Gloryby Heather Graham
In Civil War–era Florida, a woman suspected of witchcraft reawakens a tired doctor’s heart
Julian McKenzie, a surgeon and makeshift colonel, is at the end of his rope. He’s trapped deep in the South with his Rebel platoon, and their supplies and morale are running low. But while fleeing from an attack, he finds salvation in a most unusual/b>… See more details below
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In Civil War–era Florida, a woman suspected of witchcraft reawakens a tired doctor’s heart
Julian McKenzie, a surgeon and makeshift colonel, is at the end of his rope. He’s trapped deep in the South with his Rebel platoon, and their supplies and morale are running low. But while fleeing from an attack, he finds salvation in a most unusual form: a run-down plantation. Inside, widow Rhiannon Tremaine, a Union sympathizer, practices what the locals describe as witchcraft. In reality, Rhiannon is a gifted healer and medic. Still, she does have a bit of magic in her. In the fifth book of her Florida Civil War series, bestselling author Heather Graham evokes a treacherous world of divided loyalties. Rhiannon has the gift of second sight, and while she used to welcome her visions, now her dreams only give her pain.
In Julian, though, she may have found someone to change them . . . if the war doesn’t conspire to rip the two apart.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Heather Graham, including rare photos from the author’s personal collection.
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The Old Florida Series
By Heather Graham
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1999 Heather Graham Pozzessere
All rights reserved.
PADDY MACDOUGALL WAS DYING.
Julian McKenzie carried his stalwart old friend before him on the scrawny gray nag with a show of courage and a sinking heart. If he didn't get the sergeant to some decent shelter soon, get the bullet out of his leg, and stanch the flow of blood, the man would almost certainly perish. Their ragtag troop of skirmishers, eleven in all including him, a surgeon, ostensibly a noncombatant, had ridden hard, zigzagging a good distance from their camp to avoid discovery by the Yanks in pursuit, and now, though it seemed they had eluded the enemy, they were far from home.
"There, sir, up there!" Private Jim Jones called out, pointing through the trees. "A house!"
The sun had begun to set several minutes ago and that, combined with a light billowing of summer's fog, gave a surreal appearance to the pine forest surrounding them—and the pathway to the plantation house ahead. In classical Greek style, the house boasted a large porch with six massive white columns. Its last coat of paint had most probably been white, but time and the elements had faded its pristine color to a dull gray that all but matched the dusk and fog. The forests and foliage surrounding the house had grown wild, and the place appeared to be abandoned.
"Thank God!" Julian breathed, blue eyes sharp on the facade before him. "Let's get Paddy to shelter, men. The place looks empty, but hopefully we'll find a place where I can make Paddy comfortable and get to work."
"Wait, sir! Colonel, sir!"
Julian paused, looking back. Liam Murphy, just eighteen—if he was telling the truth at that, and the newest recruit among their troops—was anxiously calling to him. Julian realized unhappily that all the men were looking at him as if he were a military man, trained for strategy. His older brother—the Yankee, he thought with dry amusement—was the one who'd gone to West Point. He'd gone to medical school.
Steady nerves under fire and an ability to assume command when field officers had lain dead around him had recently brought him a battlefield promotion to colonel of their small militia unit, which frequently made him the officer in command. Due to the strange conditions under which they fought—too few fighting men in a state that had been stripped of the majority of her troops—he found himself in combat situations despite his oath to save lives.
Guilt often plagued him by night; survival instincts kept him returning fire by day.
"I don't think we should go there, sir," Liam told him. He was a skinny youth with earnest eyes as green as the fields of County Cork, from where his family hailed. His father had died at the second Manassas, his mother of fever or a broken heart, and his three young sisters were now scattered to relatives about the South. He wasn't bitter, and he wasn't determined to fight for revenge, but justice. For a youth he had a good head on his shoulders, and Julian arched a brow, ready to hear what he had to say.
"Private Murphy, I have a dying man here," Julian said.
"I don't think that the place is empty, sir."
"You know this house?" Julian asked.
Liam nudged his mount, an old gelding that looked as if it would fall over in a heavy breeze, urging it closer to Julian.
"I've heard tell of the place, sir. It's said the folks there were Unionists—we might be riding into danger."
Julian stared at the house. It didn't much matter who had owned the place if it was deserted. And if it wasn't, well, at worst, someone's old mother and maybe a mammy were left behind. As small as their band of soldiers was, they could surely hold their own against a few women.
"Private Murphy, I acknowledge your concern. But I've got to find shelter where I can work."
"Colonel, we've got to have a few minutes rest as well," Corporal Henry Lyle told him, nudging his own mount forward. "Liam, boy, we'll take care, but we were on the road two days solid searching out that Yankee depot, and now we've been running night and day." Lyle, a grizzled old codger of indeterminate age, solid and steady as rock, looked at Julian over Liam's head. They were exhausted and beaten, and shelter lay ahead.
"There's more," Liam said stubbornly.
"Oh?" Julian queried.
"A witch lives there. Or she did."
Henry Lyle broke into laughter, along with the rest of the men, Kyle Waverly from Palatka, Keith and Daniel Anderson out of Jacksonville, River Montdale from Tampa, and the Henly cousins, Thad and Benjamin, out of Tallahassee.
"Liam, if there's a witch in there, we'll burn her," Thad said, riding by Liam to ruffle the boy's hair. "God a'mighty! If there's a witch anywhere near, I'm praying she can conjure up a chicken or a hog. I'm hungrier than a bear."
"Don't count on any hogs," his cousin Ben said, riding on by him to reach Julian. "Maybe we can scavenge up some roots or old canned food. Doc—Colonel, sir—what do you say?"
Julian looked at the house, then at Liam, who was as red as a beet but who was still looking at him steadily. He shook his head at Liam. "Boy, I haven't got any choice. If there are any witches up there, we're just going to have to deal with them. Paddy's dying. I can feel his blood seeping through my fingers."
"And hell, if there are Yank sympathizers in there, it won't matter much, anyway. We don't have any real uniforms," Kyle Waverly, a young schoolteacher before the war, a graying philosopher now after two years of constant skirmishing, reminded them. He hiked a brow at Julian, scratching his bearded chin. "If there are any Yanks, we can just say we're heading on in to join up with the Unionists at St. Augustine. Who would ever know the difference?"
He was right. As one of the few militia units left to attempt guarding the state, they had started off in Florida colors of their own making. Time had worn away any attempt at uniforms. Mostly in the heat of summer, they wore cotton shirts and breeches, threadbare at that, and whatever footwear they could get their hands on.
"We'll move in. I'll talk when necessary," Julian told them. He nudged his horse forward.
They rode down the overgrown trail to the house. There, Julian dismounted, pulling the Colt he carried before hefting Paddy's unconscious body from the haunches of his horse to his shoulder. He motioned for Jim, the Henlys, and the Andersons to circle around the back of the house and for the other men to follow him. Carefully, he walked up the steps to the broad porch. A swing sat upon it, caught by the breeze, and it was easy to imagine better times, when moonlight had played down upon the nearby magnolias, casting a glow upon the dripping moss while soft breezes whispered by. The swing still moved gently in the breeze, but the foliage was overgrown and the columns were linked by spiderwebs.
He strode across the porch to the door, anxious to work on Paddy's injured thigh. To his surprise, the double mahogany doors at the entrance were locked. He backed away, then threw his shoulder against the left door. The wood shuddered. He kicked the door, and the wood splintered at the lock. A second kick opened the door, and he stepped into the entry.
To his astonishment, candles gleamed from polished tables in an elegant breezeway.
Like many an old plantation home, the house was symmetrical, with wings expanding off a large central main hall. As Julian stepped in, his Colt at the ready, Paddy over his shoulder, he came to a dead halt, surveying the place warily. The hardwood floor gleamed. Richly upholstered chairs were angled against the wall, along with a hall tree and occasional tables and two tall cherrywood hutches, all polished to a fine gleam. An Oriental runner lay in the center of the breezeway flooring, the midnight blue within the design matched by the carpeting up the staircase that led to the second floor.
A woman stood upon the stairway.
She was dressed in black—mourning black. She stood so still, unruffled and elegant, that she might have been a witch, a very striking witch. She was tall, very straight, dignified—hauntingly beautiful. Despite the somber apparel her lithe—yet richly curved figure—seemed all the more enhanced. Her hair, wrapped in a chignon at her nape, was an even deeper shade than the ebony of her gown, shining almost blue-black in the glow of candlelight and kerosene lamps. Her complexion was pure ivory; her features were classic. She stared down at him with bright vivid green eyes.
How long they stared he did not know. He forgot time and place, and even the two-hundred pound man he carried over his shoulder. When he spoke at last, he managed only an acknowledgment that she was there.
"Sir," she said, and her lip curled with cool contempt as she evenly suggested, "you might have knocked."
He had been raised in polite Southern society, and though he had spent several years under terrible circumstances, he felt his cheeks redden beneath her disdainful scrutiny.
He heard Liam behind him, and he gave himself a mental shake, breaking the strange spell she had cast upon him. No spell, he told himself. He had simply been taken by surprise.
"My apologies, madam. You will excuse us. My—my friend here needs care, and we thought your place empty."
She arched a brow, looking at the human burden he carried. For a moment some dark emotion touched her eyes and passed through her face, but it was a fleeting shadow and it was quickly gone.
"My house is not empty, as you can see."
"Then, madam, we need your hospitality."
"For a drunkard?" she inquired quietly.
Julian gritted his teeth together. "No, madam, he is injured." He lost patience. "Ma'am, I'm afraid you can offer hospitality, or we simply must take it."
"And what else will you take?" she asked wryly. "The cattle are gone, as are the cotton and other livestock. And the silver."
"Ma'am!" Kyle Waverly stepped into the hallway to Julian's side. "We're on our way to join up at St. Augustine. Paddy here shot himself cleaning his rifle. Dumber than hell, but he's a dear fellow, I swear it, and Julian—he's a doctor—is just trying to save his life. Please."
"Rhiannon! It's all right—they are Yanks!" someone whispered.
Julian looked upward along the stairway. At the second-floor landing stood a second woman, this one a few years younger than their elegant hostess, perhaps sixteen or so to Rhiannon's twenty ... plus? Yes, he judged, their unwilling hostess had to be in her early twenties. She was composed, regal, and serene.
Rhiannon. Something stirred in Julian's memory from ancient tales of Britain. Rhiannon ... it was Welsh in origin, a masculine name when given to several princes of the old realm, feminine when it was given to a beautiful sea witch from folklore. It somehow seemed fitting for their unwilling hostess.
"My friend is bleeding on your very handsome runner, ma'am," he said pointedly. "I need somewhere to tend to him."
"There's a downstairs bedroom; you needn't bring him up," the woman, Rhiannon, said, and at last she moved, gliding down the steps with smooth elegance.
She noted Kyle, River Montdale, and Liam all standing behind Julian and his burden and nodded to them in acknowledgment. Then she swept by Julian, heading down the hallway and leaving behind a soft, subtle scent of roses. He followed her, glancing back to see that the girl who had stood on the second floor was hurrying along behind them as well. "Thank God you're Yanks!" she said anxiously. "My Lord, I've been so frightened. There are so many desperate folk here, you know. People who think Richard deserved to die, fighting for the North, when he was just doing what he saw as right. And have you heard what some of the Reb soldiers do to Yank women when they find them alone? Why, sirs, it's just terrifying!"
"Rachel!" the older woman snapped. She spun around and stared at the young girl, her eyes as sharp as saber points.
"Rachel, go to the kitchen and start some water boiling," Rhiannon said firmly. She met Julian's eyes, aware that he was watching her.
"I'll get the water. And don't worry, Rhiannon knows more about medicine than most doctors. Oh, sorry, I don't mean to offend you, sir; I'm certain you're a very good doctor, but—"
She broke off. Rhiannon was staring at her again, and she exhaled guiltily. "I'll get the water."
Rhiannon took a lamp from a table and opened the last door on the right side of the great hallway. They entered a sparsely furnished but impeccably clean bedroom. The bed was covered with a quilt, which she quickly stripped away, baring clean white sheets.
Julian slid Paddy from his shoulder to the bed and tossed off his plumed hat. Paddy remained unconscious, and Julian quickly assured himself that his friend retained breath and a pulse.
"Liam, my bag," he called. "And quickly, scissors, we've got to get—"
He started to turn, ready for one of the men to assist. But she was there, scissors in her hand, ready to cut away the makeshift bandaging Julian had managed before they had been forced to flee.
He didn't know what her training was or where her knowledge and experience came from, but the younger girl, Rachel, was right—she was certainly competent, more so than some doctors Julian had had the ill fortune to work with. She didn't blink or blanch at the horrible sight of poor Paddy's ravaged leg; she quickly cut away the bandaging and the remnants of Paddy's pants. Before she was done, Rachel returned with steaming water, excusing herself as she made her way through the rest of the men who milled awkwardly in the doorway.
"Men, see to the horses and our situation here," Julian said, watching the top of Rhiannon's dark head as she finished her task. "How many others are in the house—or on the property?" he asked her.
She looked up at him, her green eyes unfathomable. "Mammy Nor and Angus, that's all," she said.
"And they are ... ?"
"Our servants," she said simply, looking back to Paddy.
Servants, Julian thought. She didn't say darkees, Negroes, or slaves. Servants. It was definitely a Yank household. He should know. Florida was a sadly split state. The third to secede from the Union, she was still peopled by many who were loyal to the old government. His father was one; his brother was another. They had many Negroes working at Cimarron, his family's plantation outside Tampa. But they weren't slaves; they too were servants. Free men and women, paid for their labor. His father had always been adamantly antislavery. Julian didn't believe in the institution of slavery himself—it didn't seem possible that a human being, with a soul, could belong to another—but he was also aware that an entire economy was based upon slave labor. Of course, the matter of economy didn't make the institution of slavery right, but suddenly freeing men and women to starve didn't seem the right answer either.
"Sir!" Liam said, returning, setting Julian's surgical bag on the bedside table.
"Thank you," he murmured, opening his bag, then turning to tend to the washing of Paddy's wound.
But Rhiannon was busy already. "Soldier," she told Liam, "take his shoes and hose. I'll tend to the cleaning."
Liam did as told, and with the younger girl at her side, Rhiannon began cleaning the wound. Julian hadn't managed to get the bullet as yet; he hadn't dared withdraw the Minié ball without first being certain he wouldn't start a hemorrhage. Better to leave it than cause Paddy to bleed to death as they escaped.
But now ...
He turned with his forceps to see that she had bathed the wound and doused it liberally with the contents of a bottle of whiskey. He stared at her, arching a brow. "Keeps infections at bay," she said.
"I know," he murmured wryly.
She was staring at his medical bag, seeing how devoid it was of critical supplies.
But he had sutures—made of horse hair these days but very serviceable nonetheless. And his bullet extractors were fine—a gift from his father when he had graduated from medical school. He found his best position and carefully felt the wound with his fingers, seeking the blood vessels to assure himself that removing the bullet wouldn't cause greater harm. He found where the bullet lay.
She was at his side, soaking up blood the moment it obscured his field of vision.
Excerpted from Glory by Heather Graham. Copyright © 1999 Heather Graham Pozzessere. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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