Category Archives: Last Day of Forever

The Last Day of Forever – Excerpt 8

This excerpt is from about in the middle of the story, Chapter 16.

Cover B1CRed BlogAs we entered the photographer’s studio, a gentleman in his fifties greeted us. He was somewhat hunched over and wearing wire-rimmed glasses barely hanging on the end of his nose. His hair was disheveled and sticking out at odd angles from his head. “May I help you?”

“We would like our photographs taken. Can you do it today?”

“Yes, of course, a tintype? Step into my studio,” he said as he held the curtain back for us. “How would you like them, together or separate?”

“Together,” replied Rachel. “One must fit this locket, and the other this watch. Can you do that?”

“It will not be a problem,” he said as he ushered us over to the set. “Have a seat, sir,” he said to me as he adjusted the location of a chair that stood before his camera. Hold your cap in your hand beside you and up close to your body. Sit up straight.” He then clamped the back of my head in some device to help me hold perfectly still for the long exposure.

Behind the chair was a painted scene meant to convey the feeling of the outdoors and failed miserably to do so. A Doric column fern stand stood nearby with several books on top to serve as a prop.

“And you, Miss, stand beside him and place your hand on his shoulder thusly. A little closer. Very good! Now, you, sir, lift your cap a little higher. There, that’s fine.” He moved behind the camera and pulled a black cloth over his head. “Very good,” he muttered from under the hood.

“This isn’t what I had in mind,” said Rachel.

“Just what did you have in mind?” I asked being careful not to move my head, fearful that clamping device might somehow decapitate me.

“Something a bit more intimate.”

I immediately looked up at her, and the “guillotine” fell over onto the floor with a loud clatter. “Intimate?”

“Oh dear, you moved, sir,” said the photographer as he came out from under his hood.

Rachel removed her hand from my shoulder. “Sir, I would like a different pose.”

“Intimate?” I whispered to myself as all manner of “intimate” visions entered my head, none appropriate for the situation.

“What do you have in mind, Miss?”

She looked around and spied what she wanted against a wall. “I want to use that settee.”

“This is highly irregular,” he said as if confused.

“She wants the settee, sir,” I replied as I stood and moved the chair aside.

With the settee placed before the camera, Rachel took over direction of the photograph. “Have a seat, Ethan, over to one side.” She turned to the photographer. “All I want is from the waist up. Can you get it all in?”

He muttered to himself as he went under the black cloth once more. “All of it.”

“Very well,” she replied as she took her seat beside me. “Put your arms around me, Ethan.” I obeyed, and she leaned against my chest, her face beside mine. She then pulled my arms around her waist and pinned them against her with her own as she snuggled in more comfortably. “Don’t be afraid to squeeze me a little.” I pulled her tighter. “How is that, sir?” she asked the photographer.

“Highly irregular,” he muttered from under his black cloth as he adjusted his camera’s position slightly.

“Can you get it all?” asked Rachel.

“All of it, but highly irregular.”

“Good. This is what we want.”

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The Last Day of Forever – Excerpt 7

Cover B1CRed BlogSince I am running behind in getting this thing published, I figured I had better get another excerpt out and give you a taste of the other end of the book. This excerpt is from Chapter 25. Our hero, Ethan, has finished school and is a newly commissioned second lieutenant assigned to the 1st Regiment of Mounted Riflemen at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. He has just met his commanding officer and been assigned to Fort Fillmore along the Rio Grande in New Mexico Territory. Here, he is about to meet his senior NCO.

A sergeant with flaming red hair and a square jaw that looked like it was cut from granite was standing outside the door. A handlebar mustache of gigantic proportions, neatly waxed on the ends, dominated his face. He was tall, almost as tall as I am and thin and hard. He was also bowlegged, like he had spent his entire life in the saddle and might even been born there. His blue uniform was faded, and he wore his kepi at a jaunty angle, low across his eyes.

“You must be Sergeant Sullivan,” I said.

In a thick Irish brogue, he answered, “Aye, lad, and you must be my new shave tail … er … I mean Lieutenant Davis.” Without waiting for me to respond, he added, “Grab your kit, Lieutenant. The day isn’t a getting any cooler. I see ya brung yer own mount, nice gray ya have, sir. We’re ready to leave if you are, and I ‘spect you are. Come along, lad.” He turned and headed out the door, and I dutifully followed.

A wagon loaded with supplies and three mounted troopers looking as scared as I was trying not to look were waiting outside on the parade ground. “These boys are replacements. Ya gonna ride yer gray or in the wagon with me—Sir?” He said looking me up and down. That “sir” was added almost as an afterthought.

“The wagon with you. We have much to talk about.”

He nodded. “Aye, ‘spect we have. Climb aboard, Sir.” Before I was fully seated, he slapped reins to the mule team, and we were off. We picked up the Rio Grande and bounced along a trail beside it headed north by northwest.

Fort Fillmore was on the eastern edge of the Gadsden Purchase, a piece of land along the Mexican border purchased from Mexico a few years prior. The Butterfield Stage Line ran through there, it being the best route to California. The Butterfield line had been in operation for only a few years and was the first such service to California. It snaked out of Kansas southwest through Indian Territory (Oklahoma), then Texas to New Mexico Territory and on into southern California and Los Angeles. In 1860 all the country between Texas and southern California was called New Mexico Territory.

The three troopers trailed behind the wagon far enough back to stay out of its dust. I took out a cigar for myself and offered another to Sergeant Sullivan.

“Don’t mind if I do,” he said as he took the offered cigar and drew it under his nose. “And a fine one it tis.” He bit off the end, spit it out, and stuck the cigar in his mouth. From his pocket he retrieved a match and struck it on the wagon seat. “Light?” I lit my cigar from the offered match, then he lit his own. “I hear yer from Louisiana.”

“Catahoula Parish.”

“And yer not West Point?”

“Virginia Military Institute.”

He looked at me as if I had said something wrong. “Out here, ya may as well forget everything they taught ya.”

“I suspected as much. Tell me about New Mexico.”

“Its damn hot! And damn dusty! And if ya ain’t careful, damn dangerous! If the Injuns don’t worry ya none, ya can fret over the Mexican bandits, or the rattlers, or the Gilas, or the scorpions, or them rat-sized spiders they have out here.” He spit out a piece of tobacco. “Other than that it’s a grand place. And to think, I left Ireland for all this.” He looked at me with a wry grin. “Yes, I’m Irish. Dropped the O from me name so-as I would fit in better in my new country.”

As if I had not figured that out.

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The Last Day of Forever – Update

I had intended to have Catahoula Book 1 – The Last Day of Forever published by February 1. Obviously, that did not happen. Moving the business I manage into new office space took more of my time than I anticipated. SPAR, Inc. has been moved, although, we are not entirely unpacked yet. I have, however, been able to get back to the finishing touches on my two books.

We are getting close! I think it is time, as our teachers in school used to say, to “Put down your pencils and turn in your papers.”

At this point, I am afraid to give a date. The eBook version will likely be available before the paperback. Formatting that has proven to be a challenge, but it is almost done.

I apologize for the delay. I am working as fast as I can. Stand by…

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The Last Day of Forever – Excerpt 6

Here is another excerpt from The Last Day of Forever.

. . .

Cover B1CRed BlogLaura and Rachel had spent the last few moments eyeing each other up like two tomcats about to scrap, but I could not imagine why. “Well now, Laura, I must apologize for not bringing Rachel by for a visit, but I have been terribly busy since we returned. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”

I noticed Rachel rolled her eyes when I said that.

“That’s no excuse, Ethan. I’m not sure if I should forgive you just now.” Her expression turned instantly from a frown to a smile. “Rachel, we simply must spend some time together. I’m sure we’ll be good friends. Will you be at Catahoula for very long?”

“I’ll be making my home here. My mother passed away recently, and Ethan’s father has kindly agreed to take me into his home as one of the family.” With that Rachel smiled, but even I could see it was forced.

“Oh, I see. This arrangement is permanent?”

“Quite.”

“I lost my own mother a few years ago, so I know how you must feel. Well, I’m sure we will get along just famously. Won’t we, Ethan?”

“Of course,” I replied, but it was becoming quite clear even to me that such would not likely be the case.

“And you’re Ethan’s cousin?” Laura asked with a nod of her head.

“No. We’re not related. I’m the ward of his father.”

Laura looked at me as she replied to Rachel. “I see . . . ” She took a deep breath then said, “Come along, Ethan. Let’s find our pew.” With that she fairly dragged me by the arm up the steps into the church.

My mother, Sarah, and Laura’s father were already seated at the far side of the pew, leaving room for the rest of us. I stood aside to allow Rachel and Laura to be seated. They each gestured for the other to go first, but neither moved to accept the offer. For a moment I was sure they would fight over who would be the more polite.

“Rachel!” snapped my mother in an assertive whisper.

Rachel gave in with a huff and sat beside Analee. Laura smiled in triumph and took a seat beside her. That left me on the end of the pew with Laura between Rachel and me.

“Ethan,” whispered Laura, “we have so much to talk about. I missed you terribly. And I am truly upset you have not called on me since you got back. You must make it up to me.”

I had not expected her to be as mad as she was, and I wondered why she had suddenly become so desirous of my company. Laura and I had been friends since we were kids. Lately, she had become somewhat possessive of me and had even mentioned marriage on more than one occasion. I never gave the subject much thought. My attentions were focused on school and gaining a commission in the Army. With Morgan’s help, I had been admitted to the Virginia Military Institute. With four years of school ahead, marriage was not an immediate concern.

Laura was a pretty girl with blond hair and blue eyes and was one of those rare women who grows lovelier with age. At seventeen she was attractive enough, but when I saw her three years later, she was strikingly beautiful.

After the services, Laura pulled me aside, and we walked by the cemetery and talked. I should say, Laura talked; I mostly listened. “Ethan, whatever am I to do when you leave for school? It’ll be so lonely around here. Will you write?”

“Of course . . . ”

“Every day? Every single day?”

“Well, I’m not su . . . ”

“This Rachel, where did she come from? What is she to you?”

“A friend of­­ . . . ”

“She is a strange little girl.”

“I expect she would scratch your eyes out, if you called her a little girl to her face.”

“That’s what she is.”

“You underestimate her.”

“You like her, don’t you?”

“She sort of grows on you.”

Laura put on her pouting face. “I think I’m jealous of her.”

“Why?”

“She has your attention. She is with you every day, and I see you only on Sunday. You might fall in love with her.”

“Laura, she is only fourteen years old.”

She stopped and turned to face me. “And I think now it is you who underestimates her.” She sighed. “Come along, Ethan, my father is ready to leave. Perhaps you will be so kind as to give me a ride home, so I can spend some small amount of time with you?”

I helped my mother and Sarah into the carriage then turned my attention to a very sullen Rachel. I could not imagine what had come over her. I helped Laura up, and we hit another of those impasses like the one at the pew. My mother and Sarah had taken a seat in the rear of the landau. Rachel seated herself in the center of the front seat. “Move over a bit, Rachel,” said Laura with a smile.

“I thought you might like to sit on the side where you would be more comfortable,” replied Rachel as she gestured to the seat beside her.

“You may have that seat. I will be just fine in the middle next to Ethan.”

“Oh no. I insist. I wouldn’t want you to be uncomfortable. I am so much smaller than you. The middle won’t be a bother for me.”

I noticed a brief flash of anger on Laura’s face. “I insist,” she replied firmly. “This is your carriage . . . ”

I decided this had gone far enough. “I’ll sit in the middle! Push over Rachel, unless you want me in your lap.” Rachel slid over, Laura took the other outside seat, and I sat between them. I looked up at my mother and saw she was trying to hide what looked like a smile behind a handkerchief as she dabbed perspiration from her lip and pretended interest in the nearby cemetery. My sister stared off into the woods as if she was oblivious to what had just happened. Either she was indeed dazed and confused, not an unusual condition for her, or she had just felt the sharp point of my mother’s elbow in her ribs as warning not to interfere.

. . .

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The Last Day of Forever – Excerpt 5

This excerpt if from The Last Day of Forever, and we find our characters in the middle of a hog hunt. The dogs in this scene are Catahoula Curs, now a recognized breed and the Official Louisiana State dog. Enjoy.

His eyes closed as he listened intently, Little Zeke focused on the sound of the dogs. “They moved off to our right and away.” After only ten minutes or so, the bugles turned to barks. “They’re on him, Massa Ethan. It’s another boar. I can tell by hiz grunts. And he’s a big one. They’re over by the swamp.”

The sound was coming from the general direction of where Rachel and I had seen Old Bull back in June. “There’s no catch pen over there. Old Zeke, bring the wagon around. You can pick up this one later. Let’s ride!”

I swung up into the saddle and jammed my heels into Pepper’s flanks, and he lunged into motion. Up the ridge we went and down the other side and across the creek once more. I pushed harder than before because of Zeke’s comment about it being a big hog. We came out of the woods and into another cotton field. I cut around, knowing Peyton and Morgan would have plenty to say about me trampling down cash crops had I crossed the field. Once around the field, we jumped another fence and entered the woods and down into a water-filled bottom. It was shallow and had a hard bottom, so I continued on through, it being the most direct route to the dogs.

We topped the next ridge, and my worst fears were realized. The dogs were on Old Bull, and he had one dog down already! Rachel topped the ridge right behind me and immediately recognized Old Bull. Morgan and Zeke were right behind her and looked down at the melee below.

“We got trouble!” exclaimed Zeke.

“Ethan, what are you going to do now?” asked Rachel.

I sighed, because I didn’t want to think about what I was going to have to do. The other times we got on Old Bull, there was a catch pen nearby, and we had fooled him into it twice. I knew that wouldn’t likely happen a third time, besides there was no catch pen near. I either had to shoot him or catch him by hand.

“Trouble, huh,” said Morgan.

“Big trouble,” I replied. “And we have a dog down already.”

“What are you going to do, Ethan?” asked Morgan.

Looking down at Old Bull, I blew a few times, as I steeled myself, then answered in a low voice, “Catch him.” I swung my leg over Pepper’s head and slid out of the saddle to the ground. After I handed the reins to Morgan, I pulled two short ropes from the saddle bag and tucked them under my belt behind my back, one on each side, then tossed two more to Zeke.

“Let the dogs tire him a bit before we go down there, Massa Ethan,” urged Zeke with apprehension in his voice.

Until Zeke said that, Rachel hadn’t realized what I meant by catching him. She looked at me incredulously. “You’re going to flip him like you did that sow, aren’t you? Ethan, are you crazy?”

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The Last Day of Forever – Excerpt 4

Here is another short excerpt from The Last Day of Forever. Enjoy.

My mother is a woman of quick and decisive action. She inquired at the desk and was told there was a very nice haberdashery just a few blocks away on Royal Street. Upon entering the store, she approached the clerk. “Sir, my son is in need of some suits.”

For a moment the clerk, a well-dressed, smallish man with a thick moustache and pomaded hair, looked at me in a curious manner. I assumed he found my appearance in a poorly fitting and out of style suit distasteful in some way. In heavy, French-accented English, he replied, “Of course, Madame. I am sure we can have him fitted with a custom tailored suit in two or three days. Would you come with me, and I will show you some cloth to choose from. We have the finest selection of French broadcloth in New Orleans.”

“Two or three days? That won’t do. I must have something this very afternoon,” replied Analee assertively.

The tailor looked surprised. “But, Madame…”

She cut him off. “But, Monsieur, I must have at least one suit today.”

The tailor’s nose went up, and he looked down it at my mother. She parried with her left eyebrow. For a long moment they stared at each other in this New Orleans duel of wits. My mother obviously won the fight, as he turned to me and, with a discerning eye, looked me up and down and quickly took my measure.

He turned back to my mother, her eyebrow still raised lest he forget his place. “Madame, may I suggest a solution? I have two suits in the back. They were a special order by a young gentleman here in New Orleans, but before he could take possession he was killed in a duel. The late gentleman was about your son’s size. I am sure I could fit those suits to him this very afternoon.”

I looked at my mother thinking a dead man’s suit?

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The Last Day of Forever – Excerpt 3

Here is another brief excerpt from The Last Day of Forever, where Ethan is describing some of his family history.

My mother was the daughter of a Creole planter from New Orleans. My grandfather was a widower, having lost his two older children and later his wife to yellow fever. He took to strong drink and soon fell upon hard times. As a result of flooding two years in a row, he suffered disastrous crop failures and tried gambling to make up the losses. He proved to be as poor a gambler as he was a planter and quickly got so deep in debt he lost his land.

My mother was well educated, having been left in the care of the Ursuline nuns for her education. Not only was she intelligent, but she was also one of the most beautiful young ladies in New Orleans. She had long black hair and dark eyes to melt the heart of the hardest man. However, beauty and intelligence counted for little among the pseudo-aristocracy of New Orleans if you were without property, deep in debt, and your honor despoiled. In spite of this, she was in love with the son of a wealthy planter. The two young lovers spoke secretly of marriage, though she was barely sixteen, and he was seventeen at the time. The boy’s father would not have entertained for even a moment the suggestion that his son was contemplating marriage to the daughter of a pauper.

When Morgan Davis arrived in New Orleans, my grandfather and his daughter danced one step ahead of his creditors. Within hours of stepping off the boat, Morgan met my grandfather, who in spite of his poverty still dressed as if he were a man of means. The two struck up a casual conversation in one of the local coffee houses, and over brandy laced with bitters served in what the Creoles called a coquetier, Morgan spoke frankly of his plight. In about as much time as it takes to tell it, my mother was quite literally sold to Morgan like one of the Negroes. My grandfather’s debts were settled, and he was left with a small sum of money to start over. In exchange, my sixteen-year-old mother, sight unseen, was to become Morgan’s new bride.

It will surprise the reader to discover that Analee went along with this arrangement with only a brief protest. Now, you might ask yourself why my mother would consent to such if she were in love with another man? The answer is really quite simple: she had no other choice. She loved her father, and she knew the marriage to her young beau was impossible under the circumstances. Morgan offered financial relief for her father and a restoration of his honor only she could deliver by agreeing to the arrangement. Though older, Morgan was a handsome and wealthy gentleman, and could be quite charming when it suited him, and it suited him at this time. Thus, Analee did not find him totally unattractive.

“Honor” is a word you will see used often in this story. It is variously described as an unsullied reputation free from even the suggestion of impropriety, with perseverance in the face of adversity, unbowed by suffering, and a high disdain for those who hold to a lower standard. Honor is not viewed lightly in the Creole culture of Louisiana. It is like a magic badge bestowed by the gods. Its mere possession endows its holder with special powers and prestige, and with this often comes the right connections and at least the appearance of wealth. Personal and business relationships hinge on honor. With it you are someone; without it you are no one. Thus, the possession of honor is valuable currency. However, hypocrisy is often its stable mate, and honor can become the handmaiden of many less than honorable deeds.

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The Last Day of Forever – Excerpt 2

Here is another short excerpt from The Last Day of Forever.  Enjoy.

Rachel’s Diary

7 June 1856

This is the first entry in my diary since my mother passed away almost a month ago. My life has changed in so many ways I cannot even begin to comprehend what all this will mean for me. I need to record my thoughts, and maybe that will help me sort things out in my mind.

I’m on the sternwheeler “Shreveport Belle” headed up the Mississippi River from New Orleans bound for Catahoula Plantation on the Red River. I found a place where I can have privacy to work on my diary, a comfortable bench in front of the wheelhouse with a marvelous view of the river.

My mother’s passing was the most profound change in my life. She was my life, especially the last months she was alive, her health slowly declining, rendering her incapable of even the most basic efforts without my assistance. During that period, we became even closer than we were before. We laughed together and we wept together as we attempted to get through her terribly painful sickness.

It was hard watching my mother die, watching her deteriorate from the vivacious and loving woman I knew most of my life into the empty shell she became. In some ways, I am not yet accepting of it. I have not wept for her, not even at her funeral. I was numb, feeling nothing, as if my emotions were depleted, and I was incapable of expressing them. The hurt in my heart would not come out for me to find relief from it.

More changes came in my mother’s last days when an old friend of hers showed up, summoned by her. Morgan Davis was a friend of my long deceased father. My mother had written Uncle Morgan (as I was asked to call him) when she realized her remaining time here on earth was drawing to a close. They had not seen each other since before I was born, and they must have been close since she asked him to take responsibility for me.

When Uncle Morgan first arrived at our home in Virginia, my mother asked to be alone with him. I waited outside and could hear them talking about me. Sometimes they got quite loud, though not enough for me to understand all they said, but I knew my future was being decided in that room.

My mother called me in after they had spoken and explained what was about to happen to me. I was to be given to a complete stranger and taken away to his plantation in Louisiana–a place I knew nothing about–and joined to a family I had never met. That’s when the full impact of my mother’s pending death hit me for the first time. That’s when the fear first set in.

I looked up at Uncle Morgan, and he seemed as confused and distressed as I was, though he tried to hide it with a reassuring smile.

With my future thus settled, my mother died a few days later.

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The Last Day of Forever – Excerpt 1

What follows is a brief excerpt from chapter 1 of The Last Day of Forever, which I hope to have published in early February. Enjoy.

*****

Cover B1CRed BlogI awoke with a start, drenched with sweat, and breathing hard as I tried to orient myself. The room was in semidarkness with only a weak light coming through the small round window above my head. All was quiet except for the throbbing, mechanical sounds of a steam engine. A riverboat? “I’m on a riverboat,” I said softly to myself with a sense of relief. “I’m on a riverboat on my way to New Orleans.”

My breathing slowed as I swung my feet out of my bunk and onto the floor. That dream, I had not had it since I was a young boy. Why now? I thought. Why now?

I dressed myself and joined my mother, Analee, for a breakfast of eggs, bacon, grits and biscuits prepared by Mabel Honeycutt, the captain’s wife.

“You sleep well?” my mother asked as I took my seat at the table.

“Tolerable,” was my noncommittal reply. I did not bother to tell her about the nightmare, as she would only have reminded me it was just a dream like she did when I was a child. “Sarah up yet?”

She smiled. “You didn’t expect her to be, did you?”

I shrugged. “Brandy and Zeke get fed?”

“A little while ago,” she replied before taking a sip of her café au lait.

I pushed my plate aside, its contents half eaten.

“Something wrong, Ethan?”

“Nothing. I’m fine. I’m going topside,” I announced before pouring a tin cup of black coffee and heading up to the hurricane deck, my refuge on these trips on the Shreveport Belle.

“Morning, Ethan,” said Captain Honeycutt when I entered the wheelhouse.

“Morning, sir. When do you think we’ll reach New Orleans?”

“Early afternoon.” He gestured at the river with his ever-present corncob pipe. “The Grand Ole Lady is high and fast with a strong spring runoff. We’re moving right along.”

Captain Jonathan Honeycutt knew the river as well as any man alive, both the Red and the Mississippi. He was mostly soft spoken with a quiet manner about him, but perfectly capable of making a deckhand think the wrath of the Lord was upon him if he did wrong. He was also a student of the Bible and frequently quoted verses from memory. Being something of a student of the Scriptures myself, we often discussed the Bible when I had occasion to travel on the Shreveport Belle. But not this morning as I wanted to be alone to clear my head. I excused myself and took my cup of coffee and found my usual seat on the bench directly in front of the wheelhouse.

On my little bench high above the activities on the decks below, I had a commanding view of the Mississippi as we churned south to New Orleans. And it was peaceful there, with only the reassuring throb of the steam engines and an occasional whistle greeting between passing riverboats. I stretched out, crossed my legs and leaned against the back of the bench while I sipped my coffee and slipped into my thoughts.

That dream was still troubling me. Even though it had been a many years since I last experienced it, I knew in my heart it meant something. If nothing else, it had influenced how I felt about the “peculiar institution” of slavery.

There were other troubling “peculiarities,” so to speak, such as Brandy, my mother’s personal servant. Her mother was Martha, our mammy back at Catahoula Plantation. Mammy was very light skinned, some said at least a mulatto and maybe even a quadroon, having the white blood of some previous owner flowing through her veins. Brandy was as white as I was, even lighter, considering I was usually sun burnt from the performance of my chores caring for the animals at Catahoula and providing fresh game and fish to add variety to our meals. She was not only fair, but also very comely with dark hair and hazel eyes, and the smoothest skin I have seen on any woman. We were like brother and sister, as she was born the same day I was.

She more lived the life of the pampered daughter of the plantation owner, and it was whispered among the slaves that Brandy’s father was Morgan Davis, my mother’s husband. That would indeed make her my half-sister. When I asked my older half-brother, Peyton, about that, he only warned me not to listen to the tales the darkies tell. But I could not escape the feeling that Brandy was a slave trapped in a white woman’s skin, a foot in each world and a member of neither.

I shook my head as if to rid it of those thoughts­­—and that dream. But I could not shake the feeling that my life was about to change, and I admit I was a bit anxious about that. Some of that change was expected, as I would soon turn eighteen and be off to school at the Virginia Military Institute. This would be my last summer of adolescence. But another change loomed, one I was unsure of, because Morgan expected me to play an important role in it, one I was not all together comfortable with.

It began almost two months before when Morgan received a letter from someone he had not seen in over 14 years. As I entered his office that day, I noticed the concerned expression on his face as he read his mail at his desk. “Something wrong?”

He leaned forward in his chair and continued reading as if he had not heard me. His expression grew ever more grave.

“Father, is something wrong?”

He put the letter down on his desk and looked up but said nothing. Instead, he stared blankly and unfocused as if bewildered and struggling to comprehend what was troubling him. He shook his head as if to relieve his confusion then looked at me. “I just received some bad news.”

“What happened?”

He paused as he continued to struggle with his thoughts. “Do you remember me speaking of my friend from Virginia, John Whitcomb?”

“He died a long time ago as I recall.”

“Indeed, fourteen years ago. He left a widow and an infant daughter by the name of Rachel. Right after it happened, Jenny, his widow, wrote and told me about his death and the child. This was after I lost my bid for re-election to the House.” He paused and took a deep breath. “Well, I just got this letter from Jenny—and she’s dying.”

I knew there had to be more to it than that, and there was.

“She wants me to come to Virginia right away, before she passes, and take her daughter as my ward to raise as my own.”

*****

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The Last Day of Forever

Cover B1 In 2013 a mysterious old trunk is unlocked to reveal its long-kept secrets: diaries and a manuscript that tell the 160 year-old love story of Rachel and Ethan in antebellum Louisiana.

Orphaned, Rachel is thrust into Ethan’s family, one she doesn’t know, in the care of a man she never met, and taken to Louisiana, far from the Virginia she is familiar with. Bewildered and afraid, she finds comfort in an unexpected new relationship.

In a family caught in the throes of lies, infidelity, death, and eventually the Civil War, Ethan is struggling with changes in his own life, and with his faith. In 1856 he is just beginning his last summer of adolescence at Catahoula Plantation before going off to school at the Virginia Military Institute. Falling in love was not part of his plans—until Rachel came into his life.

Spirited and daring, she is unlike any woman he has ever known. He didn’t expect she would turn his world upside down like she does, nor did he anticipate how strongly his father would react to how they feel about each other, or the extremes to which he will go to keep them apart.

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Filed under Catahoula Books, Civil War, Last Day of Forever