Gentle suspense. Tortured heroes. Mischievous heroines.

Friday, June 26, 2015

When her home burns down her only option is to move to a Texas ranch

Prism Book Group News!

When their South Carolina home burns to the ground, Anna Stewart's only choice is to move with her younger brother to the wilds of a Texas ranch.

Their prospects are beginning to look better, until the rancher's son, Jacob O'Brien, shows up with his alarmingly blue eyes to put a kink in Anna's well-controlled plans.

When danger escalates in the form of a band of cattle thieves with deadly intent, can Anna learn to release control to God's capable hands...and those of the blue-eyed cowboy who's stolen her heart?
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Copyright 2015 © Misty M. Beller
The acrid air was thick and hazy as nineteen-year-old Anna Stewart struggled to sit up in bed. Confused and disoriented, she looked around. What woke her? Her mind refused to focus.
“Anna…” The voice was distant, as if coming from another world. Why is it so hot in my room? Edward must have put too much wood on the fire before bed. She tried to focus on something—anything—but her mind was thick mud and her chest ached.
Need air. The craving consumed her. Bolting from her bed, she ran toward the doorway.Thud. Clang. Her hands hit rough wood and warm metal. Scrambling to her right, she tripped and fumbled for something familiar. Panic rose in her chest. The darkness slowed her down like a sea of murky water, then Anna’s shin struck solid metal and she lost her balance. The floor rose up to meet her, and she landed hard, a moan escaping between gasps.
Edward’s voice broke through the smoke like the sun parting the clouds. Or maybe it wasn’t her brother, but God calling her home to heaven. The fog in her mind suffocated every thought. And then strong arms lifted her like a limp sack. Thick, smoky air whispered across her skin as she was jostled down the stairs.
* * *
Air. Anna gulped in a blessed breath then forced open her stinging eyes. Her chest was on fire and a coughing fit seized her. Sucking in another breath, she looked around in the dim light. She lay on a rough blanket in the grass, with people scurrying around. Confusion muddled her mind as she struggled to sit up.
“Edward?” She croaked past the shooting pain in her lungs.
“Here, sis. I’m here.”
Relief flooded her and she twisted around. Concern etched her fifteen-year-old brother’s youthful face as he knelt beside her.
“What happened?” Anna rasped.
“It burned, Anna. All of it.” Edward’s voice cracked. “All of Columbia’s been burned to the ground by them heathen Yanks.” His words tumbled faster as his brown eyes grew wide.
“Our candle shop?” Her heart thudded faster as she waited for his answer.
“Gone. Everything we own. And Emmett’s Dry Goods, too.”
“Thank God Mrs. Emmett is away visiting her sister,” Anna mumbled. Her mind ached as she forced it to focus on the words her brother uttered.
“Thank God? Thank God? How can you thank God when people are homeless or dead all around us? We are homeless.” The vehemence in Edward’s voice wrenched Anna’s heart as she stared at the ache in his wide brown eyes.
She pulled him into an embrace and his body went limp. Her little brother… How she wanted to make his hurt go away. But, what now? Surely not all of their things were burned. With Papa away in the war, would God leave them totally stranded?
Taking a deep breath, Anna sat back and tried to turn on her soft southern drawl that always seemed to soothe. “C’mon, honey. Let’s go home and see what’s left.”
As she rose, a breeze tickled Anna’s ankles. She glanced down at her cotton nightgown, coated in soot and grime and a bit worse for the wear. To maintain a scrap of modesty, she crossed her arms in front of her.
Anna glanced around to get her bearings. People milled around the small grassy area. Most of those present were huddled in little groups—some crying and some appearing to be in shock. Remnants of smoke still clung to the air, shrouding the atmosphere in a dismal cloak.
“This way.” Her brother led the way down the muddy street. As they walked, they passed black skeletons of buildings—charred remains sticking out in jagged angles with smoke still rising from their midst. The buildings looked eerily familiar, like dear friends who were disfigured almost beyond recognition.
Edward paused in front of a structure that was almost unrecognizable in its horrid condition. The candle shop and their home. Nothing was left. No bright red sign over the door announcing Stewart’s Candle Shop. No second story windows with the pretty blue curtains where their home had been. Just two stairs leading up to the porch and black smoldering ashes. Her heart sank and tightness pulled in her chest. What now?


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