Into the Evermore is the prequel to my newest series about a Virginia family, set in the 1870s. This novella, part of a brand new anthology, Christmas in America, is the story of Pennsylvanian, Eleanor McManus, and Georgian, Beauregard Gentry. We will meet their children in the subsequent full length novels set to begin releasing in the spring of 2017. Thank you so much for your interest in my books. An excerpt from Into the Evermore is below.
1842 – Eleanor McManus, upright daughter of a minister, is rescued from kidnappers by a rough and tumble fur trader, Beauregard Gentry, in the wilderness of northern Virginia. With Beauregard’s help, Eleanor makes her way back to her intended groom who declares her soiled, and she finds herself alone, pressured to make life decisions without benefit of family or others she can trust. Beauregard and Eleanor agree to begin a life together, build their legacy together, and their growing devotion to each other is witnessed one cold, crisp Christmas morning.
November 1842 Virginia
“Twenty dollars and you can have her. Don’t make no never mind to me what you do with her. I just want to see the gold first.”
The filthy-looking bearded man waved his gun in every direction as he spoke, including at the head of the young woman he held in his arms and at the three men in front of him. The trio all had handkerchiefs covering the lower part of their faces and hats pulled down tight, revealing six eyes now riveted to the pistol as it honed in on one random target after the other. The woman was struggling, although it was a pitiful attempt as she was clearly exhausted, and maybe hurt. The wind whipped through the trees, blowing the dry snow in circles around them. Beau Gentry watched the grim scene play out as he peered around a boulder down into a small ravine. He’d been propped against the sheltered rock, dozing, and thinking he’d best start a fire, when he heard voices below.
“Ain’t paying twenty dollars in gold for some used-up whore,” one of the masked men said.
The filthy man wrenched his arm tighter around the woman and put the gun to her temple. “Tell ’em, girly. Tell ’em you ain’t no whore.”
She shrank away from the barrel of the gun and moaned. “Please, mister. Let me go,” she begged.
“Tell ’em you ain’t no whore!”
She shook her head and pulled at the filthy man’s arm around her waist. “I’m no fallen lady,” she whispered. “I’m just, I’m just . . .” The woman went limp, and Beau thought she’d fainted but instead she vomited into the snow in front of her. He watched her choke and gag, bent over the man’s arm, and that’s when he realized she was barefoot.
Beau leaned back against the rock and checked his pistols and shotgun beside him. He hoped his horse wouldn’t bolt from the tree she was loosely tied to when the bullets started to fly. It’d be a long walk back to Winchester if she did, especially as he’d most likely be carrying the woman. “Shit,” he muttered. “Shit and damnation. She doesn’t have any goddamn shoes on.”
From his angle, he’d need to drop the three bandits with the two shells from the shotgun, and finish off any of them still breathing with one of his pistols. They’d be surprised and hopefully slow if the liquor smell floating on the wind meant anything. He was counting on the filthy man being hampered by the woman’s struggling. He was hoping she didn’t get shot in the cross fire, but then she’d be better off dead than facing what was in store for her if the filthy man was the victor. The argument over the gold was getting heated, he could hear, making this as good a time as any.
The snow fell away from the fur collar and trim of Beau’s coat as he stood, lifted the shotgun to his shoulder, and aimed at the first man. He pulled the trigger, sighted in the second man, and pulled the second trigger right after the other, marching forward through brush and snow, letting the shotgun fall from his hands as he went. Two of the men dropped and the third fell to his knees, aiming his pistol at Beau as he did. Beau lengthened his stride, pulled a pistol from his waistband as he made the clearing, raised his left arm straight, and dropped the kneeling man to the ground with a shot to his face, letting the spent weapon fall to the ground. As he turned, he pulled his new fighting knife free of its scabbard and brought his right hand up, wielding a second pistol, side-stepping to get an angle on the filthy man.
“She’s mine! You ain’t getting her.”
“Drop the gun.”
“Twenty dollars in gold and you can have her!”
He wondered how much longer the woman would last. She was white-faced, except for the dirt, and her hair hung in clumps, matted together with blood. Her mouth was open in a silent scream. She raised and lowered her arms as if paddling in a pool of water. Most likely she was long past terrified and all the way to hysterical.
“Fine,” Beau said. “You want twenty dollars?”
The filthy man nodded, and Beau dropped his knife in the snow and reached his hand in his pants pocket as if intending to retrieve a gold piece. The man lowered his weapon by an inch or so as his eyes followed Beau’s hand, and in that moment Beau brought up his right hand and fired his weapon. The bullet tore through the man’s neck, sending blood gushing into the snow as the man tumbled sideways, releasing the woman. She fell in the opposite direction, covered in splattered blood, clawing and crawling away from her captor, turning on her back and shoving off in the mud and snow with bleeding feet, pushing herself away. Her cry echoed in the silent cold night.
Beau pulled his knife from the snow, kicked away the filthy man’s gun, and walked to where he lay, now writhing as he slowly drowned in his own blood. The hair on the back of Beau’s neck stood and he turned. The last of the three men, missing part of his cheek and ear, had retrieved a loaded pistol from the belt of one of his companions and was now aiming it at Beau with shaking hands. Beau released the knife with a whip of his wrist, landing it dead center on the man’s chest. He turned to the woman and watched as her eyes rolled back in her head and she crumbled the last four or five inches, until her back hit the forest floor.