Beyond Wounded Hearts, Book Two in my Wounded Heart Series, releases March 14, 2023. Last week I shared the opening scene from the novel. If you missed it,
As promised, this week I’m sharing the rest of the chapter in which you’ll meet Corporal Luke Gallagher, a favorite with many of my Launch Team members. I hope you’ll enjoy this glimpse into Luke and Adelaide’s story.
BEYOND WOUNDED HEARTS
CHAPTER ONE ~ SCENES 2 & 3
Richmond, April 3, 1865, 11:30 am
Corporal Luke Gallagher doused the small fire with his bucket of water. A plume of smoke billowed on the breeze as the flames flickered and died. He paused, wiping his sweat-drenched brow with his sleeve, and peered at the fiery remnants of the prized city. For months, years even, Richmond had eluded them. Now, it had fallen into their hands without resistance. And yet, its crippled remains stood as a reminder of the viciousness of war.
Sergeant Delmar stepped beside him, his bushy, wheat-blond hair nearly concealing his eyes. “Hard to believe, ain’t it?”
“Sure is. Never thought I’d see the day Richmond would fall.”
The sergeant folded his arms over his chest. “You surprise me, Gallagher. Aren’t you the one always telling me to have a little faith?”
A corner of Luke’s mouth lifted. “I never knew you listened.”
Chuckling, Delmar clapped him on the back. Several years Luke’s elder, the sergeant had taken him under his wing like a brother. “You make it a challenge not to.”
Though Luke grinned, his insides churned. He couldn’t afford to be quiet about his faith. Not after Jacob. Luke would bear the guilt of his friend until his dying day. Never again would he keep silent and allow someone he cared about to spend eternity apart from God.
Widening his stance, Sergeant Delmar puffed out his chest. “And to think, after all the fuss the Rebs gave holding us off all this time, they lit out of here without so much as a shot fired again’ us.”
Luke passed the empty bucket to the man next to him and propped his boot on a slab of stone. “They sure ravaged the place. Not much left to claim.”
Delmar wiggled his eyebrows. “Except victory.”
With a snicker, Luke nodded. “It’s only a matter of time now, don’t you think? The end of the war, I mean.”
“Oh, you bet. We’ve got ’em on the run now. Grant won’t let up until he finishes the job.”
Luke inhaled a long breath. What a blessing to finally have the end of war in sight. A chance encounter with his big brother, Drew, earlier in the day made it a double blessing, leaving him all the more eager to return home to his mother and sister.
Joining the army at sixteen had seemed the thing to do following his father’s untimely death in battle. But the year and a half away from home had done little to lessen the sting of loss. “I, for one, can’t wait to shed this uniform and don my work clothes. After this, the rigors of farming sound pret-ty good.”
“To you and me both, Gallagher.”
The sergeant straightened and turned to face Lieutenant Fowler. “Yes, sir?”
The stout lieutenant barked out his order. “Assemble your men. We need to create a firewall in order to contain the blazes destroying Main Street.”
“Right away, sir.” As the lieutenant tromped away, Sergeant Delmar called to his men.
Passing off their water buckets, the squad of soldiers fell into formation. Luke strode at their rear, conscious of the sorrowful array of townspeople looking on.
Upon first glance, he’d cheered the ruined Capital City, knowing its occupancy by Union forces meant the war’s end was imminent. But now, as he gazed into the eyes of its defeated, half-starved citizens, something within him grieved. His brother was right. These were the innocent ones caught in a web of war they had no control over.
Sweat dripped from Luke’s temples as he marched into the thick of the fires. The blistering heat and stifling scent of smoke left him wishing they’d been allowed to remain part of the bucket brigade. But no matter how challenging the circumstances, nothing could shake him.
Now that going home was within reach.
April 3, 1865, 4:30 pm
“Have a heart, Corporal. The bucket brigade was child’s play compared to this.”
Luke brushed soiled hands together and peered at the disgruntled private. “Look at it this way, Cummings. Would you rather be fightin’ Rebs or cleanin’ up after ‘em?”
The burly private scratched his stubbled chin. “I reckon you’ve a point there.”
Luke smothered a grin as the private returned to work without further complaint. Long months traipsing after Johnny Rebs and sparring with them in the Petersburg trenches had them all ready to chuck this war and head home.
A soot-covered Private Fenton tossed aside a charred beam and let out a weary huff. “The Rebs sure left this place in a sorry state. It’ll take months t’ clean up this mess, not to mention track down Jeff Davis and his cronies.”
“One thing at a time, Fenton. For now, our job is getting these fires under control.” Luke pushed his kepi higher on his forehead and skimmed the string of gutted buildings along the cluttered street. Block upon block of what appeared to have been the town’s business district lay wasted. Many buildings still ablaze.
With the fall of Richmond, thousands of lives had been uprooted, their homes and livelihoods destroyed. By joining the fight, Luke had hoped to hasten the war’s end, as well as avenge his father’s death. In reality, all the violence and bloodshed only left him empty, depleted. He glanced at the charred remains of the once grand city. God forgive them for all the senseless killing and devastation.
“Hey, Corporal. Looka here.”
Luke shook off his ponderings and turned to see Private Fenton squatted beside something in the rubble. As he made his way over, others gathered around, concealing his view. Whatever it was, had gained the troop’s full attention. Shouldering his way through, he strained to see what had the soldiers so entranced.
The pair of tattered boots and frayed black material protruding from the spot where Private Fenton had been clearing debris brought Luke to a standstill. The tiny, leather boots were hardly bigger than ones his younger sister, Lydia, wore.
Private Fenton peered up at him like a startled deer. “It’s a … girl.”
Luke grimaced and reached for one of the charred timbers. “Don’t just stand there. Help free her. Gently, though.”
With slow, careful movements, they worked to uncover her. Dreading the almost certain outcome, Luke knelt beside the lifeless form lying face-down on the ground. One of her arms rested outstretched, much of her sleeve melted away, revealing extensive burns to her hand and arm. Her loose, singed hair lay strewn about her, tangled and matted in clumps.
With a hard swallow, he brushed aside her singed, black tresses and pressed a hand to her temple. Warmth surged through his fingertips, and he released the breath he’d been holding, thanking the Lord above. “She’s alive!”
Stunned murmurs circulated through the group of soldiers.
Luke moved his fingers to the artery in the girl’s neck and cringed.
BEYOND WOUNDED HEARTS
I hope you enjoyed this intro into the 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. More than a year in the writing, Beyond Wounded Hearts holds a message of God’s far-reaching love for those who’ve strayed from their faith.
Beyond Wounded Hearts e-book is now available for PRE-ORDER! Claim your copy today!
Stories of faith and resilience on the Midwest prairie & the Civil War Era
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