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Impending Love and Madness
 



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Impending Love and Madness


  Table of Contents

  Excerpt

  Praise for Laura Freeman

  Impending Love and Madness

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-One

  A word about the author…

  Thank you for purchasing this publication of The Wild Rose Press, Inc.

  Also available from The Wild Rose Press, Inc. and other major retailers

  “Mister Ravenswood is ill

  and isn’t receiving guests.”

  “But we traveled all this way,” Cass said. “Isn’t there going to be a sale?”

  “A gale?” The old woman looked at the sky and pointed at a dark cloud. “It looks like rain.”

  “We were asking about the horse sale!” Ethan shouted.

  “The sale is on Saturday. You should return then.” She pushed the door closed. The clank of a bolt locking the entrance echoed from inside.

  “Well, I never.” Cass stared at the wooden barrier, willing it to open. “We’re here to see Zach! If he’s ill, I can help!” Her shouts were unanswered.

  “Come on.” Ethan pulled her away and helped her into the buggy.

  She turned. A curtain moved. Someone was watching them.

  Harry took the reins and glanced at the sky. “She was right about a storm. We better hurry to the village. We can try again tomorrow.”

  Ethan relaxed against the back seat. “Any of you buying that fairytale the old witch was telling?”

  “No, but what can we do?” Harry asked. “We’ve been thrown out of the castle.”

  “Old witch,” Cass repeated Ethan’s description.

  Harry slowed the horse. “Are you all right, Miss Cassie? You look pale.”

  “Don’t you remember the fortune teller’s prediction? I think Zach is in trouble, and he needs our help.”

  Ethan leaned forward. “How do you propose we sneak past the crazy doorkeeper?”

  Praise for Laura Freeman

  “A romance you will not want to end. Great characters and plot keep this book fun and you wanting to turn the pages. This author knows how to write a great story.”

  ~Barbara H., Reviewer

  ~*~

  “Good romance setting and story line set in the midst of war and survival. This is the first book I’ve read by this author and will be looking up the rest of the series.”

  ~Dawn M., Reviewer

  ~*~

  “This was a saga of love conquering all when all things conspire to prevent it.”

  ~GumboMom

  ~*~

  “This was a great historical romance set in the Civil War. It is really well written and very believable.”

  ~Poppy

  Impending Love and Madness

  by

  Laura Freeman

  Impending Love Series

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.

  Impending Love and Madness

  COPYRIGHT © 2018 by Laura E Freeman

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

  Contact Information: info@thewildrosepress.com

  Cover Art by Debbie Taylor

  The Wild Rose Press, Inc.

  PO Box 708

  Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708

  Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com

  Publishing History

  First American Rose Edition, 2018

  Print ISBN 978-1-5092-2060-1

  Digital ISBN 978-1-5092-2059-5

  Impending Love Series

  Published in the United States of America

  Dedication

  To my dad, Bill, who encouraged my dreams.

  Chapter One

  Cassandra Beecher snatched the silky fabric of her gown and rushed through the bedroom door and into the hall, peering over the banister to the foyer below. “Is Zach here?”

  Her sister, Jem, ascended the staircase at a snail’s pace. “Logan is taking the children to the Mermaid’s Mirth and bringing Sergeant Ravenswood back to Pierce House. Promise you won’t gallop down the stairs when they arrive.”

  Cass gasped for air. “I doubt I could run without fainting in this corset.” She must have been insane to torture her body with the stiff undergarment emphasizing an hour-glass figure beneath the evening gown, but she wanted Sergeant Zachary Ravenswood to realize she was more than a nurse. “Are we going to see Aladdin?”

  “I’m sorry. Logan couldn’t obtain tickets to Grover’s Theater,” Jem said. “Aladdin was sold out, but Ford’s Theater is having a special showing of the British comedy, Our American Cousin.”

  A stuffy British play. She would have preferred a tale about magic and adventure. Zach would be disappointed.

  “Don’t pout,” Jem said. “Laura Keene is starring in it.”

  Who was Laura Keene? She didn’t want to appear ungracious. “I’m sure it will be lovely.”

  “I read in the afternoon paper the President and Mrs. Lincoln along with General Grant and his wife, Julia, will be attending Ford’s Theater to see it.”

  “The president!” Cass twirled the four yards of fabric in a dizzy spin. “Zach and I would love to see Lincoln. We’ve memorized some of his speeches.”

  “Did Zach meet Grant before he was made general-in-chief of the Union armies?”

  “I don’t think their paths crossed,” Cass said. “He served under Hooker at Chancellorsville and Meade at Gettysburg before he was shipped west to serve under Sherman.”

  “I hope he wrote about more than the battles he fought in.”

  Cass had met Zach at her home in Darrow Falls, Ohio, while he was on furlough in January of 1864. They had exchanged letters during the past year, and she had arrived in Washington City a few weeks before Zach broke his leg and was sent to Mermaid’s Mirth to recover.

  A member of the Twenty-ninth Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry, Zach had been crossing a bridge in North Carolina in March when a sharpshooter’s bullet hit the man marching beside him. Zach had grabbed his comrade, but the dead man’s weight had pulled both of them over the side and into a rocky gulch. A broken leg was better than a bullet in a limb. Usually amputation was the only option when a lead ball smashed bone and left a splintered mess no doctor could set.

  Their reunion had confirmed her belief that Zach was the man she wanted to marry, but her parents and four older married sisters considered her too young. The chaperoned visit to the theater was the f
irst social event they had been allowed to attend together. Cass was determined to make the most of it.

  “You look beautiful.” Jem returned with her to the guest bedroom.

  Cass examined her appearance in the full-length mirror in the corner. The elegant silk was a sharp contrast to the work dresses she wore to care for the wounded or help with the chores at her sister’s home. The green material shimmered in the gaslight, and the off-the-shoulder bodice displayed a wide-expanse of creamy smooth skin. The bone-ribbing pressed her breasts upward, and the low-cut gown proved she was no longer a child but a woman of seventeen.

  Cass smoothed the green silk over the bell-shaped crinoline. The gown and matching satin slippers were perfect for a ball. “Too bad we’re viewing a play instead of attending a dance.”

  “I doubt Zach would enjoy sitting along the wall while you dance with other men,” Jem said.

  “Zach has nothing to be jealous about.” Cass searched for her long gloves.

  “You’ve set your heart on Zach, but don’t let it muddle your thoughts,” Jem said. “I’ve seen too many women marry the wrong man because they didn’t take time to look beyond a uniform or flattering words. You choose your husband, but you don’t want to regret it.”

  Was her sister hiding trouble in her marriage? “Do you regret marrying Logan?”

  “Don’t be a goose. I love Logan.” Jem smoothed her gathered skirt over her rounded belly. She was beginning to show her pregnancy. “But you’re young. And with the war nearly over, you have all the time in the world to enjoy life. You don’t have to rush into marriage.”

  Jem meant well, but she was treating her like a little girl. Cass was second from the youngest of the six Beecher sisters, and they found it difficult to treat her as an adult, let alone an equal.

  Jennifer, Colleen, Jessica, and Cassandra had journeyed to Washington City where they had used their nursing skills to help with the wounded. And fortunately, for Cass, Zach was one of the wounded.

  The Mermaid’s Mirth hotel belonged to Zach’s commanding officer, Captain Blake Ellsworth, who was married to Colleen or Cole as she was known to her sisters. Trained as midwives, Cass and Jem had spent last night delivering a baby boy to their sister, Jess. Her husband, Confederate Major Morgan Mackinnon had surrendered with General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9 and had returned yesterday on the thirteenth. Normally, she would have helped with the care of the newborn, but the reunited parents didn’t want to be disturbed.

  Cass could only imagine the poetic phrases and gentle caresses that passed behind closed doors. Her ignorance frustrated her. But that could change. Zach would no longer be a soldier, and she planned to steer the conversation to more personal topics. Jem was right about one thing. Talking about the weather or how pretty her gown looked would not help her decide if Zach would make a good husband. But what would convince her that she should spend the rest of her life with him?

  Cass examined her coiffure in the mirror, turning to see the back. Jem had arranged her dark hair in a thick braid at the crown of her head with smaller intricate braids looped in the rear and threaded with green and gold ribbons. “Thank you for doing my hair.”

  “I always enjoyed braiding your hair when you were little.”

  Did the braids make her look too young? The door opened below. Cass gathered her gloves, reticule, and wool cloak and hurried to the staircase.

  “Walk,” Jem reminded her.

  Cass paused at the newel post at the top of the steps. Zach leaned against his crutch as he waited in the foyer. His dark blue frock coat fit snugly against his broad shoulders and tapered to a narrow waist. The light blue trousers were creased, something no soldier in the field worried about. He wore a thick sock on the foot of his broken leg, but his single brogan was polished to a shiny black. He had removed his kepi and rotated it in his gloved hands.

  The winter had faded the tan he had acquired marching across Georgia last fall under the command of General William Sherman, and miles of hardship had transformed his lanky build into hard sinew that convalescing had failed to soften.

  He turned. The gaslight emphasized his blond hair, but his eyes were his most attractive feature. He had sour apple green eyes that sparkled as she descended. A lopsided grin expressed his pleasure. She paused on the bottom step and tugged on her gloves, allowing him to survey her appearance. Although a novice at impressing men, Cass had paid attention to her sisters and their interactions with their husbands.

  “You look lovely.” His deep baritone caused her body to vibrate in response.

  Zach and his friends had joined the Twenty-ninth Ohio in late 1862. Zach was twenty-one now, but age wasn’t measured by years when life required killing to survive.

  He had fought in the Twelfth Corps before traveling to Tennessee to become part of the Twentieth Corps. The Union forces had fought Confederate General Joe Johnston in Atlanta and across Georgia to Savannah before moving north, whittling away at his stubborn forces. Johnston had yet to surrender.

  Zach missed his friends and sometimes withdrew, haunted by the dark memories of the battlefield. Although her sisters had protected her from the worst images of the war, she was no stranger to the horrific results of battered bodies and shocked minds. Cass had witnessed the men in the hospitals struggling with nightmares from the violence and mutilation of the war. Both sides prayed for a quick end to the Civil War that had been waged across five Aprils.

  “I’m looking forward to the evening,” Cass said.

  “It’s a beautiful night,” Zach said. “Most of the houses between Mermaid’s Mirth and Pierce House are lit with lights. You can hear people singing on street corners.”

  “The town wants to celebrate Lee’s surrender,” Cass said. “Aren’t you happy the war will be over soon?”

  Zach’s laugh was rich and masculine and sent tremors radiating along her spine. “I’m not going to miss living in a tent and trudging through mud.”

  “I’ll be grateful no Johnny Rebs will be shooting at you.”

  His smile was wide and eager. “Will you?”

  She took a deep breath to steady her reply. “Enough men have died in this war.” She should have said something more personal.

  “Too many.” A shadow darkened his handsome face. “Victory can’t raise Pax from the grave.”

  Paxton Ravenswood had been Zach’s older brother. He had been shot at Cedar Mountain and died at Mermaid’s Mirth. Most families had been touched by death. Her cousin Jacob Donovan had been killed at Antietam, and Darrow Falls neighbor Ed Herbruck had died at Gettysburg. “Let’s not think about death tonight.” She smiled. “Let’s enjoy the celebration.”

  Logan Pierce offered his arm to his wife. Jem wore her dark red hair in a braided chignon laced with blue and white ribbons. Her matching blue gown possessed sheer off-the-shoulder sleeves and a white lace-edged bodice. A woman expecting a child normally didn’t appear in public, but the full skirt hid her pregnancy from social criticism. Her due date was in late August, and she would have to suffer through a humid, hot summer. Cass would complete the chores and tasks that would allow her sister to rest in the coming months.

  Logan wore a black suit with a lace trimmed white shirt and black tie. His white vest had been embroidered by Jem with a colorful flight of birds across the silk. He worked for the Department of the Treasury and was acquainted with most of the political and military leaders who had guided as well as thwarted President Abraham Lincoln’s years in office. “Good news for the economy,” he said. “General Grant stopped orders for supplies for the army, saving the country four million dollars a day.”

  “Four million dollars?” She couldn’t imagine four million of anything let alone money. “How could we spend so much?”

  “A lot of men to feed and clothe,” Zach said. “And pay.”

  “After four years, the debt has grown to nearly three billion dollars,” Logan said. “The national debt was a modest sixty-five million dollars in 1860.


  Cass shook her head, her braids dancing with the motion. “Why did we ever go to war?”

  “It was going to be over in three months,” Jem said.

  Jem had lost her first husband at the first Battle of Bull Run. But she had met Logan, and they had built a home and family during the war. Logan had purchased the boarding house before marrying Jem. It had belonged to a Southern patriot who idolized Lee. Logan changed the name of the Southern Belle to Pierce House. Ironically, their daughter Chauncy Theodora had been named after two Southern soldiers who had befriended them at the beginning of the conflict.

  The war had not been able to separate North and South completely. Cass had attended Lincoln’s second inauguration, and he had talked about reconciliation. Many were ready to put the last four years behind them and work toward rebuilding a united nation.

  The Beecher sisters had done their part healing and not only through nursing the wounded. They had family on both sides of the conflict. “Morgan is at Mermaid’s Mirth. Did you meet him?”

  Zach blushed. “No. He’s been with Miss Jessie and their son since he arrived.”

  “I hope he realizes she just had a baby and needs to rest,” Jem said.

  Logan placed a wool cloak around Jem’s shoulders. He changed the subject. “Looks like we might have rain again.”

  Cass handed her cloak to Zach who draped it around her bare shoulders. “Thank you.” Her lips were inches from his face. Their eyes met in unspoken desire. He turned away, and the spell was broken.

  Logan looked at his watch. “The carriage is waiting, and we don’t want to be late. The play starts promptly at eight.”

  Cass took Zach’s free arm, her fingertips resting on hard muscle beneath his sleeve.

  The ladies boarded the hired carriage, and Zach hopped on the steps and plopped onto the leather seat beside Cass. Logan sat beside Jem and instructed the driver to take them to Ford’s Theater.

  The carriage traveled west on Pennsylvania Avenue and turned north on Tenth Street.

  Cass waved at all the lights in the windows of the homes and buildings along the path. “You were right, Zach. The town has so many lights; it looks magical tonight.”

 
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