Bits 'n Bobs Author Blog
Two weeks ago, I was happily working with my website, adding blogs, tweaking it here and there. Then suddenly, nothing. A white page that led nowhere.
Possibilities? Well, I am clinging to my trusty laptop even though it is woefully outdated, but another PC and a Mac gave me the same results. Nada. At this point I need to point out we'd had a hard rain the day before and the internet was out or at least intermittent for a couple of days, resulting in a call to the internet provider and a service truck in the neighborhood.
Still, no web page.
But I could pull up any other site on my computer. Seriously. I could pull up any research site, my facebook page, Amazon- quite literally any website except my webpage.. A glitch with my web host? It sounded likely.
One week later, the incredibly nice and helpful support people at Weebly had exhausted their suggestions, and quite possibly a few they hadn't thought of before. Here's where it gets even more curious.
Anyone else could access my webpage. And so could I- from any other internet source.. Using my computer.
Ah, now it sounded like an issue with the internet at my house.
So I spent an hour and a half with a technician with my internet provider delving into the mysterious workings of my modem, computer and website host. He consulted his superiors- three times. The next day a technician came to my house in an attempt to locate the problem. No luck.
In the end, they replaced my modem- instant success!. No one seems to know why three computers at my house could not access my web page, but could bring up any other site.. But the problem has been solved and everything is peachy, now. Any ideas?
Oh, that reminds me to head to the farmers' market for peaches...
Let me know what you think!
I have Scottish historical author, Meggan Connors with me today on Thursday's Threads. Let's find out a bit about her book, Highland Deception
Heat Rating: Sensual
Genre: Historical Romance
Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00J3D2JS6/
When Kenneth Mackay, long-banished rogue and thief, returns to the Mackay holding at the request of his brother, he has no idea what he might find. He certainly doesn’t expect to be confronted with his twin’s imminent death, or with the plan his brother has concocted.
Ten years before, Malcolm made a tragic mistake, and, to preserve the family name—and his own skin—he allowed Kenneth to take the fall. Now that he is dying without an heir, Malcolm plans to atone for his mistake: by giving Kenneth his life back. All Kenneth has to do is assume his brother’s identity. But complicating matters is the unexpected return of Lady Isobel Mackay, the daughter of an English marquess and the wife Malcolm didn’t want.
Isobel barely knows the husband who abandoned her even before their marriage, and she’d long since given up hope on having a real marriage with him. Yet when she returns to the Mackay holding far earlier than expected, she finds her husband a changed man. Despite the hurt between them, Isobel’s heart responds to this man who cares for his entire clan as if there were family. Who, for the first time, cares about her as if she is, too.
Falling in love with her husband had never been part of Isobel’s plan. But when their future is suddenly in peril, Isobel must find a way to save him—from himself and from the deception threatening to tear them apart.
She ignored Grant’s angry protests behind her and ran for her husband’s bedchamber. Slamming open the door, she stumbled inside.
Malcolm lay in the great bed. Alone.
Alone. She tried not to speculate about what that meant.
His breathing was shallow, as if he’d been running. As the door bounced back and closed, his sky-bright eyes shot up and met hers.
No, not sky-bright. Darker, the color of the forget-me-nots that bloomed in the gardens in spring. The color of the night sky as it lightened with the first rays of dawn.
“Milord.” She gasped for breath.
Malcolm had never looked at her like he did now. This time, when he studied her, it was as if he didn’t dislike what he saw.
Being honest with herself, Malcolm had never disliked her. After all, the term dislike implied a depth of feeling he almost certainly lacked.
Grant was suddenly at her back. “Sir, I apologize. She’s faster than you’d think.” He laid a hand on her shoulder, as if to steer her from the room.
She shook him off.
“Indeed.” Malcolm smiled, and a charming dent in his cheek appeared.
How had she not noticed that before?
“We will leave at once.” Grant took her by the arm.
She wrenched out of his grasp. “I’m not going anywhere. Not until I have my audience.” She glanced around the room and saw no sign of Malcolm’s mistress.
“Lady Mackay,” Grant began.
Malcolm held up his hand. “‘Tis fine, Grant. I can always make time for my lady wife.”
Isobel barked a hollow laugh, alleviating the ache, just a little.
“Are you certain?” Grant’s eyes shifted from Isobel to Malcolm and back again. A wrinkle formed between his brows, and the muscle in his cheek worked as he ground his teeth together.
He’d only ever done that when he was agitated or anxious.
But there was no reason for that, as Malcolm had never truly cared enough to keep secrets from her in an attempt to spare her feelings. Nor had he ever forced others to do the same.
Malcolm’s eyes met Grant’s, and something passed between the two men. Her husband gave Grant a clipped nod. “If you’ll excuse us, Grant.”
Grant released his breath slowly. His eyes narrowed first at Malcolm, then at Isobel. Scowling, he bowed his head. “Mackay,” he said stiffly. He turned to Isobel. “Lady Mackay.”
Isobel watched him go then waited until the door had closed behind him. “So, where is she?”
Malcolm arched a dark brow. “Where is who?”
“You know. Her.”
He lifted a single shoulder, as if she didn’t have a right to know. “I doona ken.”
The silence that fell between them was deafening, damning.
Finally he said, “Your arrival was unexpected.”
She breathed a mirthless laugh. “I have no doubt.” She expected him to look ashamed, but his expression didn’t hold even the slightest hint of remorse. She swallowed against the betrayal rising in the back of her throat and tried again. “Why are you abed?”
“I’ve been ailing. Naught to fash yourself over.”
She approached his great bed tentatively. “Ailing how? Has your cough worsened?”
He glanced down at his coverlet and then brought his gaze back to her face. “For a time, aye. I believe I’m on the mend now.”
Isobel pressed her hand to his forehead, then his cheek. His skin felt cool beneath her palm, if a little damp.
His breath hitched, then he cleared his throat. “Satisfied? As you can see, I am on the mend.”
“Perhaps,” she whispered. She ran her hand around to the back of his neck, then descended to his back.
He wore a thin linen shirt, unsuitable for the cool nights of the Highlands in late fall. She placed her hands between his shoulder blades. He was thinner than she remembered, but there was no mistaking Malcolm’s unique strength.
“Breathe,” she said, and then reminded herself to do the same.
“I hardly think—”
“If you want me to leave you be, you will appease my curiosity. Breathe.”
Malcolm tilted his head up and studied her.
She fought the desire to look at him for as long as she could before meeting his gaze. Her heart skipped a beat as she saw something in his eyes she hadn’t seen before.
“Breathe, milord.” Heat spread up her neck to her face, and, to keep her free hand from shaking, she clenched a fist. The warmth of his body seeped through his nightshirt, scalding her hand not with fever but with something else.
The corners of his lips tilted upward before he smoothed his features. He paused for a moment too long, then held her gaze as he took an extended, deliberate breath.
She shoved the raging emotions aside and forced herself to view him as a person who needed her help.
She felt no hint of the cough that had been nagging him before she’d left.
Swallowing hard, she slid her hand between the linen and his skin, against his chest.
His heart rate kicked up.
“Breathe.” She struggled to force the word out.
I feel nothing. Nothing. He needs my help.
She closed her eyes and listened to his breathing, feeling the rise and fall of his chest beneath her hands, the steady beating of his heart. His skin scorched hers.
Her mouth dried, her tongue thick and heavy. She removed her hand. “You seem to have mended nicely.” Even to her own ears, her voice sounded strangled.
His gaze searched her face. “Aye.”
Isobel cradled her hand against her chest and stepped back from the bed, nearly tripping over her own feet. “I will leave you now, sir.”
Malcolm gave her a clipped nod. “Very well, my lady wife.”
“I—I will be in my chambers should you require me.”
He didn’t laugh, as he normally would have. “Then I shall find you there if I do. Or I will send for you.”
She backed up a few paces, bumped into a trunk, and immediately turned her attention to her skirt, trying to smooth wrinkles undoubtedly permanent from long days of travel. It was better than looking at Malcolm.
“By your leave.” Her eyes locked on the floor as she dipped into a hasty curtsy and fled.
The moment the door closed behind her, she put her back against the cold, stone wall, cradling the hand that had touched him as if she had injured it.
She’d touched his skin, felt the heat of his body, and the responding heat of hers.
He hadn’t forced her hands away. He hadn’t mocked her.
Instead, for the first time since their marriage, he’d called her wife.
With me today is author Rachel Sharpe, giving us a bit about her new contemporary romantic suspense, Cold Ambition, that released from Amazon today!
Congratulations, Rachel! Let’s hear about your book!
“COLD AMBITION” Blurb
“It was my life-long dream to become a private eye. Little did I know that with my very first case, that dream would become a life-threatening nightmare...”
When Jordan James decided to embark on a career as a private investigator, she never could have imagined that a chance encounter would lead to her staring down the barrel of a gun on the roof’s edge of a high-rise building. As she begins to investigate her first case, the puzzling murder of a prominent businessman that has left Boston’s finest mystified for more than two decades, she finds herself suddenly immersed in a treacherous underworld brimming with betrayal, raw greed, and political subterfuge of international proportions. In the midst of this, she discovers she is falling for her mysterious client despite the hints of his dark past. Can this feisty Southern girl with a penchant for trouble solve this baffling case or is she doomed to become another tragic chapter in an international conspiracy?
"COLD AMBITION" available now from Soul Mate Publishing!
Perilously perched on the edge of a high-rise that offered a spectacular view of Faneuil Hall is most certainly not how I pictured my untimely demise. Call me old-fashioned, but I was kind of hoping to go out in a more peaceful manner. Unfortunately, things don’t happen exactly how you plan them, especially when your chosen profession has the uncanny ability to thrust you into the icy hands of Death. I stood there, inching toward the edge, wondering how it came to this point. But forgive me; I have a tendency to digress. Let me start at the beginning.
* * *
Wow! What a cliffhanger! I believe I’ll mosey on over to Amazon and check this out J
Thanks for being on the blog today, Rachel! And best wishes for your book!
RACHEL SHARPE BIO
Rachel Sharpe is the author of Cold Ambition, the first novel in the Jordan James, PI series. Although born and raised in the South, “Yankee” relatives first led Rachel to historic New England, which she has come to consider her second home and is the setting for the series.
After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in English, Rachel began dedicating her free time to her childhood passion, writing, and in the fall of 2013, she signed her first book deal with Soul Mate Publishing. An active member of Sisters in Crime, Rachel currently resides with her husband in the Greater New Orleans area.
Buy Link: http://www.amzn.com/B00L2OLQPG
Good morning! Today’s visiting author is Karen Lopp. Her novel, Splintered Lies, debuted on Amazon May 21! Let’s start with the cover blurb for this contemporary romantic suspense, and then we’ll have a chat!
Detective Rissa Marten sacrificed her only chance for a normal life to put a drug lord behind bars. Now, her life in the shadows has to be brought to life to save the man she has secretly loved for years. With a price on her head can she risk letting him know?
Detective Jerah Qassem has built his career as an undercover agent in the dangerous world of drug cartels. But when a ghost from his past is resurrected can he overcome his bitterness in time to save her life?
CMR: Hi, Karen! It’s great to have you here today. How long have you been writing?
Karen: About 6 years
CMR: What do you enjoy most about writing?
Karen: I love bringing characters to life and giving readers an adventure.
CMR: I see you write both Western Historical Romance and Contemporary Romantic Suspense. What draws you to those genres?
Karen: My first love is history, particularly the old west since I have lots of roots in its history and live out here. But some of the things I want to write about just don’t fit into a historical novel. With action and suspense second on my list of favorites, it was a natural fit to delve into Romantic Suspense.
CMR: What, if any, differences between these two genres do you write into your heroes?
Karen: There isn’t much difference because I strive to make the hero worthy and those traits work in any genre or time period. The main difference would be the morals of the day and what is and isn’t accepted.
CMR: How about your heroines?
Karen: There is more of a difference here because of the laws and perceptions of women in historical times so I must be careful to not make my historical heroines too modern in their thinking and I try to avoid any preachiness about those issues. It was what it was so I work within those parameters.
CMR: Tell us a bit about your newest book, Splintered Lies.
Karen: It is a story about a woman who has had to live under the threat of assignation from a drug cartel she gave witness against. She must learn that not everyone is out to get her and not everyone will betray her. With some intense action and a man who refuses to give her up it is fast paced and a little steamy.
CMR: Sounds intriguing! What was your inspiration for this story?
Karen: Living only four hours from the boarder of Mexico we are very aware of the drug smuggling issues and the violence that accompanies it. But my main inspiration hit me with the hero’s name (Jerah). He just fit the profile of what I wanted and the rest came easily.
CMR: What kind of research did you have to do for this contemporary romantic suspense?
Karen: I had to learn about drugs, the smuggling of drugs, and looked into drug cartels. I did some research into police procedures and some medical situations. I also did research into some towns in Mexico and the weather patterns for the seasons.
CMR: How did you decide on the setting? Have you ever been there?
Karen: I decided on San Diego for two reasons, the proximity to Mexico and a seaside city. Both were integral to my story.
Yes I have been to San Diego a few times.
CMR: Which character was the easiest to write? Why?
Karen: Jerah. I always seem to find it easier to write the hero.
CMR: What surprises did you uncover as these characters and story developed?
Karen: I don’t really have surprises, because I get to know my characters quite well before I start a story and generally I know which direction the story will go in.
CMR: In Splintered Lies, we have a hero who believes the woman he once loved is dead, and a heroine who must expose her hidden life to save the man she secretly fell in love with years ago. It sounds like they may have a hard time working together. Let’s read an excerpt:
Feet aching and jaw cramped from the effort to keep her teeth from chattering, Rissa shuffled down the dark street on the outskirts of Ensenada. Rain pummeled the ground and debris bumped into her ankles as the water rushed along the road. Afraid to look down at what swirled at their feet, she sloshed beside Jerah.
“See a bridge yet?”
“No. But one of these streets has to have one.”
The next street did have one and they hurried across as the normally dry creek bed swelled with roiling, muddy water, various sizes of tree limbs, and a good amount of trash. Shivers shook her. Not even the little warmth of Jerah’s arm around her shoulders helped. It was probably a good thing she could no longer feel how sore and raw her feet were.
A few blocks over, they came to the tourist section of town and jogged the last bit to the closest hotel. Rissa shoved drenched tresses from her face and shook water from her shaking hands. A puddle pooled at her feet and made the tile floor slick as she struggled to unwind the tattered remains of material from her feet.
Jerah trotted over with a key. “Come on, let’s get warmed up.” Mischief gleamed in his eyes in spite of his blue lips.
“Then we find some food.” She hurried down the hall as water dribbled down her legs and shivers rattled her bones.
“Already done. I bribed the desk clerk to send up some food.” He pushed the door open and waved her inside.
Rissa dashed to the bathroom and turned the hot water on full force. With a sigh, she stepped in the tub and let the warm water flow over her. Jerah followed.
“What are you doing?”
“Hey, I’m just as frozen as you.” He stripped his soaked shirt off and tossed it over the rod. Next came his slacks and shoes. “This feels good.”
Not much imagination needed now. Dark hair clung to his chest as water coursed over him. His maroon briefs hugged his hips. She jerked her gaze up and turned to face the white tiled wall. The old rejection he delivered all those years ago slammed into her and Rissa shivered.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to hog the water.” He stepped to the side.
The steamy water didn’t come close to warming her soul.
“Want me to help you out of that dress?”
“No.” Fingers fisted, she glared at her toes. Keep it together girl. She blew out a breath and straightened her shoulders. All she had to do was get back to San Diego, finger the perp, and disappear. Shove her rekindled desire for Jerah aside. Rissa slapped the wall.
“It’ll be okay, babe.” Feather light kisses caressed her shoulder as Jerah ran his hands up and down her arms.
A groan worked its way up her throat. His touch electrified her. Teased her. Tormented her.
She shrugged his hands off. “I agreed to play in public, not private.”
“Yeah, I know.” Weariness loaded his tone. “You did a great job. I only meant to comfort you.”
Uncurling her fingers, Rissa knew she had to push Jerah away or she’d succumb to his seductive touch. Everyone she had ever dared to love was dead. She only had to express interest in a man and he’d soon be residing in a coffin. Watching Jerah die was not an option. “Just keep your hands to yourself. Carl isn’t here.”
“You can have the damn shower to yourself.” With a jerk on the curtain and a waft of cool air, Jerah exited the tub.
* * *
CMR: Karen, is there anything you’d like to add?
Karen: I want to thank you for hosting me today on your wonderful blog.
CMR: It was wonderful having you here, today. Thanks so much for the chat! It has been a lot of fun getting to know you. Best of luck with your books!
I'm a bit late due to internet problems. But here is this week's Thursday's Thread, a Women's Historical Fiction novel due to be released in July, 2014.
Title: Confederado do Norte by Linda Bennett Pennell
Back Cover blurb:
Mary Catherine is devastated when her family immigrates from Georgia to Brazil because her father and maternal uncle refuse to accept the terms of Reconstruction following the Confederacy’s defeat. Shortly after arrival in their new country, she is orphaned, leaving her in Uncle Nathan’s care. He hates Mary Catherine, blaming her for his sister’s death. She despises him because she believes Nathan murdered her father. When Mary Catherine discovers Nathan’s plan to be rid of her as well, she flees into the wilderness filled with jaguars and equally dangerous men. Finding refuge among kind peasants, she grows into a beauty, ultimately marrying the scion of a wealthy Portuguese family. Happiness and security seem assured until civil unrest brings armed marauders who have an inexplicable connection to Mary Catherine. Recreating herself has protected Mary Catherine in the past, but the latest crisis will demand all of the courage, intelligence, and creativity she posseses simply to survive.
Excerpt from Confederado do Norte
I dreamt the dream again last night. In the small hours, I awoke in a tumble of bedclothes and bathed in perspiration despite the howling snowstorm blanketing the city. I rearranged quilts and plumped pillows, but sleep remained elusive. My mind refused to be quiet.
As often happens after such a night, I felt unable to rise at my usual hour and remained abed long after the maids cleared breakfast from the morning room. My daughter-in-law, bless her heart, meant well. I told her it was ridiculous to bring the doctor out on such a frigid day, but apparently the very old, like the very young, are not to be trusted in matters of judgment. After the doctor listened to my chest, a studied sympathy filled his eyes and he gently suggested that perhaps I should get my affairs in order. No doubt he wondered at my smile for he couldn’t have known I have no affairs other than my memories and the emotions they engender.
Unlike most elderly persons, I don’t revel in slogging through the past. It isn’t wrapped in pretty ribbons or surrounded by a golden aura. Instead, its voices haunt my dreams, demanding and accusatory. Until recently, I’ve resisted their intrusion into my waking life, but I now believe the past can no longer remain buried in nocturnal visions. It must be brought out into the light of day. From its earliest moments onward, the past’s substance must be gouged out, pulled apart, and examined bit by bit until its truth is exposed. While total objectivity may not be possible, I have concluded that committing the past to paper is my best hope for sorting facts from imaginings. Perhaps then I will achieve the peace that has so long hidden its face from me.
You see, when I was quite young—only a girl really—I killed four people. Two were dearly beloved, one was a hated enemy, and the last was a dangerous criminal.
My story begins at the end of a terrible war, one that destroyed many lives and much property. But for that war and a handful of newspaper editorials and advertisements, my life would have turned out quite differently. Sometimes it seems no time at all has passed since I was a nine-year-old child standing on the deck of a ship watching home disappear over the horizon.
Warm Gulf breezes tugged at the brim of my bonnet, setting its ribbons dancing. Leaning over the Alyssa Jane’s railing, I stared back in the direction of Mobile Bay and pretended I could see the dock where my beloved Bess stood, probably still waving. Mama, her pretty features marred by a furrowed brow and down turned mouth, paced beside me.
“Mary Catherine MacDonald! Get down before you fall overboard. All we need right now is another crisis. And stop wiping your nose on your sleeve.”
Mama didn’t seem to understand anything anymore. Before we left home, she was calm and kind. Afterward, she snapped at the least little thing. I threw her a hateful glance, but she had already turned away, so I stubbornly leaned a little farther out over the railing. The wake trailing behind the Alyssa Jane looked like a blue-green path lined on either side by mounds of ginned cotton, a path pushing me away from the only life I had ever known. Only my sniveling broke the silence of that October morning.
A swish of crinolines brought Mama beside me. She grabbed my arm and whispered through clenched teeth, “Mary C., I told you to get off that railing. Go below and stay there until you can do as you’re told!”
I stomped across the deck, pausing once beside the mainmast to scowl over my shoulder. It was all so unfair. I hadn’t asked to be dragged along on this blasted trip. I wanted Bess. I wanted to go home, no matter how damaged it was, no matter who ran the stupid government. I wanted to be anywhere but here. But Mama turned away from me. She wasn’t even going to watch to see that I did what she said. Her indifference was like a slap in the face.
As I jumped through the open hatch leading below deck, the pungent odor of pine tar mixed with burning kerosene assailed my senses. I hated the smell. Besides making me slightly queasy, it reminded me of how final my losses were. Nothing at home smelled like the interior of that old tub. I hit the steps at a near run with plans to fling myself into my hammock and stay there forever. It would serve them right if I just upped and died. I bowled along toward the sleeping area blinded by tears and the sudden gloom of the narrow passageway.
Without warning, I crashed headlong into a pair of wool-encased legs. The trousers’ owner and I struggled momentarily in an awkward dance. With a standoff in the making, he harrumphed once, picked me up by my arms, deposited me on the other side of him, and stepped toward the hatch.
Tears forgotten, I tugged on his retreating coattails, ready to let him see my displeasure. Hooded eyes with ink black irises stared down in return. He didn’t look particularly angry, but authority hung about him like a mantle.
I swallowed, choked back what I intended to say, and instead muttered, “I’m sorry for running into you.”
He gazed at me for a moment and then simply nodded before turning away. The Reverend Jonas Williams might be a man of God, but his unsmiling countenance raised the hair at the nape of my neck as though someone stepped on my grave. Mama often fussed that Bess planted too many of her superstitions in my fertile imagination. I was now old enough to understand that some of what Mama said was true. But the Reverend Brother Williams still affected me like a haint. A slight shudder slithered down my spine, as though my body was trying to rid itself of his effect. I turned and fled down the hallway toward our sleeping quarters. Many months later, I would come to see this encounter as an omen, a foreshadowing of all that came afterward.
We passengers, immigrants one and all fleeing the defeated South, slept in a large open area that most likely was used as a cargo hold in the Alyssa Jane’s younger, more prosperous days. Most of the canvas partitions separating the fifteen or so families from one another had been drawn back in hope of allowing fresh sea breezes from the few portholes to circulate. Unfortunately, the plan wasn’t meeting with much success for the air remained stale and fetid with the odors of sweat and bodily functions.
I slumped on the edge of my hammock and kicked at the floorboards, allowing tears to drip from my chin unabated. Life wasn’t at all how it was supposed to be. It hadn’t been since the day Papa rode away to war. He looked so handsome in his gray captain’s uniform. He sat on his favorite stallion at the head of his unit and rode toward a conflict that everybody said would be over by Christmas. Everybody had been terribly wrong.
My ruminations, while sad and haunted, didn’t last long, for my mind turned to more immediate indignities and irritations. I hated staying below deck. I hated the stench. I hated the isolation. I hated the boredom. When I figured enough time had elapsed that it was safe to go above again, I bolted back into the fresh air. Mama now leaned on the stern railing, her gaze fixed on the faint line where the sky’s lighter blue met the Gulf of Mexico’s deep azure. She sniffed once as I approached and turned unusually bright eyes on me.
“Are you feeling better, child?”
When I nodded, she gripped the railing and resumed her observation of the horizon slipping away behind the Alyssa Jane. I eyed her for a moment, before sidling up beside her.
“Mama, why couldn’t Bess come with us?”
Her arm slipped around my shoulders and gave a little squeeze. “Why, darlin’, you’ve been told at least a thousand times. Bess has got to stay in Georgia.”
I jerked away from Mama’s grasp. “That’s not fair! She’s part of our family.”
A pained expression filled her eyes and her lips parted, but no words escaped. Her head lifted slightly and her gaze locked onto the space behind me.
“Mary Catherine MacDonald, you will not raise your voice to your mother.” Mama drew a quick breath as Papa strode to her and took her hand. His attention then returned to me. “No slave has ever been part of our family. It’s unthinkable! Furthermore, Brazil doesn’t allow slaves to be imported anymore. ” The more he spoke, the harder his voice sounded and the more clouded his face became. He concluded with sharper words than I had ever heard him use before. “So stop whining about that nigger mammy of yours and learn to live without her.”
Surprise made me momentarily mute, but my heart pounded and the sun was suddenly much hotter on my upturned face. I drew a couple of rapid breaths so hard that my cheeks puffed in and out. “Bess is too part of our family. I love her and she loves me. You love her too, don’t you Mama?”
A rosy flush crept over Mama’s face and her gaze darted around at the other people on deck. I ignored the warning in her eyes. “Bess took care of me all my life. That makes her part of our family.” Heady with righteous indignation, my eyes narrowed and I delivered my coup de grace. Jabbing an index finger in Papa’s direction, I yelled, “And besides, Bess isn’t a slave anymore and you damn well know it.”
My words rang across a suddenly silent deck. People turned from their own conversations, shook their heads and stared at us. The only sound I could hear was the blood thumping against my eardrums.
Papa’s face blanched. He stooped down until his eyes were level with mine and gripped my upper arms, nearly lifting me from the deck. My head snapped back and forth while he hissed, “You will not speak to anyone, most especially your mother or me, in that manner. Do you understand?” My hands went numb as his grasp tightened. “Now, stop your crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”
Only when he stopped speaking did I notice tears streamed down my cheeks.
As we swayed in silence on the Alyssa Jane’s deck, Papa’s grip slackened and the fire in his eyes burned less brightly. “Besides, your aunts need Bess to cook and clean their house in town. At least that’s one thing that escaped Sherman’s destruction.”
Papa got a far off look in his eyes. His hands released me and dropped to his side as he straightened to his full height.
I knew better than to speak again. Spying a cargo box lashed to a railing on the main deck, I slunk down the steps and made my way to it. I wanted to stay up top rather than breathe the stale air below decks, but I also couldn’t bear being near my parents at that moment.
Papa’s present personality still caught me off guard. Before the war, he rarely raised his voice or hand to me. In truth, I was rather spoiled and cossetted. I begged for pretty dresses and china faced dolls by the dozens. Sometimes, I actually got them too. Now, we were on a ship bound for a place where they didn’t even speak English just because some stupid newspaper advertisements promised defeated Southerners free land. All I wanted was to go home, to have life the way it used to be.
Home. The way it used to be before Papa and Nathan decided they would not endure Yankees and carpetbaggers, our former enemies, being in charge of everything.
I was only five when the War Between the States began. Our old way of life now seemed like a gauzy dream—pleasant upon waking, but dissipating when you reached out to grasp it. Afraid of losing the last tenuous hold on that dream, I invented a little ritual, hoping it would glue fading images to the pages of my memory. Now that Papa and my mother’s only surviving brother were dragging us away from Georgia never to return, the ritual’s importance had taken on the stature of an obsession. I closed my eyes and once again conjured up my earliest memories.
In my mind’s eye, I looked down on the Oconee River from the deep porch of an unpainted dogtrot farmhouse. Cotton fields that came right up to the house stretched out as far as I could see in every direction on our side of the river. The house and the farm wouldn’t have been terribly grand by most people’s lights, but it was home and, therefore, my whole world. The clapboard house and outbuildings existed only in shadowy visions after the war. While I retained only a few hazy memories of the farm, one stands out clearly. It is of Mama’s favorite rose bush to which I did some considerable damage one spring by picking off all the buds before they even broke color and for which I received the first spanking of my life.
A few other people lived on the farm in tiny houses out back of the barn. They were the colored slaves, most of whom worked in the fields, but of their faces, it was only Bess’s that mattered to me. My Bess, who lived in the house, and who took care of me, and whom I loved as much as I did my mother.
My clearest memories of my parents before the war were that Papa spent his days with the field hands and that Mama loved music. Beautiful music filled the house when she played her pianoforte. Sometimes when Bess brought me into the parlor to say goodnight, Papa would be sitting beside Mama, kissing her neck as she played and she would be smiling at him in the special way she reserved only for him. I think they must have been very happy. They laughed a lot back then. Then, the war came. Nobody and nothing was ever the same again.
Papa had come back from the war haunted by what he had seen and the losses he had endured. For a time, we thought he had permanently lost his mind. These days, it didn’t take much to rile him. Mama said not to mind, that he just had so many worries it made him harder to live with than before. Even so, I still couldn’t understand why he spoke so cruelly about Bess of whom he’d always been so fond. My papa’s sunny nature was the most important thing destroyed by the war.
As the days under sail passed into weeks and America became nothing but a memory, Papa’s disposition evolved. To everyone’s relief he seemed more like his old prewar self. The farther we traveled, the more his mood lifted so by the time we docked in Jamaica to take on supplies, his good days outnumbered the bad. I even saw him and Mama kissing under the stars one night when they thought no one else was on deck.
The Alyssa Jane was an old clipper fallen on hard times, reduced to ferrying passengers and commodities along the trade routes extending from ports in the southern United States to destinations in the other Americas. Its confined space provided limited opportunities for me to get into trouble, so I was allowed unaccustomed freedom. The morning we sailed toward Kingston Harbor, I hung over the portside railing from the moment the city’s outline came into view.
Footsteps running up behind caused me to turn and I lost my balance. Papa grabbed a handful of my skirts. “Mary Catherine, you’re going to topple into the water if you keep this up. Get off that railing and put your feet squarely on the deck or you can go below and stay there.”
Instant compliance and a sweet smile seemed to go a long way these days, so I did as I was told. I didn’t want this new/old version of my papa to disappear again.
We passed through Kingston Harbor’s narrow mouth with sails snapping, pushed along by Caribbean breezes. In the distance, I could make out the familiar marks of human habitation trailing along the waterfront, but nothing in my experience had prepared me for Jamaica. Low emerald mountains surrounded an oval bowl of aquamarine water that rolled gently forward to kiss sand the color of cotton just breaking from the bole. Within minutes of entering the harbor, the city’s buildings became distinct and grew in size. A little thrill swept through me as the old clipper bumped against the dock and the sights and smells of Kingston spread out before us like a feast awaiting revelers.
“Papa, please, why cain’t I go with y’all?”
His mouth became a thin line. “Because Kingston isn’t particularly safe.” Then he placed his arm around my shoulders and pointed to the opposite side of the harbor. “Did you know that a wicked pirate city used to be right over there? An earthquake destroyed Port Royal. The whole city simply fell into the sea.” Papa grinned and his eyes grew big. “Why, I’ve heard you can see pirate ghosts rising from the water when the moonlight is just right.”
This was my old Papa, the one I hadn’t seen since war was declared. I slipped my arms around his waist. “Oh, Papa, you’re just so silly sometimes. Everybody knows there’s no such thing as ghosts.”
Papa smiled and picked me up, swinging me around like he used to when I was little. When he placed me on the deck again, I pressed my advantage.
“Please cain’t I go? Please?”
“You’re cutting me in half.” Papa pulled my arms away from his middle and smiled. “If it means that much to you, I guess it won’t hurt for you to go into town. But you absolutely must stay by your mama’s side. When she says it’s time to return to the boat, there will be no arguments. Understand?”
As I stretched up to plant a kiss on his cheek, angry shouts and the percussive report of a pistol rang across the harbor.
* * *
Other Books by Linda Pennell:
Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel now available from Soul Mate Publishing
All 4th Of July 99 Cents Abbotsford Adam Adam-a-highlander-romance Aidi Breed American-civil-war Anastasia Abboud Andrea-r-cooper Angela-scavone Anne-b-cole Anthology April-holthaus Ashley York Australia Author Interview Bambi Lynn Barbara Bettis Barnes & Noble Berengaria-brown Best-seller Betrayal Black Watch Museum Blair-castle Blog Hop Book Deal Book Dogs Book Giveaway Book Release Day Book Release Party Book Sale Book Series Books To Read After Outlander Booksweeps Border-collies Boxed-set Braemar-highland-games Brenda-stinnett Burke-and-hare Capercallie Carly-jordynn Carmen-stefanescu Carol-ann-moleti Carole-ann-moleti Caroline-warfield Castle-menzies Catherine-castle Cathy & DD MacRae Cathy Dd Macrae Cathy-macrae Cd-hersh Ceci-giltenan Celebrations Celeste Barclay Celtic Cerian-herbert Character-interview Char-chaffin Chocolate Christmas Christmas-box-set Claire-gem Clava-cairns Collette-cameron Colley Collie Compuiter-woes Contemporary-mystery Contemporary-paranormal Contemporary-romance Contest Cover-reveal Creme-de-la-cover-contest Ct-green Culloden-battlefield Cynthia-owens Daryl Devore Dawn-ireland Dawn-marie-hamilton Dd-macrae Debut Debut-author Dewars-distillery Direct-deposit Edinburgh Eilean-donan-castle Elisabeth-hobbes Elizabeth-preston Elizabeth-rose Eliza Knight Elle-hill Evil-villain Excerpts Fantasy-historical Farleyer-lodge First First-kiss Flowers Food Forth-bridges France Free-book Free-books Freki Georgian-romance German-shepherd Get-lost-in-a-story-blog-interview Ghost-tour Gilda Gildas-story Giveaway Glen-ord-whisky Graveyards Guest-author Guest-blogger Halloween Hardy-heroines Highland-chocolatier Highlander-romance Highland-escape Highland-romance Historical-irish Historical-post Historical Romance Hm-queen-elizabeth-ii Holiday Holiday-read Hot-historicals Hurricane-harvey Iain-burnett Indtale Jenna Jaxon Jenni-fletcher Jessica-jefferson Jill-hughey Judith Sterling Karen-lopp Kate-hill Katherine-bone Kathryn-le-veque Kelley Heckart Kindle-world Kobo Lane Mcfarland Larynn-ford Laura-strickland Laurel Odonnell Lauren-linwood Leault-farm Legends-of-scotland Life-with-freki Limited-time-offer Linda-bennett-pennell Lochleven-castle Loch-ness Luxury-cruises Macleod Madeline-martin Madelyn-hill Maggie-mundy Mairi-norris Marilyn-baxter Mary-gillgannon Mary Morgan Meda-white Medieval-blog-hop Medieval-hop Medieval-monday-2015 Medieval-monday-2016 Medieval-monday-2017 Medievalmonday2018 Medieval-monday-2018 Medieval Monday 2019 Medieval Monday 2020 Medieval Monday 2021 Medieval Monday Fall 2020 Medieval Mondays Medieval Monday Spring 2020 Medieval-mystery Medieval Romance Meet-the-characters Meggan-connor Meggan-connors Mhairis-yuletide-wish Military-romance Miriam-newman Neva-brown New Book Nicole-locke Night-owl-reviews Norman-conquest Nostalgia-romance Novella Paranormal Paranormal Romance Patricia-hudson Patrick Paty-jager Pirate-romance Pirates Post-civil-war Postcivil-war-western-romance Preorder Pre-order Prizes Puppy Rachel-sharpe R-b-austin Rb-austin Recipe Recipes Red-l-jameson Regency-romance Release-date Research Review Rl-syme Romance Romance-novels Romance-on-the-high-seas Romantic-mystery Romantic-suspense Rone-award Rue-allyn Ruth A Casie Ruth-a-casie Ruth-kaufman Sale Samantha-wyatt Samhain Sandra-harris Sandra-jones Sarah-hegger Sarah-hoss Sarah-woodbury Saranna-dewylde Scavenger-hunt Sci-fi-romance Scifi-romance Sc-mitchell Scotland Scotland-with-grace-2016 Scottish-crannog-centre Scottish-historical Scottish-regency Scottish Romance Sheep Sherrie-hansen Sherry Ewing Sherry-ewing Short-dog-press Sir-walter-scott Sophia Nye Soul-mate-publishing Southern-romance Special-price Spermbanks Spring Steamships Stella-marie-alden St-patricks-day Sweet-romance Tam Tea-party-and-books Teaser-tuesday Thankful The-ghosts-of-culloden-moor-series The-hardy-heroines-series The-hghlanders-accidental-bride The-highlanders-accidental-bride The-highlanders-bride-series The Highlander's Crusader Bride The-highlanders-french-bride The-highlanders-norse-bride The-highlanders-outlaw-bride The Highlander's Pirate Bride The-highlanders-reluctant-bride The-highlanders-tempestuous-bride The-highlanders-viking-bride The-highlanders-welsh-bride The Prince's Highland Bride The-reading-cafe The-saint The-seventh-son The-twalve-days-o-yuletide Thursdays-teaser Thursdays-threads Time-travel Time Travel Romance Tina-susedik Top-ten-list Travel Twelve-days-of-christmas Uisge-beatha Urban-fantasy Urquart-castle Valentine Valentines Day Victorian-romance Victoria-zak Vijaya-schartz Viking-romance Vikings Villains Viola-russell Wales Wareeze-woodson Water-kelpie Weeping-window-of-poppies Western-romance Whisky Winner Winners Womens-fiction World-of-de-wolfe Ya-fantasy