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Thomas got up and walked to the door. “What?”

“There’s a little garden on the south side of the house. The sun shines there most of the day, I reckon. The ground ain’t froze. I’m about to put the lady under. Is
all right?” he asked, looking past him to where Abiah lay.


“We ain’t got much time, Cap,” La Broie said unnecessarily.

Thomas drew a quiet breath and looked back at Abiah. She was lying very still now, and he didn’t want to disturb her. He didn’t want her to be afraid if she woke up alone, either.

He walked to the bedside. “Abby?”

She opened her eyes.

“I’ll be back.”

She shook her head, the tears once again sliding out of the corners of her eyes. “No. Go from…here, Thomas—”

“I’ll be back,” he said again.

“Please! I want you to go—”

“Try to sleep.”

“She understands how things are, Cap,” La Broie said on the way downstairs, but Thomas made no reply.

He carried Miss Emma out of the house himself. La Broie had gotten the grave dug quickly, a skill Thomas supposed he had had to learn as a professional soldier. And it was La Broie who spoke over the grave.

“The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,” he said. “And there no torment shall find them. Amen.”

Thomas stood looking at the raw mound of earth. “Amen,” he said, earnestly hoping that that was the case for Miss Emma. And his mind was already working on the problem at hand. He had to get Abiah out of here—and he had no place to take her.

“You don’t have to wait for me, Sergeant,” he said.

“Yes, sir, Cap,” La Broie answered, but he made no attempt to leave.

“I want you to go back and tell the major you couldn’t find me.”

“You want me to lie to Major Gibbons?” La Broie said, as if such a thing would never, ever have crossed his mind.

“I do,” Thomas said. “And try to make it as good as the one you told him when you came out here.”

“You’re going to stay here with the lady upstairs, Cap?”

“No, I’m taking her with me,” Thomas said, stepping around his sergeant to get back into the house.

“Moving her might kill her, Cap,” La Broie said. “If she’s in a bad way.”

“What do you think leaving her here alone will do?”

“You planning on riding back to our lines with her, just like that, sir?” La Broie said. “That is, if you can get her back across the river.”

“In lieu of a better plan, yes.”

“Ain’t there somebody you could get to stay with her?”

“Yes,” Thomas said. “Only I don’t know who it would be at the moment. I’ll have to worry about that when I get to Falmouth.”

you get to Falmouth,” La Broie said. “Reb patrols are out, sir.”

“There’s a truce long enough to bury the dead. I’m going to have to rely on that. Well, go on, man. You have your orders.”

“Begging your pardon, Cap,” La Broie said, still following along. “But we ain’t exactly on the battlefield
at the moment, now are we? If we run into one of them Reb patrols, they’re going to think we’re ransacking the place and then there’s going to be hell to pay. And besides that, I have put in a lot of hard work breaking you in, sir—if you don’t mind me saying so—and I ain’t a bit happy thinking I’m going to have to start over with another captain. Hard telling what kind of jackass they’d put in your place.”

“La Broie, do you know how close you are to insubordination?”

“No, sir. It’s high praise I’m giving and not insubordination at all, sir. You have turned yourself into a good, sensible officer…” The rest of the sentence hung in the air unsaid.

Until now.

“Thanks to you, you mean,” Thomas said.

“It was my pleasure, sir,” La Broie said, almost but not quite smiling.

“Get going,” Thomas said. “I mean it.”

He went back upstairs. Abiah seemed to be asleep. He opened the armoire and searched until he found her portmanteau, but then immediately disregarded it as too awkward to carry. He took a pillow slip instead and went from drawer to drawer, dumping in things he barely bothered to identify—stockings, undergarments, a frayed wool shawl, a hairbrush.

There was a sudden commotion downstairs. He swore and drew his revolver, trying to identify the source.

“Cap!” La Broie yelled, and Thomas ran to the landing. The sergeant had ridden his mount into the
front hall and he was leading Thomas’s bay. Both horses were having trouble getting their footing and both were wild-eyed at the straight chairs and small tables crashing around them.

“Hand your lady down, sir!” La Broie yelled. “The sons of bitches are almost here!”

Thomas ran back to do just that. Abiah was trying to get out of bed. He gave her no explanation of any kind. He grabbed her and the pillow slip and a quilt, leaving everything else behind and carrying her bodily out of the room. Halfway down the stairs, he handed her roughly over the banister to La Broie and tossed the pillow slip after her. The sergeant’s mount pranced and reared at the loose-flowing quilt, but La Broie held him in.

“Hurry, sir!”

Thomas mounted the bay with some difficulty, then took Abiah out of La Broie’s arms. She was completely limp, and he could hardly hold on to her.

“I’m going to let them see me, Cap,” La Broie said. “I’ll meet up with you at the river—”

He gave Thomas no time to approve or disapprove the plan as he urged his captured horse back out the front door and leaped in a great arc off the porch.

Chapter Two

hat’s happening?
Abiah kept thinking. She tried to follow the conversation around her, but it made no sense.

“Will you kindly shoot this man, Sergeant La Broie? My hands are full.”

“My pleasure, Cap. Or if you want him skinned alive and roasted over a hot fire with a stick—”

Abiah winced at the specifics.

“—I can do that, too, sir.”

“No. No, a ball between the eyes will do. You’ll have to excuse the sergeant here. He’s just come from the West. They handle things a bit differently out there. You and I are more apt to just kill a man outright when he irks us. But where the sergeant comes from, they like to savor the demise. Who was it you learned that from, Sergeant?”

“Apaches, sir. And, of course, the—”

“All right! I’ll take you across,” a third voice said. “You Yankees are damned attached to your whores, is all I got to say—”

There was scuffling then. Abiah cried out.

“Abby,” Thomas’s voice said close to her ear. She tried to answer him and couldn’t. Then she lost his voice and the others in a wave of soft, white nothingness.

It was raining when she heard voices again. She could feel the raindrops beating down on her face.

“I’ve got no room here, Captain.”

“Well, make room, damn it!”

“Where? We’ve got more wounded men than we can handle! You wouldn’t want to leave her here, even if there was a place for her. Who would take care of her, sick as she is? Look, why don’t you try one of the churches? Maybe there’s somebody there who can take her in.”

And then they were riding through the darkness again.

“I think you better let me take her, Cap,” a man’s voice said. “You go get Major Gibbons satisfied so he don’t have you shot. I’ll see to your lady.”

She heard Thomas swear.

“Ain’t no other way, Cap,” the man said. “I got a notion about what we can do—where I can take her.”

“We’ve been everywhere,” Thomas said.

“I’m thinking Gertie would take care of her—but she’d have to have money to replace what she’d get otherwise. How much have you got?”

“Are you out of your mind? She’s a camp follower. She is
somebody who goes around ministering to the sick with a basket on her arm.”

“We ain’t got much choice, Cap—and Gertie ain’t
had much in the way of choices, neither. She’s a good girl, Gertie is. You can’t fault a woman for what’s she’s had to do to keep herself alive. I’m telling you, she’ll take good care of Miss Abiah—if she’s got money enough to do it with. Like you said, we’ve been everywhere. The only thing we ain’t done is break down somebody’s front door and hold a gun on them until they turn into the Good Samaritan. I say we quit going around Robin Hood’s barn here and get Miss Abiah in out of the rain, sir—and I don’t think she’d be very happy if she knew she was the cause of your court-martial.”

Abiah stirred at the last remark, trying to raise up. But she couldn’t manage it, no matter how hard she tried.

“We ain’t far from the Lacey house,” the man said. “You go on there and let Major Gibbons see you. Tell him,
he asks, that I was wrong. Say the colonel didn’t send you no place, you been around here all the time. Say you been trying to account for the wounded and missing out of your company. I’ll take care of Miss Abiah and then I’ll find you.”

“La Broie—”

“Give me your money and your lady, sir.”

“Abby, can you hear me?” Thomas said, his breath warm against her ear. “Abby…?”

She strained toward the sound of his voice, but the harder she tried to hear it, the more it drifted away. The soft whiteness closed over her.

What’s happening?

She tried to focus on her surroundings, but the light
was too poor. She could see a candle burning on a table to her right, and a fire burning in the fireplace. It was raining still—it always seemed to rain after a battle. She could distinctly hear the patter of raindrops against the window.

The window.

She wasn’t outside then. She was warm and dry and in bed.

She wasn’t alone in the room; she could hear someone moving around. She turned her head slightly.

“Is she awake?” a man’s voice asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” a woman said. “Is the captain coming? She asks for him sometimes.”

“He’s confined to his quarters until somebody decides how bad he broke rank.”

“How long will that be?”

“No time soon—not the way people are talking. I’ll tell him she’s been asking for him. No, maybe I won’t. He’s liable to come to see about her whether Gibbons says he can or not. You’ve got everything you need?”

“I’ve got more than I need.”

“You don’t mind the room being down here with the servants?”

“Now, why would
mind that? The kitchen is close. I can get her the things she needs to eat. And there’s people I can talk to, so I’m not lonesome. But I’m wanting to know something, La Broie. How did you get Zachariah Wilson to give up a room in his house, even if it is below stairs?”

“He’s being paid well for it, Gertie.”

“He doesn’t need the money.”

“He’s a greedy man, Gertie, darling. Greedy men always
the money.”

“I’m thinking maybe you asked this greedy man in a way he couldn’t refuse.”

He laughed softly.


“What did you do, Pete?”

“Nothing much. I only mentioned that I knew he’d been a…acquaintance of yours. And being such a pillar of the church and everything—well, now he had the opportunity to help you change your ways
give shelter to the sick.”

“And why would you do that?”


“You heard me.”

“Well, because I could see you didn’t have the heart for the business you was in.”

“Since when do men care what’s in a woman’s heart?”

“Some of us do, depending on the man—and the woman.”

“And the rest of you are like Zachariah Wilson.”

“You ain’t had no trouble with Wilson, have you?”

“No. He’s not here. He’s gone off someplace on business. Nobody knows when he’ll get back.”

“If he bothers you, you let me know. I mean it. I wouldn’t have put you here if I could’ve done better—”

“How long?” Abiah said abruptly.

“My God, she is awake,” the man said.

“How long have I been here?” Abiah asked.

“Well, let’s see,” the woman said, coming closer to the bed. “It must be eight days now.”

Abiah thought in alarm. She couldn’t remember any of them—at all. How could she completely lose track of eight days?

“Who are you?” she asked the man.

“Sergeant Peter La Broie,” he said.

“You’re not in Lee’s army.”

“No, ma’am. I’m not.” He pulled a ladder-back chair around and sat down where she could see him. “And this here is Gertie. Captain Thomas Harrigan and me—we brought you across the river on a raft. Do you remember that?”

“No,” she said. But then she suddenly recalled something about Apaches. Whatever it was, however, slipped away. “I don’t understand,” she said after a moment. “Why are people talking?”


“You said people were talking. Why? Tell me. I want to know.”

“It’s on account of you being a Reb girl and Cap being in the Union army and stealing you back across the river the way he did. Some think the captain ruined your reputation when he did that—maybe his, too, because he wasn’t supposed to be over there in the first place, much less coming back with you on his saddle. But you’d be dead if he hadn’t, and that’s for damn sure.”

Abiah closed her eyes. She was so tired. Too tired
to try to sort this out. She did know that she hadn’t been stolen. She’d been…

She didn’t know what she’d been. She opened her eyes again as one particular memory suddenly came to her.


“What is it, Miss Abiah?” the man said kindly.

He knows my name,
she thought.
He must have something to do with Thomas.
She gave a wavering sigh.

“What is it?” he asked again.

“Where is…my mother…?”

“The captain said I should tell you everything straightaway, if you asked, because you’re not a person who likes the truth hid from them no matter how bad it is.”

“She’s dead…isn’t she?”

“Yes, ma’am. Your mother—Miss Emma—died. You’re remembering that now, I guess.”

Abiah nodded, wiping furtively at the tears that ran down her face.

“We buried her in that little herb garden near the house—where the ground was soft enough. And words was said over her, so you don’t have to fret yourself on that account. Cap says to tell you he did the best he could by her.”

Abiah believed that without question, but the tears came anyway, tears and then finally the welcome refuge of sleep. She woke from time to time, wondering if the sergeant would be there. He never was, and she began to wonder if he’d actually sat in the chair by
her bed or if she’d been dreaming. There was only Gertie, who seemed to know exactly what to do to make her more comfortable and who, more often than not, insisted that Abiah drink a hot, salty chicken broth and then take some bitter tasting medicine, after which she fell into yet another dream-ridden sleep. It was so hard to think clearly, to know what was real and what wasn’t. But conversation took far too much effort, regardless of Abiah’s growing curiosity.

“Miss Abiah, look who’s here,” Gertie said one afternoon, and Abiah opened her eyes to see another enemy soldier, who after a moment turned into a very awkward Thomas, standing at the foot of the bed. She stared at him, not at all sure if he really was here or not. There had always been a sadness in Thomas Harrigan; it was one of the things that had drawn her to him from the very first time Guire brought him home. But at this particular moment, he looked so lost.

“What’s wrong?” she asked him, and he looked at Gertie instead of answering.

“Tell me,” Abiah said. “What’s wrong with you?”

“That is my question, I believe, Abby,” he said, and she smiled.

“Oh, well, then. If that’s the case, the answer is ‘nothing’—if you don’t count the fever…and being out of my head most of the time.”

“So how is your head at the moment?”

“I don’t know,” she said truthfully. “Sometimes I think Gertie is Mother. Sometimes I think Guire’s here—or you. You
here, aren’t you, Thomas? I’m not talking to the bedpost, am I?”

“Most definitely I am here,” he said.

“Say ‘heart,’ then. So I’ll know.”

“Heart?” he asked, clearly puzzled.

She immediately gave a soft laugh. “Yes, it’s you.

He smiled in return. “You are so very bad for my masculine certitude, Abiah. You are the only female I know who always makes fun of me.”

“I have to. You’d be insufferable if I didn’t.”

Gertie laughed in the background.

“I see you agree with her, Gertie,” Thomas said.

“I can’t help it, Captain,” Gertie said.

“Well,” he said, still forcing himself to be cheerful. This was a Thomas Abiah had never met before. “The doctor tells me you’re doing better.”

“Does he? He doesn’t tell

“He says you mustn’t get overly confident. You must continue to play the invalid even if you feel like dancing.”

“Dancing? I’m having trouble knowing the day of the week.”

He smiled again, but this smile quickly faded. He stood there with his hands behind his back, tall and handsome, once her brother’s greatest friend and then his sworn enemy—and hers.

“I need to ask you something, Abiah,” he said.

She waited while he looked around the room as if it were of great interest to him, and then just to her left—everywhere but at her.

“I was wondering if you would consider something,” he said, now looking at the floor. He abruptly
pulled around that same ladder-back chair and sat down. Then he cleared his throat and noisily slid the chair closer to the side of the bed. He brought the fresh smell of the cold outdoors with him. Damp wool and wood smoke. Soap and tobacco. Horse and leather. She longed to be closer to him still.

“If you intend to catch me…while I’m still lucid, I think you’ll want to hurry this along, Thomas,” she said.

“All right. Abiah, I was wondering if you would marry me.”

He finally looked at her, met her eyes briefly and glanced away.

“Too late,” she said, in spite of her astonishment. Even at her most mentally confused, even if she’d been in a room full of fever-spawned Thomases, she would not have expected that question.

“I beg your pardon?” he said.

She smiled slightly, because once again his Boston accent had determined that he leave out an
As a Southerner, she had a bit of a problem with that letter of the alphabet herself—only
didn’t leave it quite so blatantly out of the middle of words or add it onto the end where it didn’t belong. The years he had lived in Maryland with his grandfather hadn’t erased his accent at all. Knowing even so little of the relationship between the two men as she did, she wouldn’t have been surprised if Judge Winthrop hadn’t made an effort to weed out that particular reminder of his daughter’s failed marriage, just as Abiah wouldn’t have been
surprised if that was a reason Thomas might have tenaciously retained it.

Guire had told her once that Thomas looked very much like his father—who being the only son of a wealthy shipowner, had enough inherited money and enough favors owed him to open at least some of the doors kept firmly closed to those with an Irish surname. But there the similarity ended. Unlike his father, Thomas Harrigan clearly didn’t abandon a woman who needed him.

“I said ‘too late,’ Thomas.”

“You mean your lucid moment is going?”

“No, I mean someone else…has already asked for…my hand in marriage.”

He looked startled. “May I ask who?”

“John William Miller,” she said.

“Johnny Miller wants to marry you?”

“Well, you needn’t make it sound so…incredible, Thomas. I believe he has been of a mind to since I was fourteen.”

“This is the same Johnny Miller who was at your mother’s house practically every time I came to visit.”

BOOK: Cheryl Reavis
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