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Authors: Marylu Tyndall

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BOOK: Abandoned Memories
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Magnolia nodded as she watched the armadillo disappear into the jungle again. “A month ago, I would have laughed at such a declaration. But now I understand.”

Sarah brushed a strand of brown hair from her eyes. “It is wonderful, isn’t it, knowing how much God loves you? Knowing Him?” She spoke with the excitement of a young woman in love, putting Magnolia’s own zeal for God to shame.

“I’m only just beginning to know Him, but yes, it’s better than I could have ever hoped.”

“I’ve seen a great change in you in such a short time.”

“If only I could change faster.” Magnolia ran fingers over the mirror hidden in her skirts.

“Be patient.” Sarah knelt and dipped a bucket in the water. “Allow God to work in His own time.”

Magnolia took the other bucket and lowered it to the swirling water. “I miss sharing a hut with you.”

“But I imagine you enjoy your new companion far better?” A devilish twinkle appeared in the teacher’s eyes.

The insinuation behind those eyes set Magnolia’s face aflame. A flicker brought her gaze down to the ever-present gold cross hanging around Sarah’s neck, a symbol of her genuine heart and saintly ways. Sarah Jorden, the epitome of piety and grace. Then why had God taken her husband from her at so young an age? “Do you ever get lonely?”

Sarah set her bucket down. Water sloshed over the brim, and she dipped a hand in and brought it to her neck. “Sometimes I miss the feel of a man’s arms around me.”

“I am sure Thiago would be happy to oblige you in that regard.” Angeline’s spirited voice startled them, and they looked up to see the russet-haired beauty approaching, pail in hand, and ever-present black cat following on her heels.

A tiny smile peeked from the edge of Sarah’s lips. “You shouldn’t say such things, Angeline. I hardly know him. Besides, he has some strange beliefs about God.”

“Sweet saints.” Angeline set her bucket down and scooped up Stowy. “Why is that so important?”

The smile on Sarah’s lips faded. “Because our paths would eventually go in very different directions. No, I have no interest in the Brazilian guide, nor does he have any in me, I assure you.”

Angeline bit her lip and stared at the river, caressing Stowy. Magnolia wondered if she thought of James. The poor lady always seemed so conflicted, so sad. Magnolia should pray for her. What a grand idea! She’d never done that before—prayed for someone else.

“James is a godly man.” Angeline confirmed Magnolia’s suspicions as the woman kissed Stowy and set him down. But her next statement shocked Magnolia. “Perhaps you should pursue him, Sarah.”

“Me?” Sarah chuckled. “I’ve never been much for competition. Whenever you’re around, the man is drawn toward you like a bee to nectar.”

Both women grinned at Angeline, mischief twinkling in their eyes. Grabbing her pail, she brushed past them to the river’s edge, not wanting them to see her expression, whatever that may be. For she didn’t know which of the emotions spinning inside her—joy, terror, excitement, or sorrow—revealed itself on her face.

“Don’t be silly. He’s simply being kind like any preacher would.”

“He
does
know his scripture well,” Magnolia commented. “He’s been teaching me and Hayden in his spare time.”

Angeline didn’t want to hear about God and scripture. She heard enough of such pious talk from Eliza and Sarah and James, and now Magnolia. The Southern belle had been one of the few women Angeline could count on to not mention God in every conversation. What had happened to her? A leaf floated by on the current, and Stowy batted it then pounced down the bank in pursuit. Squatting, Angeline dipped her pail in the water. “Seems we are all in need of water at the same time.”

“I need some for my garden before the children arrive for their lessons,” Sarah said.

Magnolia gestured to her left and smiled. “I came for them.”

Shielding her eyes, Angeline glanced at Moses and Mable down shore, hands locked and heads dipped together. “It is a good thing you are doing, Magnolia.”

“It’s the least I can do. They deserve a chance at happiness too.”

Angeline frowned. Why did happiness always have to involve a man? Couldn’t a woman be happy alone? She hefted her full bucket. “I’m bringing this water to the men in the fields. They should be taking their noon break soon.”

“Men? Or perhaps one man in particular?” Magnolia gave her a sly look.

“You are incorrigible!” Angeline shook her head as the three ladies started back. Though Mable reluctantly parted from Moses, neither the girl’s smile nor the skip in her step faltered all the way to town. When they emerged onto Main Street, she thanked Magnolia, said her good-byes to Sarah and Angeline, and started back to the Scotts. Thiago, the handsome Brazilian, appeared out of nowhere to help Sarah carry her buckets.

“No interest in him at all, hmm?” Magnolia leaned toward Angeline after they’d left, and they both giggled. “I’ll accompany you to the fields. I wouldn’t mind seeing Hayden.” She smiled at Stowy trotting along beside Angeline. “That cat follows you everywhere.”

“Not everywhere.”

“I remember the day you found him on board the
New Hope
.”

Chasing rats in the hold of the ship, if Angeline recalled. Even so, the cat had been riddled with fleas and near starving. “He’s been a good friend.” Loyal, trustworthy, caring. More than she could say about most people.

They crossed the street that ran through the center of their tiny settlement, separating two rows of bamboo huts, about twenty in all, housing forty-two colonists. Actually more than that, now that Patrick Gale had shown up a couple weeks ago with his own group of settlers. Blake had assigned a few men to build more huts, but it was slow going since he needed all able hands to work the fields. Would they ever turn this crude outpost into a civilized town? Angeline hoped so as she and Magnolia took a well-worn path to the edge of the fields.

Surrounded by jungle on three sides, sun baked the plowed land, luring green stalks of sugarcane from the ground where they’d planted the splices they’d brought with them on the journey. Barely a foot tall, they spiked across the fields on one side while tiny coffee sprouts dotted the other. The coffee beans would take at least three years to ripen, but the sugar would be ready within a year. Plenty of time to rebuild the mill and process the cane for market. Spotting the ladies, the men tossed picks and shovels down and headed toward the shade.

Angeline had come to Brazil to start a new life. To erase the memories of her past and start over. To be a lady. Or at least
try
to be one. So far she’d been accepted and had gained the respect and care of others. Now, as she watched men come in from the fields, men she’d grown to care for as brothers, an odd feeling welled inside her. A sense of being normal. Of being part of a family. Maybe her risky move to Brazil had been a good decision after all.

If only the ex-lawman, Dodd, would keep his mind busy with gold and not with trying to remember her from the time they’d met back home.

If only the half-clad man heading her way would stop sending her head into a spin.

And her heart.

Against her will, Angeline’s gaze locked on James. She’d seen him at a distance without his shirt. But never this close. Thick-chested with his shirt on, the lack of it revealed mounds of corded muscle rolling under taut skin—gleaming like a golden statue of some Greek god. And this man was a preacher? Not like any preacher she’d met. Sweet saints, she’d seen men without their shirts before—far too many of them. Why did the sight of this one send a buzz over her skin? Stowy meowed and leapt onto a stump, gazing at him too. “Indeed, Stowy. Indeed,” she said out loud without thinking.

Magnolia raised taunting brows in her direction.

Angeline smiled. “Just admiring from afar.”

Except now he was close. Thankfully, he grabbed a shirt hanging on a branch and tossed it over his head. She must avoid him. She tried her best, but he followed her. Offered to carry the bucket while she ladled water for the men. He didn’t speak, just smiled at her with that knowing smile of his that made her feel safe and cared for. Skin flushed with sun and health, he smelled of sweat and loamy earth. Since arriving in Brazil, the sun had painted gold threads in his wheat-colored hair that now blew in all directions in the swift breeze. Drat! She was looking at him again.

Blake accepted the ladle and gulped down water, thanking her. “This time next year, God willing,” he spoke to the men lounging around him, “we should produce enough sugar to pay off our debt for this land.”

“And buy better farming tools.” Hayden sat on a log beside Magnolia.

“And new fabric for a gown,” Magnolia said, making everyone laugh.

“Anything for you, Princess.” Hayden slid hair behind her ear and kissed her cheek.

Mr. Lewis, the old carpenter, stood off to the side chopping logs for fires. Angeline headed toward him, offering him water. New fabric would be nice, indeed. They hadn’t had any new cloth in ages, leaving Angeline, as the town’s seamstress, with not much to do but mend tears and holes.

Lewis slogged down the water with a “thanks” before returning to work. Did the man ever take a break? Shaking her head, Angeline finished serving everyone, ending with James, who took a hearty drink himself before plucking Stowy from the ground and curling the black cat against his chest.

Angeline gaped at the sight. “He won’t allow anyone to touch him but me.”

“And me, it would seem.” James grinned.

Of course. She sighed. God was no doubt playing some cruel trick on her. Wasn’t it bad enough the man affected her to distraction? Did Stowy have to like him too?

“Lewis, take a break, man,” Hayden shouted.

“Naw, I want to get this wood chopped before it gets dark.” The old carpenter wiped sweat from his forehead and continued hefting his ax in the air. Though he tipped the sauce a bit too much and not many people took him seriously, Mr. Lewis never shied away from hard work.

Angeline felt rather than heard something zip past her. She
did
hear the
thwack
of blade in flesh. Followed by a blood-chilling holler. Jerking around, she saw one of the farmers, Mr. Jenkins, drop to the ground, his shoulder a burgeoning mass of red and a bloody ax lying on the ground beside him.

HAPTER
6

I
can’t.” James backed away from the examining table where Mr. Jenkins lay moaning in pain. His wife stood on one side of him, gripping his arm and dabbing sweat from his brow, her face mottled in terror. Eliza stood on the other, pressing a fresh cloth to the man’s shoulder. Like an army of red marching across a white plain, blood saturated the rag within minutes. James’s stomach vaulted. His hands shook. He snapped his gaze away. Unfortunately it landed on the faces of his friends staring at him in confusion—and judgment—Blake, Hayden, and finally Angeline, whose look of disappointment lured his eyes to the dirt floor of the clinic.

“Hold this.” Eliza ordered before the swish of her skirts sounded and she dipped into his vision, demanding he look at her by her strong presence alone. “I’ve never stitched a wound so deep before. Please, James. I need you.”

He swallowed hard and glanced at Magnolia holding the dripping cloth in place then over to Mrs. Jenkins, who cast a pleading look over her shoulder.

“Maybe you can talk Eliza through it,” Hayden offered.

Approaching, Blake gripped his shoulders. “You can do this. I know you can.”

James wasn’t so sure. In fact, the tremble now moving from his hands down to his legs said otherwise. Nodding, he gathered what was left of his strength and took a shaky step toward Mr. Jenkins, focusing on the tortured expression on the man’s face instead of the blood bubbling from his shoulder. But the red menace crept into his vision like a rising flood—one that would surely drown him.

Eliza began preparing the needle and sutures. Magnolia’s frightened glance measured James as he slowly made his way to her. She slipped a clean cloth over the wound and tossed the bloody one into a bucket.
Splat!
Blood dripped from the table—
drip

drop

drip

drop
—like a doomsday clock ticking away the last minutes of Mr. Jenkins’s life. Ticking away the last minute of James’s consciousness, for he was sure he would faint any second. He inched beside the table, legs like pudding, heart slicing through his chest like the blade had sliced through Mr. Jenkins.

Afternoon sun angled through the window, lighting the macabre scene in eerie gold. Mrs. Jenkins sobbed and leaned to kiss her husband. One of her tears dropped onto his face, and James watched as sunlight transformed it into a diamond rolling down his cheek.

Such beauty in the midst of pain. James drew in a deep breath, trying to settle his nerves, but the metallic scent of blood filled his nose and sent the contents of his stomach into his throat. He rubbed his eyes. The room grew hazy…

The examining table became an operating slab in the middle of a medical tent. Mr. Jenkins transformed into a soldier, his chest ripped open, his kidney cradled in James’s hands. The
thu-ump, thu-ump, thu-ump
of the man’s heart grew dim…distant….

BOOK: Abandoned Memories
10.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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