In a couple short weeks, my fifth novel, Beyond Wounded Hearts (Wounded Heart Series Book Two) will release. That in itself is a gift from the Lord. With a Stage IV cancer diagnosis coming just as I finished the first draft, I didn’t know if I would see this day come. But the Lord has been gracious, and it is my prayer He will use this story to touch hearts and spread His truths.
My publisher has granted me permission to share the opening chapter of Luke and Adelaide’s story with you. (Scene One this week (Adelaide’s POV) ~ The remainder of the scenes next week (Luke’s POV)
Enjoy this glimpse into this Civil War era novel!
“Beyond Wounded Hearts (Wounded Heart Series ~ Book Two) is a tale of redemption and forgiveness amid the backdrop of the fall of Richmond. Rich in historical detail and events, the novel sweeps readers into the very fabric of the time. Beyond Wounded Hearts holds a message of God’s far-reaching love for those who’ve strayed from their faith.”
BEYOND WOUNDED HEARTS
CHAPTER 1 ~ SCENE ONE
Richmond, Virginia, Monday, April 3, 1865, 2 a.m.
An explosion pierced the night, shattering the windows of the upstairs apartment bedroom and jarring Adelaide Hanover from fitful slumber. She held back a scream, trembling as she pulled her bed sheet tighter to her chest. Shrill cries and the hasty rattle of wagon wheels echoed from the street below.
This was madness.
She squeezed her eyes closed to block out the amber glow filtering through the inside shutters. Oh, why had Aunt Polly been so stubborn? They should have fled Richmond the moment President Davis declared the Yankees would soon be upon them.
Numbness steeled over her. There was nothing left for her here now anyway.
A second blast sounded, closer this time, and her pulse quickened. With a groan, she buried her head beneath the cotton sheet. “Do you s’pose it’s the Yankees?”
When the comment garnered no reply, Addie peeled back the cover and placed a hand on the vacant spot where her aunt should have been. She sat up and glanced around the darkened room, heart racing. “Aunt Polly?”
Dryness tore at her throat as she breathed in the strong scent of smoke. Harried voices drifted from the street below, along with the crackle of fire. The entire city sounded in a din. Tossing her cover aside, she looped her legs over the side of the bed and sprang to her feet.
With careful steps, she ventured toward the shuttered window. Shards of broken glass peppered the floor, slicing her exposed feet in more than one place. As she opened the shutters, more glass sprayed down in a bone-rattling clatter. Ignoring the pain of the cuts, she peered into the fiery haze blanketing the night sky. It appeared the stiff south breeze had turned Richmond into a raging inferno.
Turning, she took another quick sweep of the apartment and rested her hands on her hips. Had Aunt Polly just up and left her with the whole city crashing down around them?
By morning, all Richmond would likely be in shambles.
And in the hands of thievin’ Yankees.
The blood drained from her cheeks. What would become of her if the Yankees overtook the city? Seventeen was a vulnerable age to fall prey to enemy soldiers. A shiver ran through her. She must find Aunt Polly.
Picking her way through the piles of shattered glass on tiptoe, Addie went to retrieve her black taffeta dress. She let out a huff. If she knew her aunt, she’d gone to look after her precious millenary shop—likely the reason she’d refused to leave in the first place. The thought pricked Addie. Did Aunt Polly care so little for her that she’d leave her to fend for herself at such a time? The least her aunt could have done was take her along.
Hurriedly donning her dress, Addie paced the room. With quivering hands, she struggled to fasten the string of buttons lining her front. No wonder Aunt Polly had never wed. All her attentions were thrown into her business. It seemed effort after foolishness now. Whether the store be overtaken by fire or Yanks, her aunt’s attempts to spare it would likely be for naught.
Another “boom” sent Addie scrambling for her boots. Though she hadn’t agreed with her aunt’s decision to stay, Aunt Polly was all the family she had left.
She jerked at her bootstrings. Thanks to the cursed Yankees.
Stomach knotted, she took another glance around the apartment, then scurried into the hall, down the stairs, and into the chaos of the street. Pillars of fiery smoke clouds billowed overhead, shielding the stars from view. Driven by the stout wind, hot embers seared her neck and face. Even in dead of night, it was obvious the city had become a mass of ruins.
She choked back a cough and maneuvered her way through the flurry of people—more blacks than whites. Some rejoiced, while others were in panic, racing—arms laden with belongings—from the incessant flames threatening to engulf the city. Addie pushed through the onslaught of people, her heart thumping in her ears. Part of her wished to turn and flee with them.
But she couldn’t.
Not without Aunt Polly. Somehow, she must convince her it was foolhardy to stay.
Addie’s breath caught as she rounded the corner leading to the business district. She stood with mouth agape, spellbound by the chaotic scene playing out before her. Looters bashed through doors and windows, darting in and out of stores, arms loaded with goods. Shouts and merriment intermingled along the congested street. The foul stench of liquor filled the night air, oozing from broken bottles littering the gutters.
Addie puckered her face in disgust. “How dare they?”
No sooner had she spoken the words than a selfish thought darkened her spirit. Better to have Richmond vandalized and destroyed than for the murderous Yankees to get their hands on its goods. She set her jaw. After what they’d done, she’d sooner see them blown to smithereens by cannon fire than have them seize a single shred of gain from the once grand city.
She glanced further down the street to her aunt’s shop and gasped. Flames spewed from the broken-out windows and holes in the roof. A nervous twinge shot through her. Surely Aunt Polly wasn’t inside.
Hiking her skirt, Addie sprinted toward the blazing structure, moisture stinging her eyes. She suppressed the urge to pray. God hadn’t answered her prayers in the past. Why should He now?
A wave of heat enveloped her as she neared the burning building. She shielded her face with her hand and panned the street, struggling to catch her breath. Desperate people rushed to and fro. No Aunt Polly.
The clang of fire engines echoed in the distance, and Addie’s hopes rose, but fell just as quickly. With so many fires to extinguish, the firefighters would never reach the millinery in time. With the frantic way people were dashing about, she’d be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to help. Determined, Addie balled her hands into fists. If Aunt Polly was in there, she must go in herself.
With a resolute huff, Addie ripped a section from her shift and dipped it in an ash-tainted water trough. Tying it over her nose and mouth, she held her breath and bolted through the burned-out doorway. Thick smoke obscured her vision, threatening to choke off her air. She squinted and took a shallow breath, eyes desperately searching the sweltering building. Greedy flames licked the walls and ceiling, transforming her aunt’s shop into a consuming beast.
She cried out, cowering against the oppressive heat. “Aunt Polly!”
Amid the roar of fire, a weak cough sounded to her left. Turning, she peered through the smoke-filled millinery and glimpsed the faint image of someone lying on the floor. Heart pounding, she rushed over and bent down beside her aunt. “Aunt Polly?”
Her eyes flickered open, and she uttered a slight moan. “Add-ie. You shouldn’t … have come.”
Ignoring the tempered scolding, Addie tugged at her aunt’s arm. “Can you stand?”
Aunt Polly shook her head. “My legs are … trapped.”
Through the haze, Addie eyed the smoldering beam stretched across her aunt’s legs, and her heart fell. Engulfed in flames at both ends, the timber looked too heavy to lift. Regardless, she edged toward it, the heat of the blaze singeing her forehead and brows. Pain surged through her fingers as she gripped the burning wood. Mustering her strength, she shoved the beam from her aunt’s legs.
Fire sprayed down on her from the ceiling, setting her sleeves ablaze. With a loud groan, she slapped frantically at the flames scorching her arms. She ground her teeth against the agonizing sting, finally laying atop them to smother the flames. Tears welled in her eyes as she slinked back to her aunt.
Aunt Polly tried to rise, but fell back, releasing a barrage of coughs. “It’s too late … for me. Save … yourself.”
“No! I’ll not leave you.” Ignoring the throbbing burns on her forearms and hands, Addie looped her arms under her aunt’s and pulled with all her might. Numerous attempts left her only inches from where she’d started.
Addie fell back with a grunt, struggling for air. Aunt Polly’s weight being twice Addie’s, she would never accomplish this alone. Leaning close to her aunt’s face, she hollered through the soaked rag, “I’ll find help.”
Aunt Polly raised a hand to Addie’s cheek. “I’m sorry.” Something in her eyes hinted of a deeper meaning, as if she’d made a costly mistake for both of them. She swallowed, fighting for breath. “Find … Clarissa. Don’t let him … have her.”
Addie shook her head. “I don’t understand. Who’s Clarissa?”
Her aunt’s eyes flickered and closed. With a final intake of breath, her head slumped to the side.
“Aunt Polly?” Addie choked back a sob, the flames beginning to close in around her. She stood and weaved her way through the fallen planks, the burning in her hands and arms as excruciating as the sting of another loss. Tears welled in her eyes as she rushed into the noise and bedlam of the street. Ripping the cloth from her face, she yelled, “Help! Someone please help!”
The throng of people scurried by, ignoring her pleas.
With effort, she caught a passerby by the sleeve. “Help me, please. My aunt’s trapped inside.”
The older gentleman tugged his arm from her grasp, sending a surge of pain through her fingers. “See to her yourself. I’ve troubles of my own.”
He marched past, and Addie let out a heart-wrenching groan. With a frustrated glance around, she let out an agonized cry. “Won’t anyone help me?”
A loud “crack” sounded above her, and she flinched. Sharp pain sliced through the top of her head, blurring her vision and driving her to her knees. Heaviness engulfed her, stealing her breath as the clamor of the street faded to dark silence.
Continued Next Week …
BEYOND WOUNDED HEARTS IS
NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER
Stories of faith and resilience on the Midwest prairie & the Civil War Era
Inspirational Historical Romance
~Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble
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