A Heart Broken ~ Sara Barnard
Happy Release Day, Sara!
How much grief can a heart bear before being tested to the ultimate limit? The War is over, Charlotte and Sanderson are reunited, and life is good … until the Army comes knocking. They have charged Sanderson with the murder of his former captor, the despicable Lieutenant Lantz who swore to kill him and Jackson. After a make-believe trial, Sanderson is sentenced to “hang by the neck until dead” – unless he can track down and kill the notorious outlaw William Quantrill with the help of SGT Jerry Thomas, who still may be in love with Charlotte. While Sanderson is on his blood mission, Charlotte miscarries the baby he wasn’t even aware existed. In addition to battling her grief over the loss of their unborn baby, Charlotte must also battle a rash of hydrophobia that threatens the countryside –Sanderson included.
Excerpt from A Heart Broken:
“Don’t die till we get to have some fun, girl.” Samuel’s whiskey-ruined voice was hot in Charlotte’s ear. Somewhere behind her, Dean’s maniacal laughter pulsated with cruelty. The Bowie knife grew closer to her face, but with her arms lashed behind her, Charlotte could only watch in helpless terror as the promise of death drew nearer.
“Sanderson!” she screamed, just before the icy blade met the skin of her neck.
“I’m here. I’m not going to let anything happen to you,” Sanderson murmured into her hair. His arm, muscled and tanned, tightened around her middle. His voice was thick with sleep. “Was it that dream again?”
She sat up and traced the knife scar at the base of her neck. The air was crisp in their loft and a rash of goose bumps immediately cropped up on her exposed skin. “It was one of them. The knife one. I always wake up before they kill me, but I swear,” Charlotte shook her head to clear the nightmare from her mind, “it gets scarier every time.”
“They’ll get worse before they get better.” Sanderson propped himself up on an elbow and ran his hand down her thigh before continuing, “Mine are pretty bad right now, too. But when I wake up and look at you, I know I’m home.”
She returned his mischievous smile.
“We’ve been through a lot these past few years. Figure it’ll take our brains a little while to catch up with our bodies. The bad dreams are just our way of getting there, as I see it.” He twined his fingers through hers. “You know how I know that I’m really home?” He tugged her down close.
“I can do this.” With his free hand, he cupped the side of her face. That familiar spark blazed to life within her chest before their lips met. She closed her eyes. Softly, his kiss found her cheek, then her lips. Trembling, she let herself be taken over by her husband’s sensual caress.
“Wait, what about Minerva? Won’t she hear us?” Charlotte’s eyes were still closed. For a fleeting moment, she wondered if they’d been right to offer Minerva and baby Jay Jay their extra room. Certainly, having an empty house in moments such as these would be optimal. She pushed the thought away as quickly as it had come. Minerva was her sister-in-law, and she couldn’t imagine everyday life without tiny Jay Jay. After all, she had brought him into the world and only Aunt Charlotte could calm him down deep in those colicky nights.
Sanderson’s breath was warm in her ear, “They went out early this morning.”
Satisfied that they were alone and talk time was over, Charlotte met Sanderson’s kiss with passionate ferocity. His skin, roughened by time spent in Alton Confederate Prison, glided against hers naturally, like water over smooth river pebbles.
Finally, my love is home. I’m complete as long as he is near.
The front door squeaked open, and Minerva’s voice wafted upstairs. “Jay Jay, such a fussy boy today. Come, I’ll feed you in our room.”
Quietly, Sanderson tucked the rose-patterned quilt up over their heads as Charlotte stifled a giggle. “We were alone,” she mouthed.
He kissed the tip of her nose.
Minerva’s door clunked shut, and baby Jay Jay’s threatening whimpers ceased a moment later.
Charlotte flung back the covers. “Maybe we can continue this tonight?”
“As you wish, Mrs. Redding.”
A pounding at the door tore their gazes from each other.
“Who in the world would come calling this early in the morning?” Charlotte wondered aloud.
“I’ll get it,” Sanderson called, pulling on his britches. His voice echoed in their quaint, stone cottage.
“I’m closer,” Minerva answered. “Jay Jay is too tired to sleep.” She clomped across the floor with the infant nestled in the crook of her arm.
Charlotte peered over the edge of the loft. “Good morning, Minerva. Is Jay Jay ready for his Aunt Charlotte?”
“Si, he is.” Minerva smiled and rested her hand on the doorknob. “We picked some carrots this morning. Let’s make a stew tonight.” She hefted the door open.
An unfamiliar voice boomed, “Captain Sanderson Redding!”
Sanderson froze, his shirt only half buttoned. The cold fingers of fear squeezed Charlotte’s stomach until bile rose into her throat.
“Um, ah, um,” Minerva stammered. Jay Jay began to wail again.
Charlotte dashed to the window. “Soldiers! They’re everywhere Sanderson!” She whirled, eyes wide. “Can we make it to the cave underneath Sunshine Rock where I hid from the Yankees?”
He inched to the wall and peeked out the window. Reaching out to Charlotte, he pulled her close. “There’s no way. They’re even in the trees. Every rifle out there is trained on our house, just waiting for me to make a run for it.”
“We know he’s in there, so cough him up before we come in and search the place!”
Sanderson started toward the ladder.
“No! Please, we have to try!” Hysteria was threatening to overwhelm Charlotte to such an extent that she didn’t feel like herself at all. “Please!”
“I have to turn myself in, for all our sakes. We don’t know who pointed them our way, or even why they’re here.” He began to climb down, so Charlotte started after him. She grasped the rungs and rested her head against them. Her stomach lurched and her knees threatened to give way.
Sanderson plucked her from the ladder. She clasped his hand, and they stepped to the door together. Minerva moved behind them, the baby whimpering in her arms. Their eyes met for a moment.
“Captain Sanderson Redding?” An Army officer in blue stepped forward, a scroll in his hands.
“Good morning, gentlemen. How can I help you?” Sanderson’s voice was cool and ever polite, but his grip tightened on her hand. Charlotte tried to count the soldiers, but more kept appearing from the woods.
“Captain Redding, on behalf of the United States of America, I hereby charge you with the murder of Lieutenant Robbinson Lantz.” Sanderson’s eyes widened. “Also got a list of other lesser crimes, but they don’t really matter since you gonna hang for murder anyway.”
Bio for Sara Barnard:
Sara Barnard, author of the historical fiction series, An Everlasting Heart, has been reading children’s books her whole life. First, she read then as a child then she read them to her four beautiful children! Sara has her Bachelor’s degree in history, has had her work included in numerous anthologies, and has written several other books to date. Sara and her family make their home in the historic hills of Oklahoma along with their three dogs, three cats, and eight chickens.
Author Contact Info:
http://www.sarabarnardbooks.com is Sara’s website
sarathreesuns.blogspot.com is where she occasionally blogs about life as a Mommy of four and wife to a Drill Sergeant.
@TheSaraBarnard on Twitter
http://www.facebook.com/sara.barnard6 on Facebook