Friday, January 28, 2011

Mutiny of the Heart


Book 1 in an exciting new series set in historical Charleston

By award winning author Vickie McDonough

When a young woman arrives on Lucas Reed's doorstep, claiming the small boy in her charge is his son, Lucas is certain she's a charlatan, but then he looks at the child's face—a face that remarkably resembles his own.

Charleston, South Carolina


Heather Hawthorne gazed at the monstrous homes of Charleston as another wave of doubt slammed into her with the full force of a hurricane. Was she making the right decision?

Hadn't she asked herself that question a thousand times since boarding the ship back home in Canada? Was it too late to hail the carriage driver and ask him to return them to the Charlotte Anne before it set sail for the Caribbean?

"Are we almost there, Aunt Heather?"

Smiling down at the lad she loved as her own, she ruffled his hair then found his cap on the seat and set it on his head. "Aye, dear one, we've nearly arrived."

Jamie furrowed his brow and leaned against her arm. "Do you think he will like me?"

Heather's heart clenched as she patted his soft cheek. "Of course he will."

Please, Lord. Let it be so. Holding the lad's hand, she watched the tall homes, and even taller palm trees, pass by. She hadn't seen the likes of such houses since her family left England and settled off the coast of Canada on Nova Scotia. Her poor cottage was probably a fraction of the size of the carriage houses that sat behind many of the giant homes. Nearly all had one- and two-story porches, or piazzas as she'd heard them called. Many of them faced the Charleston harbor, welcoming the cooling breezes of the sea. She lifted her head. Though she could not see the harbor at the moment, she could smell the salty air.

Lucas Reed was said to be one of the wealthiest ship- builders in the area and would certainly live in one of these large homes. No sooner had the thought taken wing than the coach slowed and stopped. Heather gasped and held her hand against her chest. The imposing brick house looming above them was three stories tall. The decorative front door was sheltered by a rounded portico supported by four massive white columns. Curved stairways on either side led up to the landing. Ivy clung to the brick below the portico and crept out onto the stairs, giving the home a soft accent.

The carriage driver lowered the steps and opened the door. "The home of Mr. Lucas Reed, miss."

She accepted the hand he held out and descended the steps, turning to check on Jamie. He shrank back, staring at her with wide blue eyes. "Don't be afraid, lad. I'll be with you."

He nodded then gathered the bag that held his favorite possessions and hopped down, looking around with a crinkled brow. "Where's the house?"

The driver chuckled and motioned toward the red brick structure. " 'Tis here, boy."

"But that's a big building." Jamie tilted his head back and looked up at the portico.

"Aye, the houses here are quite large."

Now that was an understatement if there ever was one. Heather swallowed the lump in her throat. She'd gone through so much to get here, but what if the man didn't want the boy?

Lucas Reed had more money than he knew what to do with from the looks of this house, and his reputation for helping others was widely talked about—although he surely hadn't helped Jamie's mother any. She pursed her lips, trying to maintain a proper attitude. She would see that he did right by the lad, even if she had to remain in this hated country to do so.

The coachman lifted out her satchel and Jamie's smaller one. "I shall run these up the stairs for you, miss."

She smiled, found a coin in her handbag, and paid the man when he returned to the coach. "Thank you for your service."

"Should I wait for you, miss?"

"Nay." Surely Mr. Reed could provide transportation back to the docks. Straightening her back and her resolve, she took Jamie's hand and climbed the stairs to the massive white door. She pounded the knocker and gazed around at the homes crowded together. How could one live with neighbors clustered so nearby?

The door opened, and she swallowed hard. A butler studied her, gazing down her length and back up. His eyes narrowed a bit. "How can I be of service?"

"We're here to see Mr. Reed. Is he at home?"

"Hmm. . .I don't remember him having an appointment today."

"We don't have one." Heather lifted her chin at the stern man. "We've just arrived in town, and I had no chance to notify Mr. Reed in advance."

Jamie tugged her hand, shuffling his feet. "I need to use the. . .you know."

The butler backed away, holding the door open. "Step inside, miss, and I'll see if Mr. Reed is available. May I tell him the nature of your business?"

" 'Tis rather private." Heather ducked her head beneath his stern gaze. She got the impression he didn't think much of her, but he wasn't the one she was worried about. They stepped inside, and he hoisted their bags and set them in the entryway then closed the door.

"Stay here. I'll return shortly. You may leave your card in the receiving tray over there." He pointed to a long, narrow table that held a hammered silver tray with three of the four corners bent inward, then strode into the interior of the house.

She wandered over to the table, taking in the fine furnishings of the home. In the dish lay several calling cards with the owners' names on them. She had no card to leave. What would it matter anyway?

"Aunt Heather. . . "

"Hang on a bit longer, please." She stooped in front of Jamie and brushed his dark hair from his deep blue eyes. Oh, how she'd miss him. He was like a son to her, but he deserved to know his father, especially since his mother had died.

But would the father be worthy of such a fine lad?

Vickie McDonough

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