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Authors: Elisabeth-Cristine Analise

Underground Captive

BOOK: Underground Captive
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Underground Captive
Elisabeth-Cristine Analise
(2009)

One night in 1855 changes Underground Railroad worker and freedom sympathizer Jared Fleming's life forever. While on one of his clandestine missions as his alter ego, the Black Rider to set slaves on their path to freedom, his wife and good friend are killed. Thus, begins his search to find their killer. Believing Ricard Duplantier, heir to Crescent Wood Plantation, is responsible for the murders, Jared’s vengeful quest eventually leads him to the beautiful Nicollette Duplantier–Ricard’s sister. She awakens feelings and desires he thought he buried with his wife.
Nicollette detests Americans. She considers them vile and barbaric. Thinking Jared both, she can't fathom why the handsome stranger invades her thoughts regularly. She's on a mission to see the Black Rider swing from the tallest tree and to get Ricard, her beloved brother, back home.
What Nicki doesn't know is that Jared will go to any length to avenge his beloved wife's death, including kidnapping. What neither knows is that Nicollette will open Jared's heart to love and passion again and their time spent together will be as sensuous as the atmosphere of exotic New Orleans.

Underground Captive
             
             
             
             
             
             
             
             
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Underground Captive

BY ELISABETH-CRISTINE ANALISE

 

 

**WARNING: CONTAINS HISTORICALLY ACCURATE LANGUAGE THAT SOME MAY FIND OFFENSIVE**

 

 

Nay!

'Tis not the world that's complicated,

'tis the inhabitants that complicate the world, my sweet.

 

 
PART ONE

Prologue

8 miles north of New Orleans

Bayou St. John, 1855

The August air was hot and moist as the sinister waters of the bayou lapped lazily at its banks.  Jared Fleming slipped silently into its murky abyss.  He snaked a black-gloved hand out, catching the root of an oak tree to keep himself from sinking into the depths.  Eerie oak and acacia tree shadows cast their silhouettes onto the bayou's surface, protecting his hiding place from exposure in the bright moonlight.

 

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The barking of dogs drew near and Jared held himself rigid.  He dared not move a muscle.  Glowing torches shone through the trees, moving in his direction.  The bloodhounds raced to the edge of the bayou, sniffing and growling.  They howled their disappointment, the scent of their prey eluding them.  One of the six men released a loud whistle, calling his charges back.

     
             
The dogs were well-trained, used for tracking runaway slaves.  Jared knew they sensed his presence and he barely breathed.  One overzealous hound remained so close to Jared that he smelled its animal stench, felt its hot breath, heard its nervous sniffs, saw the mange of its coat.  He prayed the men would ignore the animal’s persistent attention to the water.

“You see somethin’, fella?”

The man stood inches from Jared, the toes of his pointed boots just above his head.  Still as stone, he held his breath. 

The search would continue for awhile.  Jared’s wagon had been discovered in the midst of the trees, still hitched to the two horses that pulled it.   The runaway slaves Jared had spirited away from three different plantations were nowhere to be found.

    
             
“Sumbitch wagon driver must be a boogeyman,” another man grouched.  “He jus’ done disappeared.  They ain’t nothin’ down there in that water.”

The man remained a moment longer, an eternity to Jared. 

“I guess you’re right.  Findin’ him would be good, but we need those runaways to go wit’ him.  Mr. Duplantier ain’t gonna be too happy,” he finished, walking away.

The remaining dog barked furiously, riling his companions again.  The other dogs returned to the edge of the bayou, filling the night with querulous noise.

“Git back here, you goddamn mangy varmints!”

It took a few moments, but the men finally got the dogs away from the bayou’s banks.  The men searched the hazy woods and surrounding area for any evidence that would lead them to their runaways.  Finally, grumbling in bitter defeat, they departed, taking the horses, dogs and wagon with them.

    
             
Long after the howling of the dogs and the voices of the men faded, Jared  lifted himself out of the bayou.  Dirty brown water dripped from his clothes and he swore softly.  Shuddering at the rancid odor, he emerged from the tree shadows.

 

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He walked a mile to the spot where he’d left his regular clothing and changed from his wet and muddy black regalia.  He couldn't risk riding across Louisiana in renegade clothing and always changed into a gentleman's attire after he completed his missions.

    
             
Tonight, he had been spotted before he got to the hollowed-out tree trunk to change.

    
             
Annoyed at the delay, Jared whistled, low.  The black thoroughbred pranced up to his side, nuzzling him like a puppy.  Briefly, Jared stroked the horse's velvety muzzle, then flung himself into the saddle, thinking of his head strong wife waiting at the cabin he used for his missions.

             
She was delicate, sweet, and knew how to calm him with a mere smile.  He’d met her three years ago while in Boston on business and not long after he returned from his native Scotland to bury his father.  She’d found a soft spot inside of him, a calm in the storm of his life, and he’d fallen in love for the very first time.

    
             
Bloody damn, but he shouldn’t have allowed Patricia to talk him into bringing her with him tonight.  All week, she’d begged him to take her along.  She had finally convinced him that she could be of some help.  Too deep in the South for a true station along the Underground Railroad, Jared usually went to the cabin to rest after his weekly missions.  Or sometimes, he’d take an ill slave there to restore him or her back to health before sending the slave to the next stop.  Either way, when she was with him on his missions, Patricia always made herself useful.  They would talk of their plans to return to Lismore Castle in Scotland, and start a family or she’d assist in nursing the ill slaves back to health.

The near miss with the catchers had left him grim, though he really had nothing to fear.  His boyhood friend, Robert, was with Patricia and would do everything in his power to protect her.

 

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Unable to halt his misgivings, Jared kept off the traveled road, the moon guiding him away from any lurking patrollers.  He shivered, felt a heavy pall in the air beneath the indigo sky and eerie, deserted night.

 

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An hour later, Jared halted the stallion at the edge of the clearing beside the little shack.  Not even a bullfrog's deep-throated croak broke the hot summer night's ominous silence.

             
Instantly, all thoughts of the success he'd had that evening vanished.  Suddenly, the cicadas’shrill whir sounded in the stillness and he realized it had been missing until then.  Goose bumps raised on his flesh.  The creak of the half-open cabin door carried on the wind.  The stallion's ears perked. 

Jared leapt from the steed's back.  Fear gripped him as he rushed toward the cabin, pushing open the door.  A cry, echoing the haunting sound of a howling wolf, escaped his lips.

   
             
Moonlight streamed through the windows, outlining Patricia's still body. 

Blood glistened on the jagged wound in her chest.  She lay sprawled on the cold

floor in the middle of the sparsely furnished room, her dress ripped and bloody, a

devastating sight.

    
             
He fell to his knees and gathered his wife into his arms.  "Patricia! Patricia!"  Her name came out as a tormented moan.  Icy anguish settled into his limbs, his dreams of a long, happy life with his beloved wife slipping away like water through a sieve.

    
             
"Ja…"   She tried to draw air into her lungs and speak again but shuddered, the little color left in her face draining away.  She gasped and gurgled.

Then silence.

 

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Patricia's green eyes stared lifelessly at him.  Trembling in horrified disbelief, Jared laid his cheek against her pale blonde hair.  He rocked her back and fort, whispering to her, clinging to her limp body.  Weeping piteously, he held her until, finally, his stunned senses realized her body had grown cold.  Gently, he laid her down. 

             
Standing, he looked around for Robert.  His friend lay near, face up in a puddle of blood, a gaping hole between his eyes.  Other than the empty oil lamp and a vase broken nearby on the floor, Jared saw no sign of a forced entry or evidence that the cabin had been searched.  The killer must have happened upon the cabin and caught Patricia and Robert unawares.  Everything in Jared told him his friend would not have died easy.   Robert never would have allowed anyone to savage Patricia without attempting to defend her. 

    
             
Dear God in Heaven!  Robert!  And his sweet, darling Patricia!  Had she suffered much?  Burying his face in his hands, Jared wept anew, his broken sobs piercing the deadly silence.

    
             
His Patricia, so full of life, so full of love--love for him.  She would never smile with him again--laugh with him again--or even cry with him again.  How could he live without her?  If one of them had to die, why couldn't it have been him?

    
             
And Robert--who had shared so much with him.  How could he fill the hole Robert left in his life?  Who could have done this to them?  Whoever it was would know his unyielding vengeance.  A Highlander born and bred, he had his people’s personal sense of justice.

    
             
Before he discovered the culprit and meted out his own punishment, however, Jared had to brace himself for the task of burying the two most important people in his life.

 

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Moonlight glinted on a silver object inside the doorway, reflecting a distorted gleam in Jared's tear-stained eyes.  He walked over and picked it up, carefully studying the heavily ornate sterling snuffbox in his hand.  Turning it over, he saw the inscription 'Ricard Duplantier, Crescent Wood' engraved on the back.

    
             
One thought barely formed in Jared’s tortured brain before others tumbled in.  Crescent Wood cut through his fogged senses and embedded itself.

Crescent Wood was a huge, sprawling plantation big enough to harvest both cane and cotton.  Crescent Wood was the largest plantation around, with the most to lose from slaves that ran.  Bloody hell! A good field slave cost over a thousand dollars.  Tonight, he had taken five escapees from Crescent Wood.

    
             
Had someone leaked information to Ricard, heir to Crescent Wood?   Was there some hidden strength to the supposedly spineless Ricard Duplantier that had sent him after the fugitives?

    
             
Ricard Duplantier.  Had
he
ravaged and killed Patricia in revenge, after somehow discovering Jared had stolen some of Crescent Wood’s slaves to set on a path to freedom?

BOOK: Underground Captive
11.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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