Authors: Lisa Harris
Tags: #Fiction, #Christian, #Romance
Print ISBN 978-1-59789-081-6
Adobe Digital Edition (.epub) 978-1-60742-906-7
Kindle and MobiPocket Edition (.prc) 978-1-60742-907-4
Copyright © 2006 by Lisa Harris. All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the permission of Truly Yours, an imprint of Barbour Publishing, Inc., PO Box 721, Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683.
All scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
All of the characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events is purely coincidental.
Our mission is to publish and distribute inspirational products offering exceptional value and biblical encouragement to the masses
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Table of Contents
Cranton, Massachusetts, 1886
A cold February wind ripped through Adam Johnson’s coat as he hurried down one of Cranton’s wooden sidewalks. The crunch of snow beneath his heavy boots brought a smile to his lips. Instinctively, he checked the direction of the wind with the tip of his finger. He was pleased with the strong westward direction that would ensure a good run of sap from his sugar maple grove.
While the majority of the townspeople huddled in front of their fireplaces, he had no complaints about the frosty weather. An early spring meant disaster for him, because without a hard freeze at night his syrup would take on a leathery taste, something he couldn’t afford with this year’s crop.
Jingling the bag of nails in the palm of his hand, he whistled a nameless tune he’d heard his father sing a hundred times. Last year Adam harvested thirty gallons of syrup. This year he planned on setting out five hundred buckets for an even bigger yield.
A boy whose back was hunched against the wind bumped into him as he walked. Adam struggled to keep his footing on the icy path. His bag of nails hit the ground and scattered across the boardwalk as he watched a scrawny boy take off with his wallet.
“Hey!” He lunged for the kid, but the wiry figure slipped from his grasp.
The guttersnipe was fast, but Adam was faster. Months of hard work on his farm had turned his boyish stature into that of a man. In contrast, the thin youth in front of him looked as if he could use a good hot meal. At the edge of the alleyway beside the First Bank of Cranton, Adam gripped the boy’s collar and held on tight.
“I believe you have something of mine.”
“Please, Mister …” The boy threw the wallet onto the ground, then slithered out of Adam’s grasp, leaving his threadbare coat behind.
Irish, Poles, and Italians had poured into the area, bringing crime with them. Granted, he’d heard of the horrid conditions many of these foreigners had escaped from in Eastern Europe. Those who hadn’t settled in the big cities like Boston and New York had made their way across the eastern states to find work in the dozens of mills where life was strenuous, but at least they had food to eat and a bed to sleep in at night.
Regardless of how much compassion a God-fearing man like himself ought to feel toward these people, his brother had been murdered in cold blood by one of the immigrants. That was something he could never forget—or forgive.
Adam snatched up his wallet and opened the soft leather pouch. Empty. How that cavorting thief had managed to clean him out in such a short time, he had no idea, but he wouldn’t let this go. Something had to be done. He crossed the street with broad, determined steps in search of the sheriff. The wooden door of the jailhouse slammed against the inside brick wall as Adam stormed into the office.
“Sheriff Briggs, I’ve got a complaint to lodge.”
“Get in line.” The balding lawman waved a pudgy hand at a chair. “You’re the third person this morning who’s come in here unhappy about something.”
“Why are you still sitting here?”
“I didn’t want to miss listening to your rambling complaints.” The sheriff scowled from behind his desk. “How much money did the boy take from you?”
Adam gripped the back of the offered chair with his hands. “How’d you know I was robbed?”
The sheriff’s jowls jiggled as he laughed. “Like I said, you’re not the first person to come here in a rage.”
Adam didn’t see the humor in the situation. “The young ruffian stole five dollars, and that’s not including the bag of nails that he scattered across the boardwalk.”
“Wilton Hunter lost seventy-five dollars.”
Adam stepped around the chair and slammed his palms against the top of the sheriff’s desk. “So what are you going to do about it?”
“The boys’ names are Edward Malik and—”
“He’s Polish,” Adam interrupted, feeling the tension in his jaw tighten. “I’ve said before, if we don’t do something about the number of—”
. Plural, meaning there’s more than one. We’re pretty sure the second is Simon Miller’s boy.”
“Figures.” Miller was a well-respected member of the
Cranton community. Adam had never heard of any problems with the storekeeper’s youngest son, but spending too much time with the wrong crowd could easily change that. “Doesn’t the Good Book say that bad company corrupts good morals?”
“So you’re automatically assuming that Edward Malik’s to blame?”
“A Pole murdered my brother, Sheriff. Why would this one be any different?” Adam turned toward the wanted posters and ripped the familiar sketch off the wall before tossing it down in front of the sheriff. “What other proof do you need?”
“One bad egg shot your brother, Adam. It was a tragic event, but don’t let the past cloud your judgment toward an entire group of people. You’d see that we have some fine immigrant families in the area if you could get beyond what happened.”
“You weren’t there, Sheriff. You didn’t see the look of hate in this boy’s eyes.” Adam jabbed his finger at the poster. “Samuel might have thrown the first punch, but he didn’t deserve to be shot down.”
“Samuel’s death hit us all extremely hard.” The sheriff scratched his bald scalp. “But nothing you or I can do will ever bring him back. Don’t let one man’s foolish actions leave you with a lifetime of bitterness, son.”
Adam didn’t want the advice, and he sure wasn’t through with their conversation. “Why haven’t you found his killer yet?”
“Bounty hunters are still looking for him, but we aren’t even sure who the murderer is. All we have is a first name and a sketch based on your description.”
Adam slammed his fists against the desk. “It’s been seventeen months, and you don’t even know the killer’s last name!”
Was it so wrong for him to want justice for his brother’s death? His family seemed to have accepted what happened, but he couldn’t. Not when he knew there was a lunatic on the loose who might kill again. Adam had considered taking the law into his own hands. The only thing stopping him was a promise to his sister, Rebecca. He’d never been one to take his promises lightly.
“You know I’ll contact you as soon as we get another lead,” the sheriff said. The front legs of the sheriff’s chair hit the floor with a thud. “As for the thieves, my deputy’s out looking for them right now. I’ll let you know when we’ve brought them in.”
Five minutes later Adam set out in his buckboard down the snow-covered lane toward his farm. He tried to erase the last vivid image of his dying brother. He loved all six of his brothers and sisters, including little Anna, who had been adopted into his family, but Samuel had also been his best friend. They’d spent countless lazy summer mornings fishing for bass along the Connecticut River, afternoons playing ball or pulling pranks on their other siblings. Besides the fun they’d had together, it had been Samuel who helped him get through his first maple syrup harvest.
His brother had wanted to go to Boston to study to become a doctor but had decided to stay in favor of experimenting with more efficient ways of planting and producing higher yields for the farmers in the area. Together, he and
Adam had devoured copies of the Orange Judd’s
for information on scientific farming while developing their own ideas in the agricultural arena.
One malice-driven bullet waylaid those dreams forever.
A deafening shriek brought Adam out of his bittersweet memories. A grungy mutt at the base of a tree growled at whatever—or whomever—he had cornered in its branches … or whoever. Adam glanced up and saw a patch of dark blue fabric peeking through the thick tree. Something wasn’t right. Picking his rifle up off the buckboard, he reined the horses a safe distance from the dog, then stepped onto the frosty ground.
The dog turned toward him, ignoring for the moment his treed prey. He growled, showing his teeth. Adam took a step forward, shouting at the dog to get away, but even his animated gestures didn’t scare the mutt. Taking aim at the dog, he inched across the snow. Regarding the animal out of the corner of his eye, he squinted against the midday sun to see who was in the tree. Probably some boy playing hooky from school and looking for a bit of adventure. The victim sat precariously on one of the lower branches, partially hidden from view by the thick growth, but far enough up that the vicious dog couldn’t get him.
“Watch out! I think he’s rabid.”
Adam froze at the sound of the female voice coming from the tree. He’d never seen a lady suspended that high up on the branches of a tree. How had she managed to climb so high in a dress?
The dog growled, and Adam turned his attention back to the snarling creature. A dog in such a state was dangerous.
If it attacked a person, the consequences could be fatal. And if she’d been bitten …
The dog, drooling at the mouth, shifted its gaze back and forth between him and his prey and bared its teeth at Adam, convincing him of the woman’s diagnosis of rabies. “I’m going to have to shoot the dog; then I’ll help you down.”
Taking aim, he pulled the trigger and cringed as his shot echoed across the valley, signaling the end to his grim deed. He felt sorry for the beast, especially if it had been some boy’s best friend. But one didn’t take chances with rabid animals.
“Name’s Adam Johnson,” he said, stepping over the motionless animal and moving toward the base of the tree to get a better look at the dog’s intended victim.
“Are you hurt?”
“No, just scared half out of my mind.”
Adam rested his hand against the rough bark and looked up into the darkest pair of mahogany eyes he’d ever seen. Her long, auburn hair was pulled back neatly, with one tendril having escaped during the ordeal. Fair skin, rosy cheeks from the winter chill, and her petite stature reminded him of a fairy straight out of a storybook.
A clump of snow fell from the branch and hit him in the nose, knocking some sense back into him. He shook his head and laughed.
“I’m sorry—” she said.
“Not your fault at all, ma’am. Can I help you down?”
With Adam’s arms around her waist, Lidia slid onto the ground and tried to catch her breath. After a moment he let go, but she could still feel the warmth of his hands through her thin coat.
Frankly, she found the entire situation utterly ridiculous and certainly embarrassing. Being chased up a tree by a rabid dog was no proper situation for a lady to find herself in, let alone a suitable backdrop for a romantic encounter with a well-built hero. Not that she expected such a silly event to occur. Things like that only happened between the pages of a dime novel or in her imagination.
Her grandmother, her sweet
, had first planted such wistful yet foolish notions in her head. While she remembered little about the country she left when she was six, she’d never forget memories of cold nights cuddled up with her babcia under a thick quilt, listening to her enchanted stories. But true romantic champions were saved for legends like Lajkonik, the renowned horseman who rode into Kraków to warn the citizens of the impending Tartar raids, or other such tales of bravery her people had passed down for centuries. But she was an American now, she reminded herself. If she was going to make it in this new land she had to put aside such outlandish ideas.
“Can I take you somewhere?”