Synopsis | Excerpt
The War Is Long Over, But The Scars Remain...
Can she learn to love and trust again?
As a child, Libba Ramsey lost her family in the Civil War. Her life since then--orphaned, a charity case--has been hard. Now the kindly Wadley family of central Georgia has invited her to their home in Macon. But how can a young woman still struggling with memories of the war's horrors find a future in a new place? And how can she ever give her heart to a man until she fully resolves her past?
The fourth book in Jacquelyn Cook's popular and inspirational River series once again treats her fans to vivid, heartfelt, historically accurate stories of faith, romance and hope.
Sunlight kindled red and gold flames in the curls cascading down Adrianna's back as she strolled along Eufaula Avenue, happily noting that store windows contained merchandise from around the world now that the war was over. She paused to admire millinery for the fall of 1874 in the window of Stern's Temple of Fashion.
Suddenly she realized the street was quiet, deserted. Shops were closed. Did everyone in Alabama take a nap after the noon meal?
She swallowed nervously. She'd noticed soldiers in the hotel. Now there was no one in sight, and she had completely lost direction.
Out of the corner of her eye, she glimpsed a lean young man moving toward her with hard-muscled strides. His fine nose and chin, and his confident carriage, bore the mark of a gentleman, even though the cut of his waistcoat was outdated. As he neared, Adrianna looked quickly away.
Twirling her lace-trimmed parasol over her shoulder, Adrianna stepped along Hart's Block. The feel of eyes upon her back made her shiver. Even though she practiced ignoring people who stared at her brilliant hair, especially against her bottle-green street costume, she could not resist a peep at the vigorous man.
He had broken into a lope. Her tense frown smoothed into a tender smile as she saw within the man the image of a small boy, arms and legs flapping.
"Wait!" he shouted as he neared her. "You must—come with me—before. . ."
Snapping her head away from him, she quickened her pace. His strong hand grasped her shoulder.
"Please," he said, panting. "Listen, Ma'am. I'd never hurt you. You must let me take you back to your hotel. You're walking to the polling place, and—"
"Certainly not, Sir," she said icily. "We have not been introduced."
For a moment he stared in consternation, then a slow smile filled his lean face. Doffing his high silk hat, he bowed low and said, "May I present Foy Edwards, Esquire."
Giggling in spite of herself, she responded. "Hello, I'm Adrianna Atherton."
Clapping his hat back on his head, he grasped her elbow. "That's done. Now come on," he said urgently and headed her down the empty street in the opposite direction.
Shrill piping and menacing drumbeats shattered the stillness. An angry roar of voices clashed against the music. Wrenching around, Adrianna saw the street filling with armed men.
She shrieked, and her knees buckled.
"Don't play Lot's wife. Come on!"
His arm shot around her trim waist. As he half-carried her, she felt the hard outline of a pistol against her ribs. Behind them rang the shouts of the mob.
"Who?" she gasped. "What?"
"That's the Radical Party, and—" Scuffling sounds behind them increased his pace. "Run!"
A shot echoed and reechoed against the brick buildings. For one long moment there was deathly silence. Then hundreds of shots rained down from the upper floors of the storehouses.
"That's the Democrats. We're 'bout to the hotel. Oh, good grannies!" He jerked her to a stop.
Adrianna blinked at a wall of blue-coated soldiers.
"And that's the Federal Occupation Army!" He spat out the words.
Her parasol dropped with a clatter as they darted into an alley. Running blindly, she had begun to think she could go no farther when he stopped abruptly, leaped astride a horse, and swung her up behind him. Sitting side-saddle as they galloped away, Adrianna held tightly to the back of her rescuer with one hand and clutched her hat with the other.
When they reached a quiet street lined with China trees, he slowed the sorrel to a trot. Clucking to the horse, he turned in at a gate and rode up a drive past huge red cedars.
Adrianna stared at the tremendous house spreading before her. Wildly overgrown shrubs screened the veranda. Her eyes moved up to the balcony on the second story and higher still to the glassed belvedere and widow's walk which crowned the roof.
"Welcome to Barbour Hall," he said as he dismounted. Lifting her from the sorrel's back, he said, "You're a young lady of contradictions. Your hair looks like maple leaves in autumn, yet your perfume. . ." He sniffed. "Ah, the first breath of spring." He beamed down at her as he reluctantly dropped his hands and stepped away.
"It's French hyacinths." She swallowed and her blue-green eyes gazed wonderingly at him.
He cleared his throat, turned toward the house, and frowned.
Watching his brows knit together as he looked from her to the house, Adrianna could tell he was realizing for the first time how shabby it had become. She wondered why such a magnificent mansion had been neglected. If her grandfather's wealth had diminished since the war, she hadn't realized it.
Looking at his home, the serious young man said, "My sister used to say she looked like a hoop-skirted belle dressed for a ball, but now she's a dowdy old dowager."
"Your sister?" Adrianna pressed one finger to her lips to suppress a laugh.
"No," he said, chuckling. "My sister has grown more beautiful with maturity. I meant the house."
"Well." She pursed her lips. "Hoop skirts are out of style." She saw what he meant about the delicately trimmed, spreading porch. "But a house would look funny with a bustle." She laughed delightedly at the thought, then said more seriously, "Pruning the shrubs and painting the house would work wonders."
"I hadn't noticed how badly she'd gone down since Mama died three years ago." He removed his hat and pushed back thick hair. "I really must get some work done on her, but I haven't been able—I can't ask you in."
"Oh, that's all right. I don't mind a little dirt." She started up the steps.
"No." His voice was a deep rumble. "I'm a bachelor. It wouldn't be proper for you to go in unchaperoned."
Adrianna pursed her lips and said, "That's old-fashioned. I can certainly trust the man who saved my life."
"No." The determined set of his chin stopped her midstep. "I would not sully your reputation. Come. we'll sit in the summerhouse until it's safe to take you to the hotel."
Meekly following him along the boxwood-bordered path, she broke the silence. "Seriously, I do thank you for coming to my aid. It's a good thing you happened along."
"I didn't just happen along." He looked down at her. "I was waiting in an upstairs window—no, not for you." He grinned at her mock surprise. "We were expecting trouble. That mob was marching through the county, voting at every precinct under a different name."
"I noticed you're armed. Are you a law officer?"
"No. The marshals and policemen had tried to intervene, but volunteer police had to be summoned." He lifted a swag of wisteria vine, which drooped over the open doorway of the white-latticed gazebo.
"How do you know so much about me—that I'm at the hotel, and. . ."
With a deep chuckle he said, "I was born and bred in Eufaula, Alabama. I know all the young ladies in town—"
"I'll just bet you do!" She tossed her head coyly as she arranged her skirt on a graying wicker settee.
Ignoring the flirtatious honey in her voice, he folded his long body into a chair across from her.
"I would say. . ." He studied her in amusement. "That you're Senator Atherton's daughter."
"Granddaughter," she corrected. "But how—"
"Sixteen years ago my sister, Lily, was made ragingly jealous upon hearing that Captain Wingate was seen dancing with the most beautiful lady in Washington City," he said, laughing. "You must look exactly like your grandmother."
A smile twitched her lips at the clever way he'd complimented her without being impolitely forward.
"The lady in question doesn't take very good care of you," he continued. "You should not have been on the street unchaperoned—and not at all on election day."
"Actually," she looked down, "I came to Alabama to look after Ma-ma. Her health is failing. We arrived last evening on the train from Macon. I slipped out while my grandparents were resting for the Wingates' anniversary party, and—are you? What did you say your name was?"
He laughed and looked at her with intense brown eyes. Flustered by his probing gaze, she waited.
"Foy," he said at last. "Foy Edwards. But you can forget it again," he said, teasingly. "I plan to pretend we've never met."
"Then my grandfather. . ." She stammered, unable to breathe as she watched the change his slow smile brought to his face. "Came—came here to consult with. . ."
"With Harrison Wingate and me." He reared back in his chair, seeming imperceptibly to pull away from her. The soft intimacy of his voice became more businesslike. "Years before the war, Harrison tried to induce Congress to clear the channel of the Chattahoochee."
"That beautiful green river we crossed on the trestle coming into Eufaula?"
"Yes. it's always been dangerous. Narrow, winding, full of rocks, sandbars, snags." Foy gestured with his long arms. "And since the war—with all the sunken boats and obstructions—even a good captain like Harrison is risking his life at every turning. If we're to join the industrial boom, the river must be cleared."
"Yes!" Her eyes sparkled as she caught his excitement. "Back East, men are becoming millionaires overnight. Factories, new machinery, marvelous inventions—oh, I love trying modern things!"
"Yes, well," Foy said seriously, "I can't approve of some of the new methods—believe in old values and principles myself." He shrugged. "But I am excited by new challenges." He leaned forward, his eyes snapping. "Harrison and I are partners in building a new steamboat. She's modern, sleek and beautiful, with the most luxurious appointments." He tipped the chair back, and with his arms behind his head, grinned at Adrianna.
"How exciting!" She brought her fingertips together under her dimpled chin. "Oh, I do admire anyone who knows exactly where he's going in life. I don't know what I'm—"
Suddenly the sun, which had warmed them through the latticed roof, moved behind a cloud. A crisp breeze warned them that the November day was speeding past.
Consulting the small gold watch pinned to her bodice, Adrianna ex-claimed, "Mercy! it's three o'clock. Ma-ma will be waking and—"
"Yes, young lady, it's time I was taking you home." Foy flopped the chair down with a thump. "Wait here." He got up. "I'll hitch the runabout and conduct you back more properly."
"You think the riot is over?"
"Downtown, yes, but out troubles are just beginning. We've been warned of ballot stuffing at Spring Hill, eighteen miles from town."
"You'll be at the anniversary party?" Her voice was small as she tried to hide her hope.
"No." He shook his head. Worry etched his strong features. "I told Lily I couldn't make it. I'm expected to help guard the ballot box until the vote is counted. We've had a scalawag for a judge. Until we put an end to lawlessness and get a government with a strong foundation, we'll never get our world on course."
He turned at the open doorway. "I hate to miss the fun, but I'm afraid the troubles of this day are just beginning."