A Vow Fulfilled & Giveaway (Chapter 6)
Set in 1800 South Carolina, this serial anthology follows the romantic adventure of Miss Celia Sheldon.
Excerpts written by . . .
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Turner yanked Celia into his arms as an explosion of sound tore through the forest. She nestled closer, her slender hands clasped around the lapels of his waist coat in a death grip, her face buried in the safety of his neck, her warm breath sending shivers of awareness skating down his spine. Her bonnet had fallen back, the ribbons knotted loosely at her neck, a riot of honeyed curls falling in waves around her shoulders. He tightened his arms around her, resting his cheek against her hair, filling his lungs with the scent of her.
Movement beside Turner made him glance up. The blast from Elijah’s shotgun had left the woods shrouded in a fog of gunpowder, the biting odor stinging his eyes and nose, making him cough. Through the haze, Turner could just make out the shadow of Celia’s servant walking toward Gaskins, then leaning over to pick something off the ground.
“Mercy, I han’t seen nothin’ this big slithering around these parts since I was knee-high to a peanut,” Elijah said, studying the length of snake hanging from his clutched fist. “Got the makin’s of a good stew.”
Gaskin cringed. “You could have killed a body.”
Elijah lifted the barrel of his gun toward the man. “Still might iffen you don’t throw your gun down.”
A soft thud fell against the damp leaves. Elijah and the pastor both reached the man at the same time, wrestling him to the ground. Over to the side, his cousin William was taking full advantage of Miss Mabel’s fright, his arms around her, whispering inaudible words against her ear. Whatever intentions William may have had for Celia had quickly vanished, replaced by his fear of losing the woman in his arms.
Turner frowned. How would Celia take being thrown over for an upstart?
Leaning back, he looked down at Celia’s up-turned face, ribbons of golden curls falling over her shoulders and down her back, brushing against his forearm in a soft caress. Resolve and a kind of sadness had replaced the sassiness that had sparkled in her eyes just moments earlier. For the briefest of moments, he longed to comfort her, to lower his head to hers and kiss her until there was no pain; just the two of them. But he wouldn’t, not until he made her understand his part in his cousin’s deceitful plan. “Yes, dearest?’
If she noticed the endearment, she didn’t acknowledge it, pulling away from him until he had no choice but to release her. “Gregory only wanted to marry me for your grandfather’s inheritance and for the combined wealth of our families. But what of you? What did you stand to gain from kidnapping me?”
Taking her arm, he led her away from the others, but close enough to guard her reputation. The evening breeze blew softly through the water oaks, the lacy tendrils of Spanish moss dancing on the wind, the warm musky scent of the rising tide more pungent than just moments before. He turned to face her, once again caught off guard by his reaction to her beauty. True, Celia Sheldon was lovely but there was something more, a resolve that hid her vulnerability. He fought the urge to take her in his arms again.
He drew in a deep breath. “A ring.”
Celia stared at him as if he had gone mad. “You kidnapped me for a ring?”
“It’s my mother’s betrothal ring.” He studied her. “It was stolen not long after my father’s death last winter.”
A silence stretched out between them. For a long moment, Turner thought all hope of gaining her understanding was lost when her slender hand settled gently on his forearm. “I’m so sorry, Turner.”
“Thank you,” he answered, closing his hand over hers, unwillingly to relinquish this small expression of her concern. “My mother grieves his passing greatly, even more so since discovering that her ring had been taken. Fortunate for me, I received a note a few days ago from one of my father’s friends who knew the ring and saw it.”
He smiled down at her. “At a ball that your father gave last week to celebrate your impending marriage.”
“Oh,” Celia whispered, looking down at her hand as if picturing the ruby setting against her finger before dropping her hand to her side. “And what of your grandfather’s estate? Surely, you have an interest in claiming your rightful inheritance.”
Turner shook his head. “My father estate and my own business endeavors will provide very nicely for my children and my children’s children long after I’ve received my reward. My only interest in anything concerning my cousin was in procuring my mother’s ring.”
“I only wished I still wore it,” she said but adding. “So that I could have returned it to its rightful owner.”
“Now, may I ask you a question?”
Celia hesitated for a moment then nodded.
“If you never intended to marry William, why did you accept his offer in the first place?”
She lowered her gaze, her dark lashes fanning out against the creamy skin of her cheek. “I’m not exactly sure. Only that my father thought it was a good match.”
Tenderly cupping her chin in the palm of his hand, he tilted her head back until their gazes met. “Did you love him?”
She gave a very unladylike snort. “From my perspective, property and wealth carry a great deal more importance in the making of a marriage than so called love.”
Not exactly the answer one would expect from a lady of marriageable age, but it did provide an answer to the trail of broken hearts Celia had left in her wake. “You don’t believe that a mutual affection and respect are necessary for a happy union?”
“I might be more apt to believe in such things if I had witnessed such a match.” Celia took a step back, her hand trembling as she smoothed the front of her gown. “But there have been none in my acquaintance.”
Something in her manner, a sadness around her eyes that spoke of girlish dreams, visions of love and romance broken pushed him to take a step toward her. “I’m sorry, Celia. Sometimes, I forget how blessed I am to have had parents who had so much affection and admiration for each other.”
She lowered her gaze. “It must have been lovely, growing up like that.”
“Yes, it was,” Lifting his hand from his side, Turner traced the delicate line of her chin, warmth shooting up his arm and across his chest before settling around the region of his heart. He lifted her face until her eyes met his. “And it is a vow I have made to myself, to marry only for love and respect as God intended.”
“I very much like that vow,” she whispered, leaning toward him, her eyes a sliver of vivid blue peeking from under a fringe of dark lashes. She moved closer, lifting her lips in an unspoken invitation.
He couldn’t deny himself this one kiss any more than he could forget to take in his next breath of air. Turner lowered his head, gently brushing his mouth against hers before settling his lips against hers. She lifted her arms and wrapped them around his neck, burying her fingers into his hair, bringing him closer. He tightened his hold of her, a feminine bundle of silk and lace in his embrace. Never in all of his days would he forget this moment, when he fell in love with Celia Sheldon.
They both jumped, the word exploding on the air like a bullet out of old Elijah’s shotgun. But the man coming toward them was a great deal older, regal. A gentleman by all accounts right down to the double barrel pistol aimed at Turner’s chest. He shoved Celia behind him, ready to take a bullet rather than have even one hair on her lovely head put in harm’s way.
“Papa, what are you doing here?”
Mr. Sheldon stared at Turner, his cheeks a shade of fiery red, his lips pressed into an unforgiving line. “You were back due home almost three hours ago, young lady. Do you have any idea how frantic your mother is?”
“I’m sorry, but. . .” He felt her take a deep breath. “My driver fell ill, and we had to stop.”
“Yes, I found your driver.” Sheldon glared at him, his finger trembling at the trigger. “With a nice sized goose egg on the back of his head. He told me you had been kidnapped by this man.”
Celia stepped around him, standing by his side. “It was all a misunderstanding.”
“A misunderstanding?” her father repeated, eyeing them both. “Well, there will be no misunderstanding this, young lady. If word gets out about your so-called abduction, no one in polite society will ever welcome you in their home again.”
“Mr. Sheldon,” Turner started. “If you will allow me to explain.”
But Celia’s father wasn’t finished, staring down at his daughter. “You have dodged the matrimony bullet for the last time. According to the reverend, you and this man have made vows before God and man, and are but the stroke of a quill away from marriage. First thing tomorrow morning, I will see that the papers are signed.”
“But Papa,” Celia rushed forward and grabbed her father’s arm. “Turner and I hardly know each other.”
“You should have thought of that before that display. You will either marry this man. . .” He waved the pistol toward Turner, his face growing redder by the moment. “Or it will be pistols at dawn!”
Contributed by Patty Smith Hall
A VOW FULFILLED SERIAL SCHEDULE
3/11 Overcoming with God hosting MaryLu Tyndall
3/12 Laurie Alice Eakes hosts Roseanna White
3/13 Cross and Cutlass hosts Debbie Lynne Costello
3/14 Patty Smith Hall hosts Gina Welborn
3/15 Writing Roseanna hosts Carrie Fancett Pagels
3/18 Inkwell Inspirations hosts Patty Smith Hall
Tomorrow concludes A VOW FULFILLED and our fun blog hop. Chapter Seven will be hosted by Debby Lynne Costello's blog, Sword and Spirit, hosts Laurie Alice Eakes.
SERIOUS QUESTION OF THE DAY:: Celia made a rather flippant vow about who she would marry. Have you ever made a vow and regretted it? What made you break that agreement you'd made? Or did you stick with your vow despite the consequences?
NON-SERIOUS QUESTION OF THE DAY:: Ack! How do you think Celia is going to get out of this pickle? Or will she?
And don't forget our giveaways . . . so leave a comment!