Mercedes blew on her cold hands. Her nerves jittered out of control, making her body shake from more than just the cool night breeze. She slowed her horse, leading him at the back of the jail. Voices from the soldiers out front of the building echoed through the night.
She reassured herself everything would turn out perfect. She had nothing to fear. William would make certain of that. After dismounting, she tiptoed to the back window and peeked inside. Henry Wilkes sat in a chair, leaning his elbow on the table as he twirled a stick between his fingers. It appeared as if he were the only person inside.
The following morning, Katherine groaned as she held her head. The constant throb had gotten worse, and it wasn’t from last night’s entertainment, either. She suffered from some kind of illness, but so far, no physician could tell her why the headaches remained constant and happened more frequently.Forcing her eyelids open, she glanced around the bedroom and scowled. Her sister had moved into William’s room, and it took all of Kat’s willpower to crawl into William’s bed last night. Thankfully, he hadn’t joined her.Father had wanted Mercedes to marry William and had though
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.