enough to us to be concerned.”
Crow nodded. “I’ll come with you.”
“Thank you.” Sam dropped the pen on the desk. “Will you be joining us for Thanksgiving?”
Knowing full well that Crow was stalling, Sam cleared his throat. “No, in Virginia at the home of General and Mrs. Robert E. Lee.”
Crow leaned forward, bracing his forearms on his knees. “I have not decided yet.”
“What is there to decide?”
“Whether or not your friends will take issue with a half-breed in their home.”
Sam scowled. “Who’d take issue? They all know you.”
“No, they don’t, Sam, and you well know it.”
Sam knew he was right. Crow had endured years of prejudice. His Indian name was Laughing Crow, but when missionaries came through their village and discovered his mother was white, they gave him a Christian name. He was known from that point on as Douglas Smith. They cut his hair and made him wear white man clothing, but Crow was smart. He did his best to hold onto his grandfather’s teachings, and as soon as he grew big enough not to be manhandled, he’d stopped the mandatory haircuts. His hair now hung halfway down his back.
Sam met Crow five years ago when working on a missing child case. Crow tracked the little girl to a remote area in the mountains and they rescued her. But it was he, not Crow, who was given a hero’s welcome. Crow, however, was happy to stand in the back and let Sam take the glory. They formed a close friendship and because of that fact, Sam had lost a few friends and colleagues.
“You have over a month to decide, but in the meantime, the Butlers have invited us for dinner,” Sam said.
Sam frowned. “What do you mean, why?”
Standing, Crow raised an eyebrow at him in response.
“Look. The Butlers like you. They don’t care that you’re a half-breed, and I have a feeling Victoria might take offense to that term,” Sam pointed out.
“Are you saying Quincy and Victoria will be at dinner?”
“Yes, they will.”
Crow shrugged. “I will attend.”
Sam laughed. “Victoria apparently made an impression.”
Crow didn’t say anything as he turned and walked out the door.
* * *
Something foul stung Rayne’s nose as she tried to force herself to wake up, but she was having difficulty opening her eyes. A cold breeze feathered her skin.
Funny…the room had been so humid.
“We got a live one here!”
Pounding footsteps and the sound of men’s voices pushed her to urgency, and she opened her eyes to find she was no longer alone. Just as suddenly, she realized she was lying in mud—and something less pleasant.
“Ain’t never seen a whore look like that before.”
“What?” Rayne grasped her pounding head and sat up.
“Lyle! Get a load of this one!”
She found herself staring into the face of a ragged looking man with pockmarked skin and rancid breath. “Ugh. Where am I?”
He leaned forward from his hunkered position, his thin lips puckering. “Ain’t you perty?”
Rayne pushed at his face. “Go away!”
“We’re gonna have a heap o’ fun. You ain’t never had someone like me before.”
“And I won’t now! Leave me alone.” Bile crept up her throat when she was hauled up and away from the foul smelling man. Turning, she faced a large man with a heavy beard and scar down the left side of his face. He grasped her bicep, squeezing much harder than necessary, and shoved her against what she could only surmise to be a building of some form.
“Let me go,” she whimpered.
“Lyle!” the smaller man whined. “I found her first.”
Lyle narrowed his eyes. “Shut your mouth, Curtis.”
“I said, shut yer mouth! You kin have her when I’m done.”
“Done?” Rayne whispered. “Let me go!”
Lyle hauled her into the middle of the street. Rayne tried to fight him as her stomach heaved and her head pounded. She had to get away, but didn’t know where to go.
Letting her powerful lungs work for something other than singing, she screamed as loud as she could. Even though she received a slap from Lyle, she continued to scream.
“Lyle!” Curtis warned. “The sheriff.”
“Damn it,” Lyle growled and promptly let go of her.
Rayne was dropped in a heap to the ground and she heard the men scurry into the alleyway to her left. She took a deep breath and mustered all of her strength to scream again. The shadow of a large man loomed over her and she was lifted off the ground.
She tried to scream again, but the man wrapped a large arm around her waist and gave a gentle squeeze. “You’re safe now. I’m going to take you to the jail and we’ll get you sobered up.”
“What do you mean? I’m not drunk.” But as her speech slurred she knew he wouldn’t believe her. He wrapped a warm coat around her shoulders and carried her down the street and into a large brick building in the middle of the square.
“Ow! My head,” Rayne complained. “Could you perhaps not shout?”
Another man strolled out from a back room and his eyes widened as he gave her the once over. “Whatya got there, Jimmy?”
John nodded toward her. “Drunk whore.”
Rayne pushed at him. “I’m not a whore! Jerk!”
“Put her in cell one,” John said.
“You’re locking me up?” Rayne bellowed as she tried to pull herself away.
“You need to sober up.”
“I’m not drunk, you idiot!” Rayne grasped her head and realized that no one was listening. They pushed her into a tiny space, three sides surrounded by bars, the other one solid brick, and a small cot in the corner. “It stinks. I can’t be in here. It smells like rotten feet and sweat. Let me out!”
The men ignored her as she ranted. Jimmy locked her cell door and left her alone.
* * *
Crow arrived back at the jail just before dinner. Grabbing his jacket and hat, Sam followed Crow outside to their tethered horses and mounted.
Navigating the busy streets of D.C., they took off toward the Butler’s townhouse. The rain from the night before created the occasional puddle, but it was better than the constant dust. Arriving at their destination, they pulled their horses to the back and handed them off to a stable boy.
“Thank you, Jack,” Sam said.
“Sir.” Jack nodded.
They made their way to the front of the townhouse, and knocked. Christopher’s housekeeper opened the door and ushered them into the parlor. Crow removed his hat, nodding to the group.
Victoria jumped from the couch and ran to hug him. “I didn’t think you’d come.”
Her husband, Quincy rolled his eyes, which only made her laugh as she wrapped her arms around the large Indian. Sam stifled a grin at his friend’s discomfort.
Crow smiled, but only slightly. He seemed a little off-guard at her show of affection. “I was threatened.”
She glanced up at him. “By whom?”
“A petite woman with violet eyes.”
Victoria smacked his arm with a girlish giggle. “Oh yes, I’m certain you could be persuaded by a threat. I simply requested your presence. I would never threaten!”
Crow raised an eyebrow. “A request from you, Mrs. Butler, is not a simple request.”
Victoria had been kidnapped shortly after her marriage to Quincy and Crow was instrumental in finding her. Since then, Victoria considered Crow part of her family and refused to let him hide from them.
“Well, never mind. I’m thrilled you’re here.” She pulled him further into the room. “Come and sit down.”
Once the rest of the greetings were finished, Crow and Sam settled in the parlor with the drinks Christopher poured for them.
“How’s the BEAT tonight?” Christopher asked.
“Slow.” Sam sat in the chair closest to the fireplace.
“Is that a bad thing?” Victoria asked as Quincy pulled her back onto the sofa.
Sam smirked. “No, not necessarily. It’s just not what I’m accustomed to.”
Just then, the housekeeper led a young man into the parlor. Samuel frowned. “Robert?”
“I’m sorry to interrupt, sir.” Robert twisted his hat in obvious nervousness. “We have a situation.”
Sam raised an eyebrow at the Sheriff’s deputy. “A situation?”
Robert nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“Well, don’t just stand there.” Sam rose to his feet. “Spit it out.”
“It’s somewhat delicate,” he said, rolling the rim of his hat between his fingers.
Sam pinched the bridge of his nose. “Just tell me.”
“John brought a woman over and asked that we house her.”
John Patton ran the local jail and was good ‘muscle,’ but women were not his strong suit. Sam crossed his arms. “Why?”
“She’s drunk.” He cleared his throat. “And she’s not entirely dressed.”
Sam frowned. “What do you mean by ‘not entirely dressed?’”
“She’s wearing black, shiny breeches...and...uh…not much else.”
“Is she a prostitute?”
“It would appear so, sir. Although I’ve never seen a whore dressed as such.” He turned to the ladies with an expression of contrition. “Sorry.”
“Why would John need to bring a working girl to you, Sam?” Christopher asked. “The general jail should be sufficient.”
“No, sir. The woman is causing a ruckus. John was hoping Mr. Powell would keep her isolated.” Robert’s head bobbed as he retold the story.
“A ruckus?” Victoria asked.
“Yes, ma’am.” Robert lowered his gaze. “She’s a distraction to the other prisoners.”
Victoria’s eyebrows rose, but she didn’t comment.
“John needs to develop a backbone,” Sam grumbled. “How is it that a grown man cannot handle one woman?”
“Go and take care of it, Sam. We’ll save you a plate,” Hannah offered.
Crow stood to join Sam. Sam shook his head. “Crow, you should stay.”
“Yes, Crow, you should stay,” Victoria said pointedly. Crow rolled his eyes at her, but she responded with a giggle. “No, my friend, you don’t get to escape dinner with us.”
Sam walked out the door with Robert, promising to return later.
* * *
Rayne couldn’t think straight, her mind cloudy from the drugs, and it didn’t help that she was shivering from cold. Lying on the filthy cot in the dark cell, her head pounded and the nausea wouldn’t leave her alone. She groaned as she tried to sit up.
“What?” Rayne snapped.
“Stop calling me ma’am!” She glared up at the man. “Why am I in jail?”
“Ma’am, if you’ll wait for Mr. Powell—”
“Stop calling me ma’am!” she yelled and immediately regretted it. She gagged and lay back down.
John lowered his head. “Sorry, ma—”
“John? Where’s this whore you apparently can’t handle?”
Hearing the new voice, low and strong, Rayne sat up, but she was not prepared for the man heading toward her prison cell. Tall, taller than even Trevor, with sandy blond hair and the lightest blue eyes she’d ever seen. They reminded her of ice-blue satin—and Paul Newman. He was gorgeous. She shook herself from her thoughts and scowled. “I hope to hell you aren’t referring to me.”
* * *
Freezing in place at the authoritative voice, Sam stared at the vision in black. The woman had short blonde hair in a pointy style he’d never seen before. Her clothing, what there was of it, seemed to have been painted onto her body, and his only thought at that moment was that she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Although her makeup appeared heavy, she looked young. Not at all used up.
“Ma’am?” Sam made his way to the cell.
“Why does everyone keep calling me ma’am? It’s starting to piss me off.” She stood angrily and walked to the bars. “Oh, God, I’m going to be sick.” She found what looked like a bowl and leaned over it.
“Stop calling me ma’am!”
Sam reached out toward the woman in caution. “Ma’am, you may not want to use—”
“Stop calling me ma’am! Can’t you see how sick I am?” she interrupted as she leaned over the porcelain bowl.
Sam frowned as he watched her sit up again and lean her back against the cot.
She rubbed her head. “Why am I in jail?”
“You were drunk and disorderly from what I’ve been told.” Sam leaned against the bars of her cell.
“I’m not drunk.” The woman dropped her forehead onto her raised knees. “I was drugged. There’s a difference.”
“There is the prostitution as well,” John provided.
“John.” Sam pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Prostitution?” She squeaked and scrambled onto the mattress. “I’m not a prostitute.”
“But you’re dressed like one.” John shifted from one foot to the other.
Sam stepped in front of John in silent rebuke.
“I am not!” She laid her hand over her mouth. “I had a concert tonight and this is what I wore to perform.”
“A concert, ma’am?”
“Oh, my God,” she groaned. “Stop calling me ma’am.”
Sam smiled gently. “What should we call you?”
“My name is Rayne…Green.”
Sam tried again. “All right, Miss Green. Do you know who drugged you?”
“Yes. Jared Weber. He put something in my water.” Rayne shook her head. “I should have listened to Shaye.”
Sam raised an eyebrow. “Who’s Shaye?”
Rayne dropped her face into her hands. “My best friend, but that’s beside the point!”
“Who’s this Jared Weber?” Sam wrapped long fingers around the cell bars. “Where can we find him?”
“He’s a student at DePaul, but he took me to an abandoned building in downtown Chicago.” She shivered.
“Chicago? Are you certain?”
Her head whipped up. “Hel-loh! Isn’t that what I just said?”
“That would be impossible,” John interrupted.
“Why would it be impossible?”
Sam realized she might be somewhat addled. “You’re currently in Washington, ma’am.”
Rayne’s eyes widened. “State?”
Sam shook his head. “D.C.”
“Who are you?” she rasped. “Where have you brought me?”
John cleared his throat. “Ma’am, you were found stumbling through the streets of D.C.”
Sam glared at John, angry with the man, but not entirely sure why. He felt an odd connection to the woman, which made no sense.
Rayne ran her hands through her hair. “I can’t be in D.C.”
Sam watched her closely as she put her hand to her forehead as though to jog her memory. Just then, he heard the rustling of skirts and turned as Victoria Butler walked in the room.
“Rebel, sweetheart, slow down,” Quincy said from behind her.
“What are you doing here?” Sam turned in surprise.
Victoria walked over to the cell and gasped. She turned slowly and glared at Sam. “Unlock this door, right now, Samuel Powell. I know this woman and she is no prostitute.”
Rayne frowned. “I don’t know you, do I?”
“How do you know this woman?” Sam narrowed his eyes.
“This is Rayne Green.” Victoria stared pointedly at him. “She’s a friend of a friend.”
Victoria nodded. “Yes, Shaye. Exactly. I’m Victoria Butler. I think we met at that party a few months ago.”
Rayne raised an eyebrow. “The party. Right.”
Victoria glanced back at Sam. “Let her out, Sam. She’s coming home with us.” Quincy started to protest, but Victoria stayed him. “She’s like me, Gus.”
Quincy’s eyes widened. “Yes, Sam, she’s coming home with us.”
“Where’s my backpack?” Rayne asked.
“Did you have it with you?” Victoria wrinkled her brow.
Rayne nodded. “Yes.”
One of the guards retrieved the bag and handed it to Sam. Rayne let out a hiss. “Why are you giving it to him?” Before he could respond, though, she made a run for the bowl.
“Rayne, no!” Victoria warned and Rayne paused. “Don’t touch that.”
Rayne groaned in agony. “I’m going to be sick.”
“Okay, but don’t use that.” Victoria stood away from the door. “Get her out, Sam. Now, please.”
Sam unlocked the cell and stepped aside so that Rayne could exit. She moved toward the door and then suddenly grasped his arm. “I don’t feel so good.”
Sam caught her as she dropped. Lifting her into his arms, he drew her close and felt the overwhelming need to protect her.
Victoria rushed to her side to feel her forehead. “She doesn’t have a fever, but she’s definitely out cold. And look at her lip! It’s swollen and bloody.” Turning to John, she waggled a finger at him in accusation. “Did one of your men do this?”
“No, ma’am. Jimmy found her that way.” John backed up slightly.
“Why didn’t you treat it?” Victoria laid her hands on her hips. “Fresh water at the very least. She’s a lady in distress and has obviously been ill used by someone!”
John frowned. “We thought she was a prostitute.”
“So?” Victoria snapped. “She still deserves medical attention.”
John lowered his head and wisely kept his mouth shut.
“Did she say what happened?” Quincy asked as he flattened his hand on Victoria’s back.
Sam appreciated Quincy’s apparent attempt to calm his wife and save the jailer from her barrage. Sam tightened his arms around his burden. “She said someone drugged her.”
Victoria laid a hand on the woman’s arm. “Well, let’s get her home so that we can tend to her.”
“Where’s Crow?” Sam raised an eyebrow.
“He’s at the house.” Quincy rolled his eyes. “Victoria threatened him with death if he left.”
Victoria’s head whipped up. “I didn’t threaten.” Quincy smiled at her. Victoria raised an eyebrow. “What? I don’t threaten!”
Sam chuckled quietly. “We have never known anyone like you, Victoria. Crow is not certain how to handle it.”
Rayne started to stir. She opened her eyes slowly and looked up at Sam. “Hi.” She winced and put her hand to her mouth. “Ow.”
Sam smiled down at her.
“Wow,” she whispered. “You’re a hottie.”
Rayne once again drifted into oblivion. Victoria giggled.
“What does that mean?” Sam asked her.
Victoria shrugged. “I’m certain I have no idea.”
Sam grunted, knowing she knew a lot more than she admitted.
“Let’s get her home.”
Sam followed the couple out to the buggy. He decided to go with them, not wanting to stop holding his vision in black. He pulled her close and marveled at her scent. He knew without a doubt she was not what she seemed and he intended to find out everything he could about her.
I get the distinct pleasure of joining my surrogate little sister on her wedding day this weekend. To celebrate, I'm offering up a contest. Anyone who has read any of the Civil War Brides Series and leaves a review at Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, etc. will be entered.
The more you leave, the more times you get entered (and yes, you can copy and paste your original review at other sites and it still counts!). You will win a download of your choice of the series from Smashwords.
If you haven't started on the series, click here and enter code: VF93K for a free download of the first book.
I will choose a winner on Friday, August the 12th. Just let me know where you left your review and I'll enter your name.
Some you know now that it's impossible for me to choose just one person to win a contest, so with the help of the hubby and some random number games, the following folks have won a copy of their choice from The Civil War Brides Series.
Congratulations to Desiree, Audra, LuAnn, Lisa, and Robin!
I am laid up after surgery, which means I'm looking for ways to entertain myself.
How about a contest?
There are three ways to enter:
1. Go to Amazon, B&N, Borders or Goodreads and leave a review for one of the books you've read in the Civil War Brides Series...(let me know where you left your review);
2. "Like" my author page at Facebook (if you haven't already) and leave a comment (for legal reasons, know that FB is not endorsing this contest, so be stealth in your responses);
3. Email me back and give me your name and email address;
And if you do all three, I'll enter you three times! Also, since we need to be stealth with FB comments, I'll give an additional entry to the person who makes me laugh out loud.
Five lucky winners will win a free download of one of the books in the Civil War Brides Series from Smashwords!
"The Rebel Bride is an engaging story about love defeating everything, even time. Victoria and Quincy feel an instant attraction to one another, but there are several hurdles that must be overcome. Victoria has been hurt in the past and Quincy will have to prove that he is the man for her and that compromise is the language of love!"
"The Rebel Bride is a delicious feast of pleasure for fans of classic time travel romance! Julianne MacLean,USA Today Bestselling Author.
Victoria Jo Carrington paced her tiny dorm room at DePaul University. She paused at the unkempt bed on the opposite side of the room and wrinkled her nose at the mess. Her roommate, Hannah, had disappeared less than a month ago, and Victoria didn’t have the heart to clean her side of the room.
Both girls rented studio space in the historical building where Hannah was last seen—Hannah for dance, Victoria for photography. Because of that fact, Victoria was now a potential witness in Hannah’s disappearance—and possible target. Much to her frustration, the FBI hovered, offering protection that Victoria didn’t really feel was necessary. As she stood staring at her backpack, she debated whether or not she would go for a run after her session. She sighed.
Fifty miles might blow off some steam.
Gathering her camera equipment, she carefully packed the body and lenses into her backpack. As she moved things around in the bag, she noticed the medical supplies neatly sitting at the bottom. Along with extra batteries, she kept a small canvas bag containing rubbing alcohol, a sewing kit, and bandages. She carried them everywhere, for no specific reason, just a premonition of sorts that she would need them one day.
All content (c) Tracey Jane Jackson
November in Chicago was guaranteed to be cold, so she grabbed her warm jacket and stuffed one of her hoodies in her bag. She threw in her cell phone and running shoes along with an extra water bottle, grabbed her keys, and strode out of her dorm room.
“Miss Carrington?” A large man, well over six feet, pushed away from the wall and towered above her. He smiled, and straight white teeth gleamed through full lips. His Latino charm covered her like a warm blanket, and the heat in his gaze made her heart race.
Victoria stalled, unable to help her attraction to the man. Trying to keep her voice even, she said, “Agent Arellano. How are you?” She turned her head, to find the familiar sight of his shorter, stockier partner standing by the dorm building’s front door. “I see you brought Agent Yonko with you. What a lovely surprise! Have you been waiting outside my room the entire time?”
Agent Benjamin Arellano let out a quiet sigh. “It’s for your protection, ma’am.”
Victoria and Ben had had this conversation several times in the past, and Victoria was getting a little irritated with his habit of ignoring her assurances, choosing to listen to the long arm of her family. Truth be told, she was irritated with his pension to do his job, rather than forget about it and take her out. He’d mentioned his policy not to mix business with pleasure, and she’d just as soon forget the business part of this whole debacle and move straight to the pleasure.
“Bless your heart. You certainly know how to protect a girl.” She placed her hand over her breast, but kept walking. “I feel so safe.”
Ben captured her arm. “I’m sorry to disturb you, Miss Carrington, but we have a few additional questions. A possible suspect.”
Victoria whipped around, momentarily stunned by the kindness in his chocolate brown eyes. Shaking off her attraction, she asked, “Suspect?”
He nodded. “Yes, ma’am, a person of interest.”
Victoria stepped closer. “Do you think Hannah was kidnapped?”
“We’re looking at every angle.” The agent nodded to his partner in silent direction, and waited for him to leave the hallway.
As soon as she heard the door click closed, Victoria stepped closer to him. “Ben,” she whispered, “do you really think this suspect would come after me?”
His eyes softened, even if his expression didn’t. “The mayor doesn’t want to take any chances.”
Daddy’s connections reach all the way to Chicago, it seems.
Victoria dragged her teeth over her lower lip. “Oh, really? His concern wouldn’t have anything to do with pressure from my family, would it?”
“Victoria, this is serious.”
Crossing her arms, she frowned in response. “Ben, you can’t let my family run roughshod over you! I’m perfectly fine. I haven’t noticed anyone lurking around, and no one creepy has approached me.”
Ben gently squeezed her elbow. “The person may not appear to be anything but pleasant. Your parents are concerned that this is dealt with quickly.”
Victoria ran her hands through her hair with a sigh. “Look, the reason Mama wants this dealt with so quickly, is because she wants it out of the news. Specifically, the family name out the news. My well-being is secondary.”
Ben’s eyes widened. “That’s a bit harsh, don’t you think?”
A derisive snort escaped. “No, just sadly realistic.”
Feeling a threat to her sanity if she didn’t distance herself from her family, Victoria had enrolled at DePaul, hoping the move would keep the long arm of the Carrington family from strangling her. However, something always seemed to interfere with her plans.
Placing her hand on his arm, she smiled. “Look, you’ve been more than an FBI agent, and I appreciate your friendship, but I have clients waiting for me and I’m already late. Could you perhaps meet me at the studio in two hours?”
She turned and moved down the hall, Ben followed. “Do you think that’s wise?”
Victoria waved her hand dismissively. “The building’s perfectly safe, Ben.”
“The last place Hannah was seen feels safe to you?”
Victoria stopped and faced him. “Okay, point taken. But this job is important for me. What if I promise to call you if I see or hear anything strange?”
“Okay, Victoria. But why don’t I take you to dinner tonight and we can talk about it more?”
Victoria raised an eyebrow. “What about your policy?”
Ben grinned. “I’m willing to make an exception.”
“Ben, we got a call,” Agent Yonko made the statement as he walked back into the hall.
Ben raised his chin. “Thanks.”
“Agent?” Victoria went back to their professional dialogue, but added in a whisper, “Ben, please.”
“Yes, dinner will work.”
Ben nodded. “Yes, Miss Carrington, that would be fine.”
Victoria grinned. “Great, I’ll talk to you later—I’m sure.”
Pushing open the main door to the dorm, she hit the remote on her car keys as she walked down the front steps. Her silver BMW flashed its lights as the doors unlocked in front of her. Not waiting for Ben to change his mind, she took off.
By the time Victoria walked through the doors of her studio, she was well past frustrated. Over twenty minutes late, she arrived to find a note taped to the door. Her clients had decided not to wait. Growling, she tore the note in half, unlocked her door, and threw it open.
All the scrutiny surrounding Hannah’s disappearance was getting to her and she had no one to lean on. Her family was absolutely no help. The only daughter of a wealthy Kentucky surgeon and socialite mother, Victoria was often forced to participate in events that would showcase her beauty and then subjected to ridicule from her mother if she complained. The fact that the authorities were even questioning her about Hannah’s disappearance brought attention her family would rather not have, even though Victoria had done nothing wrong.
Ben had become a person she felt comfortable with, even if they couldn’t relax completely. His behavior had to be professional at all times. They had moments of frank conversation, but it was usually interrupted, which annoyed Victoria. Tall and muscular, the fact the man carried a gun only added to his bad-boy image, and Victoria wanted this mess over so that she could get to know him better.
She was certain he felt the same way but knew he would never say anything until the mystery was solved. Four disappearances in less than two years and one a decade ago still unsolved, meant the FBI was interested—very interested. Today’s offer to take her to dinner was a nice surprise, and she couldn’t wait to spend time with him.
Since her clients were gone, she picked up an old roll of film and locked herself in her darkroom. Victoria was a purist, and although she owned several high-end Cannon digital cameras and complementary L-series lenses, she kept her film camera for specialty shoots. She took her time developing the photos she’d shot of Hannah the day before her disappearance. The process of developing film was cathartic for her, and she enjoyed standing in front of buckets of solution, rather than sitting at her computer tweaking with PhotoShop.
One photo in particular caught her eye and she held it up with a smile. Hannah didn’t know Victoria had been shooting her, but she caught Hannah laughing and there had been a soft, sudden breeze that brushed her hair from her face as she gazed skyward, a look of pure abandon on her beautiful face.
I miss you, HoBo. Where are you?
Ignoring the tinkling of her cell phone sounding from the other room, she slipped her tweezers into the final solution. Grasping the corner of her photo paper, she scowled when she found the photo she pulled out was overdeveloped.
As soon as it was safe to open the room to light, she tidied her studio and decided to call it a day. Flipping her cell phone open, she saw a missed call from her brother, Preston, so she dialed the number as she stepped into the hallway, locked her door, and moved down the hall.
Pausing briefly when she heard Preston’s voicemail, she left him a quick message and then threw her phone back in her bag. Popping a piece of gum in her mouth, she made her way toward the front door of the building, passing by the stairwell door as she shoved the gum wrapper in her pocket. A clang in the stairwell raised the hair on the back of her neck. She pushed open the door and poked her head inside.
“Hello?” Hearing the noise again, Victoria yelled, “Is anyone there?” Moving farther into the stairwell, she stretched her leg, doing her best to keep her foot lodged in the doorway.
If she moved her foot, the door would close and lock and when that happened, the only way out was to walk upstairs and down the other side of the building. Quite frankly, she couldn’t be bothered going through the trouble.
She would have to.
She lost her footing and in an effort to grab the handrail, her foot slipped from the door. It closed and locked. “Shoot!” she grumbled as she stomped up the stairs, muttering irritably. “Today just isn’t my day.”
Reaching the top, she yanked the door open and stopped cold. Her breath coming in short bursts, Victoria stared at the scene before her. Instead of a storeroom full of dusty boxes and rickety metal shelves, she saw a perfect replica of a Victorian Era parlor, almost as though it were a movie set on a sound stage.
“Wow.” She slowly wandered the room, her fingers brushing across the deep green horsehair sofa facing a large fireplace. On one wall was a painting of a young man with dark hair, dressed in black with a crisp white ascot. His eyes, dark green and shining like emeralds, seemed to follow her as she wandered the room.
In the corner, towards the back of the room, stood a small, round table draped in a dark burgundy silk tablecloth topped by a doily of ivory lace. The table was heavily laden with trinkets and assorted picture frames; the silver glint of one in particular drew Victoria's attention. Slowly, as if bewitched, she walked across the oriental carpet and picked up the frame.
She stared at the small hand-tinted ambrotype of a soldier and studied the man’s features, mesmerized by his eyes. She glanced up at the painting hanging on the wall. There was no doubt they were related in some way. Perhaps brothers? Or cousins?
She traced the strong lines of his jaw, her touch briefly lingering on his full lips. From the corner of her eye, she noticed something discarded on the floor and bent down for a closer look. She gasped. Her stomach rolled as she stared at the fragile paua shell bracelet that belonged to her friend. It had been a gift from Hannah’s mother in New Zealand, and Hannah often complained about the flimsy clasp, but regardless, she was never without it. Victoria reached for the bracelet then stopped; it might be evidence. Mouth dry and limbs shaking, she rose and reached for her phone. She dialed Ben’s cell and tried to control her racing heart.
Closing her eyes, she willed Ben to pick up. She pulled out the gum wrapper she’d slipped in her pocket earlier and reached down to cover and gently lift the bracelet from the floor.
Without warning, the acrid smell of smoke reached her nose. She opened her eyes and swallowed hard. Instead of the Victorian parlor walls, she was staring at trees; miles and miles of trees. She whirled around. She took in the sofa, portrait, and fireplace. Great, the stress had finally made her crack. She shook her head and slowly turned around, praying her mind and the room would return to normal.
A sob escaped her throat as the forest filled her vision. The thick smoke burned her nose and clouded her vision. She raised a trembling hand to cover her nose and mouth and took an involuntary step forward. Vertigo assailed her. The world in front of her tilted, the trees becoming blurred, and twisted shapes formed before her eyes. She cried out as her legs gave way beneath her and everything went black.
* * *
Weldon Railroad, Virginia
Dawn approached and Quincy Butler awoke hungry and exhausted—again.
Currently serving under Major General Gouverneur K. Warren in the Union Army, he was on special assignment for the V Corps and had spent the last two days in a bitter fight. Ulysses Grant had ordered an assault against the Weldon Railroad while the II Corps attacked Deep Bottom. Since enlisting in Company A, 1st Regiment Maryland Heavy Artillery, Quincy had moved quickly up the ranks to Sergeant First Class and was chosen to take a small group of men to assist Warren.
The morning was particularly humid and Quincy’s uniform, already ragged and worn, stuck to his body. His Union-issued boots had a hole in the right foot and a loose heel on the left. To say he was uncomfortable was an understatement.
“Quinn?” A young, scrawny private, close enough for Quincy to see his pockmarked skin despite the darkness, whispered to him.
Quincy glanced to his left. “Yes, Harry?”
“When we get out of here, I want food and a whore.”
“I’ll join you for that meal, Harry.” Quincy sent him a look of mild reprimand. “You’re on your own for the other.”
The rest of the men laughed.
Shifting from one foot to the other, Harry asked, “Did you send a missive to your brother?”
Quincy shook his head. “No.”
“Why not? He can help us with supplies. We’re starving out here.”
Quincy’s older brother, Christopher, was part of President Lincoln’s war cabinet.
“Because my brother has enough to concern himself with. I’d rather he not have to worry about a bunch of whiny soldiers crying for their mamas.”
His second in command, Marcus Martin, shot Quincy a smirk. Taller than Quincy, blond hair and dark brown eyes, the man was used to getting his way using plain old charm, but this time, Quincy raised an eyebrow in silent retribution. Marcus had just made the same request the day before, albeit away from the rest of the men.
“I still say he could send us some better provisions,” Harry grumbled.
The men were punchy. Since their arrival to Virginia, they hadn’t had a decent meal, and the hardtack that had sustained them so far was infested with maggots. Quincy thought of Nanny’s cooking back home in Maryland, but that only made his hunger worse, and his stomach grumbled in protest.
“I’ll send the request next week, Harry.” Quincy sighed. “Will that suffice?”
Harry nodded, a smile forming on his thin lips. “Yes sir.”
Quincy stared out over the empty battlefield, letting his thoughts wander homeward but was shaken from his memories by shouts coming from Major General Warren. It was five a.m. and it was time to move.
“Look alive, men,” Marcus called.
The men counterattacked and by nightfall retook most of the ground lost during the early afternoon fighting. The lull, however, would be fleeting, and even though they gained much ground, Quincy knew they had to be on alert.
Separating from his unit, Quincy moved to the west. All too quickly, he was forced to take cover from enemy fire, his unit several yards away from him across the valley.
“Stay with the men, Marcus, and stay low.” All further conversation halted as the firing stopped for a few tense moments. Quincy chose to stay behind the cover of the trees rather than try to get to his men. He knew this was simply a brief calm before the storm but was confident the fighting wouldn’t begin again for a few hours.
* * *
“Umph!” Victoria landed on hard, dry ground.
Opening her eyes, she saw a bright blue moon, glowing with a clarity not usually seen in the smog-laden skies of Chicago, and thought how unnaturally humid the weather was for November.
What am I doing outside?
Putting her hand to her forehead, she winced when metal hit her eyelid. She still gripped Hannah’s bracelet in her hand. Limiting her movement in case she was hurt, she tried to make sense of what was going on. She stared at the sky and tried to think back. Her last coherent thought was of standing in the attic of her building, gazing at an old-fashioned photograph.
I walked up the stairs, looked at the photo...then, what? Think, Victoria!
From her position on her back, she did a quick check of her extremities. All seemed unharmed.
Did I hit my head?
Upon further inspection, she didn’t feel a goose egg or have a headache, so she sat up and slipped the jewelry into the pocket of her jeans. Despite the fact she had a thin shirt on, it was long-sleeved and added to the heat. Pushing the sleeves up as far as they could go, she took a minute to look around. Surrounded by trees, Victoria didn’t understand what she was looking at. She blew a breath into her palm and sniffed.
Was I drinking and don’t remember?
Smelling nothing other than the minty scent of the gum she’d been chewing before she was locked in the stairwell, she took a deep breath and opened her bag. Grabbing her bottled water, she took a swig and then dug for her phone as she sat up on her knees.
Did I have an accident?
She rechecked her clothing, but found no evidence of blood, and she really did feel perfectly fine, so she quickly dismissed the thought. She checked her phone but couldn’t see any bars and sighed in frustration.
The smell of smoke overwhelmed her, but that confused her even more, as she couldn’t fathom why anyone would light a fire in this heat.
November isn’t supposed to be this warm! This is air conditioning weather. Not light a fire, get cozy, and make s’mores weather.
Victoria chuckled at her absurd thoughts. She just needed to get back to her studio and figure out where her missing hours had gone. As she stood, she saw the silhouette of a man hunkered down behind a small grove of trees and rocks. He turned slightly and she noticed he had what looked like a large rifle.
Her heart raced as she tried to covertly step behind one of the trees in an attempt to hide. Her hands shook and she bit her lip, knowing she probably wasn’t quick enough. Continuing to chew nervously on her lower lip, she squeezed her eyes shut and held her breath. That’s when she heard him.
“Who’s there?” a deep voice broke through the dark.
“Come out, or I’ll shoot.”
Sidling from her relative cover, Victoria moved into view, and when she noticed the man lift his gun, she raised her hands in surrender.
“You’re a woman!” Relaxing his stance but keeping his gun raised, the man made the blatant observation and then added, “In men’s clothes!”
Victoria stood, shaking with fear and staring at the very large, very strangely dressed man. Walking slowly toward her, he demanded, “Who are you?”
Between now and Friday, May 20th, head on over to my Facebook page and leave a comment. If you do, I will enter you in to win a free download from Smashwords of your choice of one of the four books in the Civil War Brides Series.
As always, if you don't use Facebook, simply send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your name / email address and I'll add you to the contest list.
Smashwords has a wonderful program to support our troops. They offer authors the opportunity to give away their books to our military an their families. I'm excited to now be part of the great program!
Several people have asked me who does my covers, who are the people in the pictures, etc., so I thought I'd answer with the actual pictures used.
When I started to write The Civil War Brides Series, I strangely had a picture in my mind of the cover art before I'd even put pen to paper. It was a photo of me and my hubby at a masquerade ball we'd thrown fifteen years ago.
I have been a photographer most of my adult life, and I'm also a sucker for a really great party, so I combined both of my passions into a night of fun and nearly three hundred pics (back in the day when we didn't have digital cameras, people!).
The Rebel Bride, Civil War Brides Book #5 is a photo I took of my sister on her wedding day, and since Victoria insists on a sleek-lined dress (spoiler alert), I thought this photo of Emily and Stephen fit perfectly.
My wonderful husband, graphic artist extraordinaire, created my covers and without any biase, I think he's amazing.
RELEASE DATE, JUNE 1st, 2011. If you sign up for my mailing list, you'll get a sneak peak in May. Check out my website and click on the envelope next to the Twitter symbol.
Victoria Carrington is a small town southern debutante who is accepted into college in Chicago. Her roommate goes missing, and Victoria’s family is convinced she is in danger. Alone and somewhat irritated by the FBI’s forced protection, she throws herself into her passion, photography.
Her photography studio is housed in an historic building. While she is there one afternoon, she is led to a room that does not appear to have been touched in 100 years. She finds an old hand tinted Ambrotype of a soldier buried in a stack of paintings. As she is staring at his face, her world begins to spin.
Quincy Butler is trapped in a hell he could never have imagined. Fighting yet another battle in The War Between the States, he is shocked to encounter a woman on the field. When she begins to speak to him, he realizes she is southern, and assumes she is the enemy.
His intention to apprehend and take her to his superiors is cut short however, when he is shot and wounded.
As Victoria tends to Quincy’s injuries, will she be able to convince him to trust her?
When she is kidnapped by a mad man, will Quincy save her before she is lost to him forever?
The news from Washington this morning is highly important. The official order for the evacuation of Fort Sumter was issued on Friday, and a special messenger was immediately dispatched with it to Major Anderson. The fort is to be evacuated on the arrival in Charleston harbor of a United States vessel to receive them. Should the South Carolina authorities oppose the departure of the troops in the manner directed by the instructions to Major Anderson, that officer has been ordered, it is stated, to open his batteries. There is no doubt, however, but that the garrison will be permitted to depart in the manner prescribed.
The Shenandoah Valley lies in western Virginia, running northeasterly between the Allegheny Mountains and the Blue Ridge. It is a rich breadbasket and source of small manufactures for the Confederacy, and a secure channel for aggression against the Yankees. For weeks, Stonewall Jackson had been struggling to score a success in the Valley and nearby, with no luck. Since yesterday, however, Jackson’s Confederates have been driving the Federal forces of James Shields northward through the Valley. Today, they clash in open battle near the village of Kernstown, near the northern end of the Valley. (Above, a sketch of the battle.)
Thanks to bad intelligence, Jackson doesn’t realize his 3,500 men are up against 9,000 Union soldiers. He attacks ferociously, but the Union line holds. Angry, perhaps, because the highly religious Jackson had been forced to fight on the Sabbath, he arrests one of his generals, who had ordered a withdrawal when his men began to run out of ammunition. (Within months, the disgraced general will return to the war under another commander and die later, fighting bravely, at Gettysburg.)
Jackson cannot halt the retreat, and so it seemed as if the Union has won the day. But this seeming loss will prove a boon to the Confederates. Alarmed at Jackson’s fierceness and assuming his forces were stronger than they are, the Union war managers make several panicky mistakes. Troops that could bolster McClellan in his Peninsula Campaign or crush Jackson in the Valley were diverted elsewhere, most of all to the protection of Washington.
As a result, Jackson, though still outnumbered, is able to conduct a winning campaign against the Federals in the Shenandoah Valley for the next several weeks, scoring so many wins through expert maneuvering, that his tactics are studied in the Twenty-First Century. And, deservedly, the words “Jackson’s Shenandoah valley Campaign of 1862” seldom appear without the word “brilliant.”
The site of the battle is preserved as the Bentonville Battleground State Historic Site, which was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1996. The park, founded in 1965, includes 130 acres (0.53 km2) of the battlefield and runs a visitor's center adjacent to the restored Harper House, which served as a hospital for Union soldiers during the battle. The Bentonville Battlefield Historical Association and the Civil War Preservation Trust also own portions of the battlefield not included in the state park, including 909 acres (3.68 km2) by the CWPT alone. Wikipedia
As we get closer and closer to the anniversary of both the surrender of General Lee to General Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, AND the assassination of Lincoln, April 14-15, 1865, watch for offers for free downloads of The Bride Price.
On March 18, 1865, John Wilkes Booth played Pescara in "The Apostate"...I wonder if he was practicing for his role as the loathsome assassin to the beloved president.
In any case, March 18, 2010 will be a day to remember, with the offer of a free e-book.
Just a reminder to get your reviews in by tomorrow to be entered into the contest. For every review you leave at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, you will be entered in to win a signed copy of the Bride Ransom.
Emma Wellington has found herself transported back to the Civil War. She has been reunited with her sister, Sophie, and they are getting ready for dinner. She has no idea that Clayton Madden, the man who rescued her, is searching for her.
Emma sat in front of the fire while Sophie attempted to pin her hair into some semblance of a nineteenth-century style.
“Ow!” Emma grabbed her head. “Ease up there, Attila.”
“Sorry,” Sophie mumbled with hairpins between her lips. “Your hair is just too soft to do anything with. I get it pinned and it slides out.”
Emma waved her hand toward the bed. “I have a couple of hair bands in my bag. Use one of them…and then spray the heck out of it.”
Sophie spit out the pins. “Good idea.”
“I shouldn’t have cut it.”
“Why? In case this might happen?”
“Well, you never know.”
Sophie chuckled. “Yes, we should warn women in the future about cutting their locks off, just in case they get sent back in time and have to fake an old-fashioned hairstyle.”
“Why does it matter anyway? Isn’t it just the family?”
“Ha! It’s never just the family. I heard from Mary—”
“—which one’s Mary again?” Emma interrupted.
“The cook.” Sophie found the hair bands and made her way back to Emma. “Anyway, Nona told Mary to add three for dinner, so I’m assuming she’s invited a couple of Jamie’s men to join us.”
Emma grinned. “I like Nona. She’s good peeps.”
Sophie glanced off into space for a second. “Although, no one told Jamie about the dinner invite, which is weird.” She shook her head. “Oh well. He’s been working so hard lately, it’s possible he forgot.”
Emma rubbed her hands together. “Who cares? Men in uniform at the dinner table. Works for me.”
Sophie gave her hair a gentle tug. “You will act like a modest little mouse tonight. No flirting.”
“I don’t flirt.”
Sophie snorted. “What do you call it, sissy? The giggling, the witty banter…all for their benefit…and the little head tilts.”
“That’s just conversation.”
Sophie sighed. “Well, I’d love to see you find a man who can bring you to your knees and rend you speechless. You have yet to find one who doesn’t bore you…and you play with them mercilessly.”
She stood and let Sophie tighten her corset. “I just like to have a little fun. What’s the harm in that?”
“Well, please try not to have fun tonight.” Sophie yanked on the laces. “One flirt and you might find yourself married.”
Emma giggled. “I’ll do my best.”
Once Sophie was satisfied with Emma’s coif, they finished dressing and Sophie led her to the mirror. Emma gasped. “Sophie, I don’t look real.”
She chuckled. “I know what you mean. It feels like a costume party that goes on forever.”
Emma wore one of Sophie’s gowns and it fit her perfectly, other than the length. Sophie had Betty take down the hem, and in the end the very proper housekeeper was satisfied that it covered enough. The v-neck top revealed more than Emma expected and she tried to adjust it for modesty.
Sophie laughed. “Em, I promise, you won’t fall out. You’ll get used to it.”
“But my boobs look huge!” Emma exclaimed.
“Newsflash! Your boobs are huge, Em.”
Emma grimaced. “I never thought they’d ever look this big.”
“It’s the corset.”
Emma glanced down and then at Sophie. “Are you sure this is kosher?”
“Em, you’re showing less than me. You look great.” Sophie pulled her into the hallway and closed the door behind them.
Jamie pushed away from the wall and gave them a formal bow. “Ladies. You both look beautiful.” He pulled Sophie close and kissed her. “Especially you.”
Sophie ran her hands up his chest. “As do you, baby.”
He pulled away from Sophie and leaned over to kiss Emma’s cheek. “How’s your ankle?”
She adjusted her glasses. “Better…I think.”
“We’ll plop you in a chair and you’ll do fine.”
Emma wrinkled her nose. “That sounds fun.”
“Apparently Nona has invited a few extra guests.” Jamie got an evil glint in his eye as he grinned. “So, I plan to keep you away from any eligible soldiers.”
Emma groaned. “Sophie already gave me the lecture.”
“Let’s go.” Jamie led them to the landing. “Topper’s waiting in the parlor and excited to see you.”
“Me, why?” Emma asked.
“I think he fancies himself in love with you.”
Emma laughed. “Oh, please. He’s talked to me all of twice.”
“Yes, but you talk to him. Most people don’t know what to say and usually end up staring at his injury instead.” Jamie looped an arm around her shoulders and steadied her so she could walk down the stairs. “Don’t feel too special. He’s in love with Sophie, too.”
He ushered them downstairs and to the parlor, where Topper waited with several of the other guests.
* * *
Clayton clenched and unclenched his hand before lifting it to knock on the door. He could barely contain his anticipation and had to stop himself from barreling past Daniel when he opened the door. “Good evening, Mr. Madden.”
“Good evening, Daniel.” Clayton handed the butler his hat and outerwear.
“Everyone is in the parlor. I’ll announce you.”
Clayton shook his head. “No need, Daniel. I’ll announce myself.”
“As you wish.”
Clayton took a deep breath and squared his shoulders. He strode to the parlor door, paused briefly, and then stepped inside. The breath left his body.
Conversation continued around him. No one had noticed his entrance, and then she looked up and her eyes widened in surprise. Her tongue darted out to lick her lower lip, the action causing Clayton’s stomach to clench with desire, and he gave her a slow smile. He was rewarded with the blush of her cheeks and the quick rise of her chest.
“Clayton Madden!” Jamie stepped in front of him. “What are you doing back so soon?”
Clayton glanced at him and attempted to look again at Emma, but Jamie blocked his view. Clayton gave him an irritated glare.
Jamie chuckled and held his hand out. “It’s really great to see you. I’ll bet your brother’s happy to have you back. How long are you staying?”
Clayton focused on Jamie, took his hand, and squeezed—hard. “Good evening, Jamie.” He grinned at Jamie’s discomfort. “I’m back for a little while, and I believe you and I may have a few things to discuss.”
Jamie pulled his hand out of Clayton’s grip and fisted it in his pocket. “Quite a grip you got there.”
“Fencing,” Clayton said without looking at him.
Emma stood and limped to her sister, who stood with Christine by the French doors. Jamie asked him something, but Clayton was far more interested in the effect he obviously had on Emma Wellington.
“Excuse me, Jamie.” Clayton walked away in the middle of Jamie’s sentence and strode toward Emma. “Ladies.”
Emma stepped forward and frowned. “What happened to your eye?”
He’d forgotten about his eye.
“It’s nothing to concern yourself with.” He took her hand and set a gentle kiss on the top. Emma pulled it away and stepped behind her sister. Clayton took Sophie’s hand and kissed her knuckles. “Mrs. Ford.”
Sophie raised an eyebrow. “Mr. Madden. What a lovely surprise.”
Christine closed the gap so that Emma was hidden, and Clayton raised an eyebrow as he lifted her hand to his lips. “Christine.”
“I had no idea you were coming back.” She grinned and lowered her hand. “How long are you staying?”
“That all depends.” He caught Emma’s eye between the ladies, and she quickly lowered her head with a blush. Christine let out a quiet snort and Clayton narrowed his eyes. “Were you saying something, Christine?”
Christine covered her lips with her fingers, her eyes dancing with mischief, and shook her head. “No, nothing at all, Clayton. Would you mind retrieving me a glass of sherry?”
Clayton tried to hide his irritation, but he knew she saw it. He also knew she’d made the request knowing full well he wouldn’t refuse. “Of course. Would either of you other ladies like something?”
“No, thank you,” Sophie said, while Emma simply shook her head.
Clayton gave a slight bow and went off to do Christine’s bidding.
* * *
Emma’s heart raced as she watched him walk away. She grabbed her sister’s hand and forced herself to take deep breaths. “What is he doing here?”
“Nona’s a little sneak,” Sophie murmured.
Christine giggled. “I think you have an admirer.”
Sophie squeezed her hand. “Emma, are you blushing?”
Emma swallowed and felt the heat climbing up her neck. “I need to get out of here. Can we please get out of here?”
Sophie shook her head and chuckled. “Not on your life, Squirt. Look at you! You’re all flabbergasted.”
Emma glared at her. “I’m so glad you’re enjoying this. What am I supposed to say to him?”
Christine drew her eyebrows together. “What’s amiss?”
“What’s wrong is that my little sister is speechless.” Sophie wrapped an arm around Emma’s waist. “Have we really just seen the one man—across space and time, mind you—that has brought you to your knees?” Sophie tapped her cheek in thought. “Apparently, when I say something out loud, it really does happen, huh? Wow!”
“Sophie,” Emma hissed. “Shush.”
“Let me see…” Sophie grinned slowly. “I think this might be the man who will make you fall madly in love with him.”
“Oh, and maybe you two will get married and have lots of babies.”
Emma pushed away from Sophie. “You are the most evil creature on earth.”
“She is, Emma. I agree.” Christine laughed. “Would you like to take a little walk outside before dinner?”
Emma let out a sigh of relief. “Thank you, Christine. I would love to.”
Sophie reached out and squeezed her arm. “Your ankle, Em.”
“I’ll hop if I have to, mistress of destruction. I need out of this room.”
Christine pushed open one of the French doors. “Why don’t we sit on the veranda?”
Christine and Sophie steadied Emma on either side and led her out to one of the chairs, settling her foot on another. Christine squeezed her shoulder. “How’s that?”
Emma sighed. “Much better. Thank you, Christine.”
“I thought I saw you three escape.” Emma jumped and looked up at Clayton as he stepped outside. He handed Christine her glass of sherry and then faced Emma. “Miss Wellington, I took the liberty of procuring you a glass of red wine. I hope that is acceptable.”
A quiet squeak escaped as Emma nodded her head and took the glass from him.
Clayton turned to Sophie. “Mrs. Ford, your husband is looking for you.”
Sophie stood. “Is he, now?”
Clayton gave her a challenging grin. “Yes. He’s waiting by the refreshment table.”
“Thank you.” Emma grabbed her sister’s skirt, but Sophie pulled out of her grip. “I trust no one is looking for Christine, correct?”
Clayton shook his head. “Not that I’m aware of.”
Sophie gave a half-smile. “Good answer.”
Emma’s stomach battled with the sandwich she’d eaten an hour ago and her lungs fought for air. He was better looking than she’d remembered, and way sexier than any fantasy she could have dreamed up.
“May I join you?” Clayton indicated the chair Sophie had just vacated.
“What made you come back so soon, Clayton?” Christine laid her hand on his arm to get his attention. “Is Richard all right?”
He faced Emma. “Richard is not the reason I returned.”