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Wedding At Wildwood
By Lenora Worth
Steeple HillCopyright © 2005 Lenora Worth
All right reserved.
She hadn't planned on coming back to Wildwood. But now that she was here, Isabel Landry realized she also hadn't planned on the surge of emotions pouring over her like a warm summer rain as she stood looking up at the stark white mansion.
The house, built sometime before the Civil War, was old and rundown now. Abandoned and gloomy. And so very sad.
But then, most of her memories of growing up on this land made Isabel feel sad and forlorn, too. Staring across the brilliant field of colorful wildflowers in shades of pink, yellow and fuchsia, she clicked her camera, focusing on the old house, deliberately blurring the pink phlox, purple heather, and yellow blackeyed Susans that posed a sharp contrast to the wilted condition of the once grand mansion. Now shuttered and closed, its paint peeling and its porches overgrown with ivy and wisteria, the house with the fat Doric columns and the wide, cool verandas on each floor didn't seem as formidable as it had so long ago.
Isabel had never lived in Wildwood, but oh, how she'd dreamed of living in just such a house one day. Now, she saw that fantasy as silly, fueled by the imagination of an only child of older parents, raised on land that did not belong to her family. Born on the Murdock land, in a quiet corner of southwest Georgia, known as Wildwood Plantation.
Glancing away from the imposing plantation house, she saw where she had lived off in the distance, around the curve of the oak trees and dogwoods lining the dirt lane. The small whiteframed farmhouse hadn't changed much in the ten years since she'd been away, and neither had Isabel's determined promise to herself to rise above her poor upbringing.
"I don't belong here," she said to the summer wind. "I never did."
Yet she lifted her camera, using it as a shield as she took a quick picture of the rickety little house she remembered so well. Just therapy, she told herself. That's why she'd taken the picture; she certainly didn't need or want a reminder of her years growing up there.
Looking up to the heavens, she whispered, "Oh, Mama, why did God bring me back here? I don't want this." Silently, she wondered if her deceased parents were as at peace up there in Heaven as they'd always seemed to be when they were alive and working here on Wildwood Plantation.
Mentally chiding herself, she smiled. "I know, Mama. Grammy Martha would scold me for doubting God's intent. You are at peace. This I know. So, why can't I find that same peace here on earth?"
Lifting up yet another prayer, Isabel knew she wouldn't find any answers here on this red Georgia clay. Ever since her grandmother, Martha Landry, had called asking her to come home to take pictures of Eli Murdock's upcoming wedding, she'd been at odds. But between assignments and with nothing pressing on her agenda, she'd had no choice but to come. Isabel knew her duties, and she was good at her job as a professional photographer. Besides, she could never turn down a request from Grammy Martha, even if it did mean having to face the Murdocks and bow to their commands once again.
She hadn't been home in a long time, and she missed her grandmother. Often in the years since her parents had died — first her mother, then two years later, her father — Isabel had hurried home for quick visits with her grandmother. But on those occasions, she'd distanced herself from the Murdocks, always staying only a couple of days, sleeping in her old room at the farmhouse and keeping a low profile. During those rare trips, she'd never once ventured up the lane to visit the people who'd allowed her grandmother to stay on their land and still employed her grandmother's services on occasion.
Now, she'd be forced to socialize with them, to snap happy pictures of Eli's wedding to a girl Isabel had graduated high school with, a woman almost ten years younger than Eli. Well, at least Susan Webster was a wonderful woman. She'd make Eli a good wife, though for the life of her, Isabel couldn't understand what had attracted petite, perky Susan to such a bully bear of a man.
"Oh, well, that's none of my concern," she reminded herself as she turned back to the mansion. She'd do her job, get her pay, then be on her way again to parts unknown. But right now, she wanted to get a shot of the house with the brilliant sunset behind it, and the wavering wildflowers out in the meadow in front of it. Then she'd head back to have supper with Grammy.
Finding a good angle, Isabel focused on the house, finding a side view so the massive columns lining the front of the twostoried house would be silhouetted in the sun's glowing rays. With a flip of her wrist, she pushed her long blond hair back over her shoulders, then lifted her camera to click.
Then her heart stopped.
Through the lens, she saw a man standing at the edge of the wildflower patch on the other side of the house. Gasping, she dropped her arms down, almost dropping her expensive camera in the process. But surprise aside, Isabel knew a good shot when she saw one. She wanted to capture the man, whoever he might be, in the picture because the expression on his dark, rugged face clearly mirrored the mood of the mansion he stood staring up at.
Watching him as if he were a wild animal, Isabel barely moved for fear he'd spot her and bolt away. He looked that untamable, that intense. So intense in fact, that he wasn't even aware she was just around the corner, hiding underneath a clump of tall camellia bushes.
For a minute, Isabel analyzed him, preparing herself for her subject. Tall, at least six feet, fit enough to fill out his faded jeans nicely, and...brooding. Definitely brooding. From the five o'clock shadow on his face and the stiff tufts of spiky hair on his forehead, he looked as if he had a chip on his broad shoulders that couldn't be knocked off. His clipped dark hair mocked the wind playing through it, and every now and then, he'd lift a hand to scissor his fingers through the clump of hair that refused to stay off his face, the action speaking much louder than any gruff words he might want to shout out. This man was angry at someone or something. And...his actions seemed so familiar, so stirring.
Excerpted from Wedding At Wildwood by Lenora Worth Copyright © 2005 by Lenora Worth. Excerpted by permission.
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