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By Jane Peart
ZondervanCopyright © 1991 Zondervan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCameron Hall
Fall 1875 Mayfield, Virginia
Kate Cameron stood at the drawing room window of Cameron Hall, watching her son, Rod, take his chestnut gelding over the hedge at the end of the meadow, the horse's flowing mane and the rider's windblown hair almost the same russet gold.
On this early October afternoon, Indian summer lingered in the Virginia countryside although tinges of scarlet edged the leaves of the elms on the avenue of trees lining the drive up to the house.
As horse and rider cantered toward the stables and disappeared from sight, Kate turned away and walked back into the room with the slight stiffness of arthritis that sometimes plagued her at the onset of cool weather.
Even at sixty, Kate retained much of her youthful beauty, still slim and elegant, with only a few faint lines marking the passage of time, trials and tragedy endured showing in her face.
Seating herself in one of the wing chairs beside the fireplace, she looked appreciatively around the gracious high-ceilinged room. Kate had always loved this room from the first time she saw it when she came here as a bride from Savannah forty years before. Cameron Hall, built by her husband's Scottish ancestors who settled on a King's Grant a century before, was one of the most magnificent of the James River plantations.
Only recently, at Rod's insistence, it had been refurbished. New draperies hung at the arched Palladian windows, its worn upholstery replaced, the carpets restored, everything brought back to its pre-war grandeur.
Under Rod's skillful management, the fortune they, along with most Southerners of their class, had lost with the Confederate defeat was slowly being rebuilt; and the Cameron Hall stables were becoming known as one of the finest Thoroughbred farms among horse-breeding circles.
Kate's heart filled with pride when she thought of how Rod had overcome so much to bring about the present success of the stables and farm. The place had been in disastrous condition when he returned after having been a Yankee prisoner of war. He had also had to face personal heartbreak, the death of his twin brother, Stewart, and the disappearance of the woman he loved-Blythe Montrose.
Kate sighed as her eyes rested upon the family portrait hanging over the mantle, painted when her red-haired twin boys were about eight and her daughter, Garnet, a pixyish three. How young even she and Doug looked then! How happy they had been in that sheltered, idyllic world before the war.
Her thoughts of the past were suddenly interrupted by the sound of the front door's slam and booted footsteps approaching along the polished hall floor. Kate turned her head in anticipation toward the drawing room door that a minute later opened, and a tall man in a tweed riding jacket stepped into the room.
At thirty-eight, Rod was splendid looking, very much like his father, Douglas Cameron, Kate mused, broad-shouldered, long-limbed, athletically built. As he had matured, he had grown even more handsome. His strong, well-molded features gave definition and character to his face. Kate liked the mustache he'd worn since the Army too; it gave him a certain dashing air to his almost too serious expression.
However, it was not her son's physical appearance that concerned Kate but his bachelor status.
"Good afternoon, Mother."
"Did you have a good ride?"
"Never better. My new hunter is coming along well. He'll be more than ready at the opening of the fox hunting season," he replied, running his hand carelessly through his hair.
"Isn't it a bit cold in here for you, Mother? There's quite a chill in the air these days."
Walking over to the fireplace, Rod took a log from the basket beside the hearth and tossed it into the fire.
"Is that better?" Rod asked after he had the fire going. "Are you feeling all right? You looked a bit pensive when I came in." Rod gave her a searching look. "Don't tell me you're still missing the young ladies, are you?"
Knowing he was referring to their former boarding pupils in the school she and Garnet and Dove had started to help their depleted financial situation after the war, Kate laughed.
"Who would have thought I'd miss all those harum-scarm girls with their giggles and shrieks? But I have to admit I do miss them once in a while." Kate shook her head. "After Garnet remarried, Dove and I couldn't possibly have continued doing it. No, that's a closed chapter, and I find plenty to keep me busy and happy, doing things I didn't have time for when we were runing the Academy. Such as visiting and seeing old friends. In fact,"-here she hesitated before continuing casually, "I've invited Elyse and Fenelle Maynard for tea. Perhaps after you've bathed and changed, you'd like to join us?"
An amused smile tugged at the corner of Rod's mouth, and he lifted an eyebrow. "Must I? Won't it be all tea, tiny cakes, and ladies' talk?" he teased, his eyes twinkling with the old boyish mischief.
Kate touched the cameo at her lace collar, replying nonchalantly, "Oh no, I don't think so, dear. Fenelle is quite charming and clever, and I'm sure they would both be disappointed not to see you while they're here. They've just come back from Richmond, you know, on a visit to Francis, who is in law practice there now. You could just pop in and say hello, couldn't you?"
"Oh, Mother, you are transparent!" Rod shook his head, chuckling.
"Perhaps only because I've hit a nerve?" She hesitated before adding earnestly, "Dearest boy, I am just thinking of your happiness. You rarely go out socially any more, turn down more invitations than most people receive! How do you expect to meet anyone ... especially any eligible young ladies ... if you don't socialize?"
Rod shrugged. Propping his arm against the mantel shelf, he stared down into the fire.
"Perhaps I'm not interested in socializing or meeting anyone ... especially not any eligible-and by that, I take it you mean marriageable-young ladies!" There was an edge of sarcasm in his reply.
"Oh, darling, I don't mean to push. It's only that-well, Rod, isn't it time you thought seriously about marrying? With you the Camerons come to an end, you know." She made a sweeping gesture. "And all this, all that has been built here, has been standing for generations-this beautiful house, the land, the stables, the Thoroughbreds-who will it go to when we're gone? Will it be lost? Just as Montclair was lost and the Montrose dynasty ended-"
The mention of that name brought a stillness into the room. When at last Rod broke the silence, his voice sounded choked.
"I had hoped-well, Mother, you know what I hoped-" he broke off.
Excerpted from Shadow Bride by Jane Peart Copyright © 1991 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
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