Today is the one-year anniversary of the release of my Civil War time travel romance, Erin’s Rebel, by The Wild Rose Press.
And in honor of the day, I’m giving away a pdf copy. Just leave a comment today and I’ll pick a winner at random and announce it here tomorrow. Here’s the opening:
Erin Branigan had finally found the man of her dreams. Unfortunately, he'd died over one hundred and forty years ago.
On a warm, sunny day in mid-June, she stood in a small, church cemetery in a rural area outside Mason, Virginia. Vivid dreams of a handsome, Civil War soldier had sent her here, but they had also driven a wedge between her fiancé, Rick Meyers, and her. To solve this mystery, she'd called off her wedding two and a half months before. And now today, she hoped what she learned in this graveyard would put a halt to her nightly visions.
Erin kneeled beside the weathered granite headstone of the Confederate captain and traced her finger over the inscription. William James Montgomery; Born September 20, 1833; Died November 23, 1864.
Despite the warmth of the day, she shivered, recalling the dark-eyed man and her intense, sometimes sensual dreams. After taking a deep breath, she rose, brushed off her jeans, and snapped a few photos.
"Here's his wife." The caretaker, who'd introduced himself as John, tipped the bill of his black Orioles cap toward the stone beside Montgomery's.
Erin glanced at it. Anne Eugenia Montgomery: Born October 3, 1833; Died September 15, 1861."She was so young," she said.
The caretaker lifted his cap and ran a liver-spotted hand through his thinning, gray hair. Replacing the hat, he turned to indicate the old, stone-walled church. "The records show she died shortly after William enlisted in the Confederate Army."
Erin nodded. Her grandmother had told her some of this story. The couple had a daughter, Amanda, and a stillborn son. They were also buried here, along with Amanda's husband and their children.
She fingered the engraved silver frame of the brooch pinned to the lapel of her beige, cotton blazer. As she glanced at the clear summer sky, a light breeze ruffled her cropped hair.
Sparrows, perched in the oaks overlooking the plots, twittered. Such a beautiful day to recall such sadness.
"My grandmother told me her great-aunt Erin O'Connell knew William Montgomery. She met him during the war. This brooch was given to her by the captain." She clasped the oval frame, surrounding tightly woven chocolate-brown hair. "It's supposed to be a lock of his hair."
"Well, I'll be." John admired the pin. "Where's this great-aunt buried?"
"In Pennsylvania in a small town named Candor. It's just north of Gettysburg. My grandmother lived there, but she died last week." Her voice broke as she recalled the dear lady.
"Sorry to hear that."
She cleared her throat. "That's why I've come here. It was one of her last requests that I find this man's grave. In addition to the brooch, she had an old Bible and photos of both her great-aunt and William Montgomery." She lifted the photos she carried with her.
"My God! She looks just like you."
Erin smiled. "There are a few minor differences." In fact, she'd found the family resemblance unnerving, especially since Captain Montgomery resembled the soldier in her dreams. "Grandma also told me Erin O'Connell had been a Federal spy."
John arched his brows and let out an appreciative whistle. "What a great story! Researching the past is fascinating. You say you're from Philadelphia?"
"Yeah. I'm a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer."
"Well, then, feel free to go through all the records we have." He gestured at the church. "It should be all in a day's work for you."
On her return visit to Pennsylvania later that night, Erin couldn't shake the eerie feeling she'd experienced after going through the ledger. The facts she'd uncovered only added to her sense of unease. As her dreams combined with the historic facts, a feeling of insanity invaded her mind.
On her drive south, the winding two-lane highway through north-western Virginia had been so open and scenic in daylight. Now in the darkness, the heavily forested road and lack of traffic caused chills to slitherthrough her as she mulled over her discoveries. She should have left earlier but had found it difficult to pull herself away. Erin had discovered the man for whom she'd been searching. But would finding his grave finally end the dreams, or would this just make things a helluva lot worse?
The moist scent of impending rain sifted though the window she'd left cracked open. Hopefully, any shower would be light. She didn't look forward to a long drive in heavy rain, especially on an unfamiliar road. After two, quick flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder, the first drops of rain hit the windshield. A deluge followed, forcing her to flick the wipers on high.
A sudden vibration shocked already frayed nerves. Where did that come from? Her cell phone was in her purse on the adjoining seat, so it hadn't come from that. The hair brooch on her lapel? When she fingered it, a sharp pulsation shot up her arm.
"What the hell?" She jerked her hand.
Despite the strange sensation, Erin remained focused on the road. Nothing ahead or behind her but forest. Dark, creepy forest encased in sheets of rain. Unable to see, she considered pulling over but wasn't sure she wanted to stop there.
As the vibration increased, she almost skidded off the blacktop. She grasped at the clasp, trying to yank the pin off her jacket.
Headlights glared in the distance and grew brighter. She had to concentrate on regaining control of the car. Tires squealed as a truck slid into her path on a rain-slicked curve.
"Oh, shit!" Heart pounding, she jerked the steering wheel to avoid a collision. She hydroplaned off the highway and swerved onto the shoulder - too late to see the tree dead in front of her.
Impact rolled as a film in slow motion. The sound of crunching metal, smell of rubber and gasoline, and a jolt through her system were the last things she remembered.
Confederate Camp in Northern Virginia
June 18, 1863
A scream pierced the air. Men's shouts woke Will Montgomery from a deep slumber and dreams of his home and Anne.What in damnation? Black coated the interior of his tent, making it impossible to see. What time was it anyway? Snatching up his trousers, he yanked them on over his underdrawers.
Emerging from the tent, he struggled to see in the ink-black darkness. No moonlight shone, and only a few, lone stars flickered through the dense clouds. The shuffling of heavy boots and the sound of men's angry voices drew his attention a few yards past the laundress' tent.
Had it been Mrs. O'Connell? A lantern glowed near her tent. Upon investigation, he found two men standing over what appeared to be a woman lying in a heap of calico skirts and petticoats. One of the men held a mare by the reins; the other hefted a lantern.
"What happened?" Will said.
"The lady fell from the horse, sir," the private holding the animal answered.
Kneeling at the woman's side, he tilted her face toward his. He motioned to the other soldier. "Bring the lantern closer."
Mrs. O'Connell, a young widow serving as one of the camp's new laundresses, lay limp and still. What the hell had the laundress been doing on a horse in the dead of night? He gazed at her placid face. Long, red-gold lashes brushed against her rounded cheekbones, ghostly pale in the candlelight. Blood oozed from one delicate nostril. Her bosom rose and fell gently, drawing his gaze to the swell of her breasts.
The first day the Irish woman had arrived in camp, feelings stirred in him he'd thought died with Anne. After his wife's death, he'd vowed not to give his heart to anotherwoman. Losing her had torn out his soul.
"What happened?" Will addressed the thin private with the lantern.
The soldier glanced at his companion and shrugged. "We think the horse reared up, sir. Then we heard her scream and came a-runnin' just in time to see her hit the ground."
Will nodded. Could be she'd imbibed a bit too much tonight. He'd heard the new laundress kept a bottle of whiskey in her tent, but so far, he hadn't witnessed any improprieties.
He studied the motionless figure. Doc Matthews could determine the extent of her injuries. As he lifted her, he smelled no hint of alcohol, but a feminine scent overwhelmed him. Soap and something sweet he couldn't identify.
He hadn't held a woman for two years. The softness of her curves increased the yearning he'd been denying. Leaving the other man to tend to the horse, he carried her across the camp to Doc.
Erin groaned. Her head and neck hurt like hell, and so did her nose. In fact, everything hurt. What had happened? She reached to the back of her head, where her fingers closed around a damp cloth. When she opened her eyes, a sharp pain knifed through her skull.
Focusing her thoughts, she recalled flashes of a dark, rainy highway. A truck hurtling toward her. The tree.She turned her head and squinted into the yellow-white glow of a lantern. She wasn't in her car but lying flat on her back.
Someone moved beside her. A man with a heavy drawl spoke. "Are you all right, ma'am? Can you speak?"
She stared at him. Was she in a hospital? No. The gangly, sandy-haired man with the handlebar mustache wasn't wearing scrubs. He appeared to be in his early thirties and was dressed in an oversized, striped blue and white shirt draped over tan wool pants with a set of suspenders dangling to his knees. This sure wasn't an emergency room.
"Where am I?" she croaked. "What happened?" Blinding pain shot through her skull, again.
"You were thrown from a horse. Do you remember?"
"Horse?" She shook her head, then the sharp pain stopped her. "Ow, everything hurts."
The man pried the damp cloth from her hand and pressed it against the back of her head. "I don't feel any broken bones, but you've got a nice sized lump right here. I reckon you have a nasty headache. Just what were you doing on that mare this hour of night?"
"I wasn't on a horse," she said. "I've never been on a horse in my life. It was a car crash. I hit a tree when that truck slid in front of me."
"A bad fall like that could have affected your mind, Mrs. O'Connell." The man eyed her. "You're not making a lick of sense."
For more of chapter two, visit my website at www.susanmacatee.com/erinsrebel2.html
To purchase Erin's Rebel http://www.thewildrosepress.com/erins-rebel-p-3554.html?zenid=6db938c9b1758afd46790e33707a674c