>Many of you are new here and have not had much exposure to the things I do. I thought I would put an excerpt of my first novel here for you to consider in case you might be interested in reading it. At the moment, I’m writing the sequel to this novel by popular request. You can check out my books on Amazon by clicking here if you like.
A colossal shadow slammed into Eva’s side as it hastened through the hall.
Eva turned toward the blur but it disappeared around a corner before her eyes could lock identification. There was little doubt, though, that Sergeant Bambrick was up to no good.
Jagged pieces of glass greeted Eva’s feet as she threw herself into Isabelle’s bedchamber, stumbling over the threshold. Her senses swirled as they scanned the room but not a body, not a hint of motion appeared. Beyond the patch of broken glass lay a table, turned on its side, with the items spread outward from it upon the floor.
Willie rubbed his eyes and toddled to his godmother asking to be carried. Eva pulled him to her hip and looked him over for any sign of injury.
“Where’s your momma? Issie!” Eva called out with more sentiment in her voice than she desired.
Through the remnants of the crystal vase, she tiptoed, despite the fact that minuscule shards sliced the delicate soles of her feet. She winced as she spotted tiny droplets of dried bloodstain the Persian carpet.
“Issie, answer me, darlin’, please!”
Willie pulled a hand away from his mouth enough to point to a broken window. Eva traipsed through the room, around the bed, in the dark corner beside the wardrobe but no sign of Isabelle made itself known. Just as she sat Willie on the bed, her ears perked with a barely audible whimper. She pursued the trail of whimpers until they led her behind the far left panel of a dressing screen with gracefully painted phoenixes and vines. A cream drape tarnished with the dried, brownish shade of blood caught her eye, making her slap her hand over her gaping mouth in horror.
Between her fingertips, Eva gently lifted the soiled drape away, which revealed a serrated pane of glass in the window, with a dusting of glass bits on the windowsill. A low gurgle emanated from the floor, like the gurgle of an infant, moments after suckling mother’s milk.
“Oh God, Issie,” gasped Eva in shock.
Isabelle’s pale, bare extremities sprawled motionless, half on the floor and half against the elegant wallpaper. Her hair wrapped around her face. Eva crumpled in a heap beside Isabelle’s body.
“Issie, darlin’, say something. Are you—God almighty!” Eva recoiled, stunned by Isabelle’s face as she brushed her auburn mane aside.
Although her features relaxed as if simply in a tranquil slumber, Isabelle’s cheek swelled with bloodied gashes and ashy purple bruises underneath. The wound extended from her ear, to her pale, thin lips, which showed a trickle of fresher blood from the crease. Further down, another gash across the back of her arm flowed with the same blood and glass.
Eva shook herself. Bloody and bruised or not, the lady was still Isabelle, her sister in suffering. She forced her revulsion for blood aside. She tugged the sleeve of her nightdress over her hand and dabbed her fingers to the slice of Isabelle’s lip. The blood soaked into the indigo silk instantly, darkening the fabric as if merely wet with spilled water.
“Stop… Get out of my house…” Murmurs escaped Isabelle’s lips and her eyelids fluttered, the bruised lid only a fraction of the other.
“Issie, shh, it’s me. You’re safe now.”
Smashed glass and splintered furniture left little doubt that a tooth and nails struggle had taken place, but Isabelle’s state of near-undress did not fit. As much as Eva’s mentality battled against horrid images of decadence and violation, she found it hardly believable that a reasonable woman like Isabelle would allow an attacker to rip her nightdress that way.
“Evie?” Isabelle grabbed her arm, fear wild and illuminated in her eyes.
“What happened?” interrogated Eva in attempts to conceal her disturbing speculations. “Are you able to walk? Dear God, Issie, are you badly hurt? I shall send Matthew for the sheriff.” She pulled to her feet but Isabelle refused to release her elbow.
“No, don’t leave me!” she cried, eyes bulging.
Eva nodded and sank to her knees with Isabelle’s hands clung to hers. “Sergeant Bambrick did this, didn’t he?”
The fear in Isabelle’s eyes darkened. “Yes.”
“I swear to everythin’ holy, I shall kill that man the very instant I see him again!”
“Evie, no,” begged Isabelle as she pawed at the silk around her legs, “you mustn’t utter a word to anyone about this! I would be ruined!”
“Ruined?” Eva vehemently shook her head, pressing Isabelle’s hands against her heart. “He attacked you! We cannot let him get away with this.”
If Isabelle answered her pressing, it fell on deaf ears. A glow through the window caught Eva’s eye, and she at first thought it was the lamp’s glow off the glass. Except, she remembered the glass lay in bits embedded in the carpet. She rose to her feet slowly as if a sudden movement might cause some calamity.
The glow looked akin to a firefly. Then another firefly joined it from the left, and so on, until more than a dozen of the supposed fireflies drifted toward the house. Her breath caught in her throat. They were not fireflies at all, but torches!
“Issie…” She clasped Isabelle’s hands around her neck and pulled her to her feet, careful to keep her back to the frightening scene. With some effort, Eva slid Isabelle into the bed and pulled Willie close to his mother’s side. “Stay still, Issie. I’m going to find bandages for your arm. Willie’s right here.”
Isabelle nodded in her drowsy condition, which came as a relief to Eva that she might not have to know a mob headed directly for them.
Eva bolted for the stairs, unsheathing her bowie knife from the Medici belt about her waist. Whether or not she could fight them off seemed of little consequence. Her dear brother, Carl, always said when she was a child that it was far better to trick a bully into thinking you could fight them off even if you could not. What was she to do? Did she truly feel it worthy to risk her own hide to save this house? Perhaps she could tell the mob where to find Sergeant Bambrick and pray they did not arrest her or Isabelle as well.
Her mind raced. Her heart thrashed about her chest as she lifted her skirts and ran for the door. A few of them were mounted but most made the journey on foot. Her body stiffened, hoping to give observers the impression of having complete power over the situation.
“What do you folks want?” she croaked, the Bowie knife concealed behind her back.
An old man with a hooked nose and wild gray hair braced his foot on the porch step and glared at Eva. “You’d do wise to produce the Yankee feller you’re hidin’ here, ‘fore we have to search him out ourselves.”
“This is private property. You have no right to be here unless Mrs. Cavanaugh wants you here. Now, I’m quite certain this dark hour is not an appropriate time to call, so perhaps you ought to return when mornin’ comes,” Eva replied in her best attempt at a steady voice. She brought the Bowie around to her front and traced her fingertip along the blade. “If you want in this house, you’ll have to get through me first.”
Silence fell over the crowd, save the windy flicker of the torches in the air. Naturally, there seemed hardly a young man among them. The only young men left stood in the army ranks. A few of them exchanged glances, and Eva began to relax, feeling the crowd might disperse.
“You heard her!” one of them shouted from the far side. “Let’s git the Yankee!”
A general outcry bellowed from the whole of the mob as they pumped their fists in the air. Eva fell back toward the door in anticipation of having to flee. Another unknown body hurled a rock through one of the parlor windows. Eva shrieked just as a gunshot peeled the air. Realizing it came from behind, she spun and her jaw fell at the sight of Isabelle with a musket pointed at the sky, braced against her shoulder. Blood stained the sleeve of her wrap where her arm bled underneath and her free-flying deep red hair gave her a wild aura. The stern expression painted on her face emerged from the shadows the same as a man in battle.
Eva backed flush against the portico railing as far away as she could get. She swallowed hard, gripping the railing, as Isabelle threw down the empty musket and pulled a pistol from her belt.
“Most of y’all have known my family for years,” she spoke in a low, deliberate voice as she slowly fanned the pistol at each in the mob. Her voice carried over the shouts of the mob until they died down again. “You’ve all sat at my table and eaten with my husband. I’ve looked after your children, your animals and I’ve fed your families in harsh winters. Now, I have no wish to shoot any of you, but I will if you take one flutter of a step closer to my home.”
“Hand over the Yankee, Mrs. Cavanaugh!”
Eva shut her eyes and pleaded in her thoughts for Isabelle to hand him over. She had done terrible things. She went to bed with him. He beat her afterward and became obsessed with ‘having’ both of them for the novelty of it. He told her rape and pillaging was expected in every war and they better get used to it. More Yankees were coming to take Virginia. If anyone knew what she had done, that she snuck Sergeant Bambrick and poor Private Rutledge out of the army hospital and allowed them to wreak havoc on Isabelle’s home, it would be Eva they hunted with torches and pitchforks. Her throat tightened as if the hangman’s noose strangled her. She only brought them to the farm to help Isabelle find out where Robert was taken. If she knew they were not released from the hospital but escaped, she would put Eva out on the street.
“There is no Yankee here. Go on, get off my land and leave us alone.” Isabelle waved the pistol at the dirt road cutting through the hill.
“I saw a pair of those blue devils in your south field just today,” a crotchety old man piped out as he puffed on a cigar. “Quite an indiscretion. One of them killed the other, and you were witness for the entire event. You wailed in bereavement for the fallen.”
“Perhaps you ought to have your eyesight examined, Mr. Wiley. You saw no such thing, for no such event ever occurred here.”
“Is that so?” He snickered.
Eva watched the exchange in astonishment. She never knew Isabelle could lie so coolly, or that she could be so brave. How was it possible that Isabelle, ever the perfect lady, could stand up and fight like a man?
A man with a white, neatly trimmed beard emerged from the mob and charged up the steps. Eva stood paralyzed by fear as he snatched Isabelle’s wrist, fighting her for the gun.
“I got her! Go git ‘em, boys!”
Isabelle screamed and shrank from his crushing grip just as Eva would have done, but the shrinking violet only appeared for the slightest moment. Rage ignited Isabelle’s eyes and she fought back. Brute grunts seemed to fuel her strength as she pushed him off the portico. Eyes wide, the man crawled back like a crab scurrying across the shore. Eva saw the flash before she heard the shot and her hand flew to her mouth in horror, looking down at the bloody hole in the man’s chest.
“Who’s next?” The crazed light in Isabelle’s eyes frightened even Eva. “You want to try it now? Or you?”
Torches sagged in unison. A few standing at the rear skulked away in the night, and then a few more. Slowly the mob broke, though all eyed Isabelle with evident distrust.
“She’s mad,” one muttered.
“She’s a sympathizer,” said another.
Left alone in the darkest hours of the night, Eva pried her hands free of the portico railing and approached Isabelle. She stared down at the man she killed with hollow eyes as if she only began to realize what she did.
“Why did you not give Sergeant Bambrick to them?” Eva whispered. “We would be rid of him!”
“It is Wiley’s word against mine,” Isabelle replied without looking up. “If I turned him over, all of them would have taken me as well. I had hoped to delay my arrest but now…” The pistol barrel twitched at the body.
“You were defending yourself.”
Isabelle shook her head. “I’ve done murder.” Her eyes lifted to the horizon and Eva could only guess at what went through her mind. She swung about and grabbed the discarded musket. “Pack a bag, Evie, quickly.”
“What?” Eva chased Isabelle into the house but her determined footsteps put too much ground between them. “What for? Isabelle!”
Atop the second floor landing, Isabelle leaned over the railing. She looked as pale as death and badly needed her arm wrapped, but she looked inexorable.
“We’re leaving tonight.”