William squinted against the sunlight pouring upon his face through the window. Every muscle in his body screamed in pain, even his eyelids ached. An intense throb began in his skull. He jerked his head up from his desk and sat straight. Cursing, he rubbed his eyes as he tried to remember what had caused him to sleep in his study instead of going upstairs to join his wife in their bed. He stretched his stiff neck and rolled his achy shoulders.
The pitter-patter of small feet echoed outside his study mere seconds before the door flung open. James, still wearing his nightshirt, came running toward him. William stood and stepped toward his son.
Mercedes’ body screamed in pain. Her skull had long since stopped throbbing, but being in one position for a lengthy amount of time stiffened every muscle in her body. When Captain Wilkes wasn’t looking, she’d tugged both her arms and legs, trying to free herself from the ropes. But to no avail. After several hours, she slumped in the corner in exhaustion.She leaned her head against the wall. Where was William? She blinked back tears threatening to streak down her face. Crying wouldn’t assist William in rescuing her, so why waste her energy?Henry had stepped outside the barn, and rel
Mercedes screamed and pressed her body firmly to her husband, closing her eyes. Silently, she prayed his life would be spared.Off in the distance, a man’s shout rent the air, and seconds later, another pistol fired. And then something thumped heavily on the ground. Mercedes snapped her head up. No longer was Kat standing over them holding a pistol. Instead, she lay on the ground as blood covered her chest.William’s gasp alerted Mercedes to someone walking their way
by Marie HigginsCopyright © 2011 by Marie Higgins / revised 2017Her twin sister had gone mad.
Dorchester, two weeks laterMercedes Maxwell stepped down from the stagecoach, breathing a heavy sigh. The trip had been too long, and jostled her around so much the coiled hair style at the base of her neck fell in a disarray of curls. The constant sway of the coach made her feel like she’d been on a ship at times, especially when she closed her eyes. If not for all the dusty dryness coating her mouth, she would have thought she’d been tossed by waves instead. Thankfully it was early spring and the summer humidity wasn’t yet upon them.
Silence stretched through the crowd as all eyes aimed toward Mercedes. Even the horses seemed remarkably quiet. Panic grew inside her chest like rising dough, suffocating her slowly. They all expected an explanation—one she couldn’t give.“My dear.” Mr. Braxton took a step closer. “Will you please clarify why you were running from me?”All of this was a mistake. She needed to set the matter straight. Now. Although she assumed Mr. Braxton’s change of attitude was all for show, her heart leapt at the tenderness he displayed. That could be the only reason her mind had go
Why did she return?William Braxton paced the green and gold Aubusson carpet in the parlor, hands clenched into fists. Where was Mrs. Braxton? What was taking her so long? Rather than cooling off as he should since they arrived home, his anger intensified.Usually an understanding man, he couldn’t forgive her this time for leaving without a word, amongst the other crimes she’d committed since their wedding. For the past few months, his life had hung by a thread, and any more catastrophes could send him to his doom.
Mercedes furrowed her eyebrows. Why did that inconsiderate man question her attire? Studying her image in the fancy glass on the mirrored sidebar, she wiped her moist palms down her skirt. Nothing was wrong with her dress. It was certainly more proper than the gowns she’d found hanging in her sister’s closets.Her thoughts quickly came to a halt and her heart sank. Realization turned her blood cold. She’d have to dress in the same manner her sister had. Kat never once dressed modestly when she lived at home, so why would she change after marriage? Why hadn’t Mercedes thought of this before she decided to play her twin?
Staring at herself in the full-length mirror, Mercedes groaned and twisted her mouth in distaste. The indecent rusty-red evening gown trimmed with black lace looked horrid on her. Besides exposing a lot of her shoulders and bosom, it was much too tight. The stays nearly squeezed the breath right out of her. Several times she struggled to lift the shoulders so they wouldn’t drop down her arms so far, but they refused to go the way she wanted. No way would she be seen like this. She couldn’t even look at herself without blushing. How would she react when others rested their eyes on her?“Beth? Could you choose another gown for me?”