Read Behind the Mask Online

Authors: Elizabeth D. Michaels

Tags: #Christian Books & Bibles, #Literature & Fiction, #Historical, #Religion & Spirituality, #Fiction, #Medieval, #Religious & Inspirational Fiction, #Christianity, #Christian Fiction, #Historical Romance, #Buchanan series, #the captain of her heart, #saga, #Anita Stansfield, #Horstberg series, #Romance, #Inspirational, #clean romance

Behind the Mask

This is a work of fiction, and the views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author. Likewise, certain characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events or locales, is entirely coincidental.

Behind the Mask: Volume I of the Horstberg Saga

Published by White Star Press

P.O. Box 353

American Fork, Utah 84003

Mask drawing copyright © 2013 Anna C. Stansfield

Cover and interior design by ePubMasters

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded, reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means whatsoever without written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. Thank you for supporting the author’s rights.

Copyright © 2013 by Anita Stansfield

ISBN: 978-1-939203-35-9

Printed in the United States of America

Year of first printing: 2013

When You’re Hiding For Your Life, What Do You Live For?

A
bbi has the gift of dreams. But her uncanny ability to see glimpses of the future has no apparent purpose or meaning until a dream leads her to a man on the brink of despair and destruction.

Cameron is a man without a name and without a country, framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Long ago forced into exile and believed dead, the passing of years have defaced him of all hope.

The country of Horstberg suffers beneath the weight of tyranny, and only Cameron holds the secret that could see her ruler undone and restore the people to peace and prosperity. While revolution brews and whispers of treason threaten all that is dear to Abbi, she remains unaware of her own ability to answer a nation’s prayers.

Trusting only her heart and the power of her dreams, Abbi gives all that she has to lead Cameron back into a civilized world, where love is real and freedom comes only in facing what hides behind the mask.

To Karl and Deann . . . for believing in me.

Preface

T
hroughout much of the nineteenth century, the duchies of Bavaria captured a certain magic akin to the medieval era, in a time not so far distant from our own. Amidst splendid mountains and lush valleys, tiny countries were governed by the royal families residing in magnificent castles that stand today as glorious tributes to this magical age. And one of the greatest was Horstberg.

Chapter One

GIFT OF DREAMS

Bavaria—1813

“T
he foal will be a stallion,” Abbi told Georg while he assisted the laboring mare. He tossed her a brief, startled glance, making her wonder if it might have been better to keep the thought to herself.

For many years Georg Heinrich had been the stablemaster on her grandfather’s estate. Though much older than her fifteen years, they had always been close, like a brother and sister. If Abbi trusted anyone with the deepest secrets of her heart, it was Georg.

“And how do you know that?” he asked with a gentle laugh.

“I had a dream,” she said, “and it had the same quality to it as the night I dreamed my mother was going to die.”

Again Georg looked at her, his eyes more intense. “You dreamed she would die?”

“Yes,” she said, a trifle nervous. She’d never told anyone since her grandfather had denounced the dream’s validity many years earlier. “And it happened just as I saw it—the way she fell off the horse, and then she didn’t move.”

“That’s incredible.”

“Is it?” Abbi brushed aside a straying mass of unruly red curls in order to see him better.

Georg nodded and turned his attention back to his work, but she sensed his genuine interest. “Tell me about this dream . . . about the foal.”

“I saw myself riding a stallion the color of fire. I don’t know where we were going, but it seemed he would take me to great riches.”

“This horse is going to make you rich?” Georg chuckled and used a clean forearm to separate his mussed blond hair from the sweat on his face. “You’re already the richest girl I know.”

“Not like that, silly.” She lay back in the soft straw and gazed toward the stable window where she could see the sun barely peering over familiar mountain peaks. “It was more . . . that he would lead me to great . . . happiness; to some . . . purpose.”

Georg said nothing more as it became evident the foal was coming now. Abbi had observed the birth of horses many times, always insisting that Georg come and get her, no matter what time of night or day it might be. Still, her heart quickened and her hands trembled as she observed Georg’s devoted care in helping the mare deliver safely. Abbi always felt anxious in observing the process, hoping that all would go well. But this horse was special. Her grandfather had already told her that the foal would be her very own, and she’d had a special feeling about it that had only been enhanced by her recent dream.

Sunlight tumbled through the open stable doorway the very moment that Blaze emerged into the world. Georg suggested they name him Blaze, since his fine, red coat was near the color of Abbi’s hair. “The color of fire,” he said impishly.

“You were right,” he observed as he washed up and put on his shirt. With a little smirk he added, “I can’t wait to see where he’ll take you.”

“Are you making fun of me?” she demanded.

“No, Abbi.” He squatted beside her where she sat in the straw, admiring the new little foal. “You obviously have a gift. The gift of dreams.” He said it as if it were magical. “I can’t help being curious to see how that gift might lead you to your destiny . . . like Joseph of Egypt.”

“Who?” she asked, afraid for reasons she couldn’t explain.

He laughed and stood, pulling his braces up over his shoulders. “It’s in the Bible, Abbi; Genesis to be exact. Read it. I’ve got to go. I’m late.”

Abbi watched Georg mount his horse and ride away. She turned her full attention to Blaze, but her mind hovered with the things Georg had said. A
gift?
She’d never considered that her dreams might actually be a
gift
. While she studied the new foal, watching him come to life beneath his mother’s ardent attention, Georg’s words stirred something to life within her that she’d never felt before.

Abbi had never been one to fill her head with fantasies and pointless musings. But on rare occasions, images and emotions had intruded upon her sleep that were somehow prophetic. When in her fifth year she had dreamed of her mother’s death before it happened, her attempts to tell her grandfather about it had been passed off as silly and impertinent. Since that time Abbi had done her best to push the matter out of her mind and convince herself that he was right. Through her growing years, Abbi had often had dreams. Some were shadows of the past; most were crazy montages of the present. But at times she would see a glimpse of something in her sleep that would come to pass at some subsequent moment. Abbi couldn’t deny that she had within her the ability to see impressions of the future. Until today she’d never dared admit it aloud because her grandfather’s disregard had led her to believe that this ability was only strange, perhaps even something to be ashamed of. But now a sensation deep within led her to believe otherwise. Her spirit felt awakened with something warm and rich, prompting her to believe that what Georg had said was true. And she couldn’t help wondering where Blaze, her dream horse, would lead her.

Cameron slammed the bedroom door and hurried down the stairs, haphazardly pushing his hands through his damp, dark hair in lieu of a comb. By the time he had the horse saddled, he’d almost managed to erase the ugly episode with Gwendolyn from his mind, but he felt a little sick to realize that such encounters with his wife were steadily becoming more frequent. A quick reckoning of the state of his life lured him toward the brink of despair, forcing him to realize there was little he truly enjoyed. But emerging from the stable at a full gallop, he was calmed by the serenity of a warm morning. He forced all else to leave his mind as he concentrated on his destination. For this one hour a day, he could just be himself.

It was early to be at the pub, but he had kept the appointment six days a week for many years now, and the lack of crowds made this time of day appealing. The innkeeper greeted Cameron with a familiar wave as he moved to the usual corner table. Sitting down, he realized he’d not only left without combing his hair, but he hadn’t shaved or even buttoned his waistcoat. He determined that he didn’t care and left it hanging open over his cream-colored shirt.

“Georg not here yet?” he asked as two tankards of beer were set in front of him.

“Haven’t seen him.” Boris grinned, showing crooked teeth between his plump lips. “But knowin’ Georg, he’ll be here any minute.”

Cameron took a sip and pushed his drink aside, rolling up the sleeves of his shirt before he started tapping his fingers on the table. Georg was the only person he could really talk to, and he felt impatient to clear his head.

“Hey, Boris,” he called, and the innkeeper turned. “Heard any more gossip about that ogre who rules this wretched place?”

Boris grinned again. “Nothin’ worth repeatin’.”

“Too bad,” he replied. “I was hoping he . . .”

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