Love’s truth can lend the strength to help you take flight.
Dying on the battlefield wasn’t at all in Colonel Trace Morgan’s plan, but battles rarely go as hoped. Only it wasn’t his time to die and when he wakes, blind but the sole survivor, he has to put all his trust in a woman who stirs him in more than one way. With her help, he learns to navigate his new world of darkness, but he craves seeing her more than anything.
Leona is an artist, one who rarely deals with other people. The near-dead man on the battlefield brings back so many memories. Their once-severed connection has been lifted back into existence and she can’t continue to ignore her feelings. But it’s too much and she has to leave before he sees who she is.
Trace refuses to let her go. He has so many unanswered questions. With his son, he tracks her down and tries to convince her to give them a chance. But their past refuses to release its claw-hold on them and pulls them back into the divided world neither wants to belong in.
When it’s her life for his, Leona cannot refuse. She will do anything for the man she loves.
Trace has never known fear like this. Can he save not just himself but Leona as well? Will there be a chance for them to take flight and be the family he’s always wanted?
Reader advisory: This book contains references to slavery, racism and misogyny. There are instances of racist language, violence, torture, child abuse, and sexual assault.
General Release Date: 5th April 2022
Blood soaked the field where the battle had taken its toll on all involved. Black, white, pro, con, it didn’t matter the reason you fought, for in the end everyone’s blood had run the same. Red. Dark, rich red.
Lots of it.
Too much of it.
The men’s boots sank into the mix of snow, mud and blood and made an awful sucking noise when they tried to walk on it. A noise that pulled at your soul, if you still had one in your body, after surviving the battle.
Very few men were left alive. Most of the dead and dying had been picked clean of both clothes and any articles that the scavengers had believed to be worth something. Many items had been lost—watches, trinkets from wives and anything that could bring a bit of food to hungry mouths.
Trace Morgan was such a man. A man that was barely alive. Only the presence of extreme pain allowed him to know that he was not yet dead. He could feel the survivors as they picked the last remaining bits of undamaged clothing from his body while he lay unable to defend himself. They turned him over to lie face down in the red slush.
They didn’t care who he was. Not anymore. All that mattered was that he was injured and prey for their desperation. A craze that set in among even some of the most stalwart of men during wartime. War—it seemed to bring out the best and of course the worst in everyone. The wintry air shot straight through to his bones as he felt his boots being removed, exposing horridly blistered feet to the bitter cold, for his socks had long since fallen apart.
The darkness swarmed over him as he realized that he no longer felt cold. Just an overwhelming sadness that he would never see his wife or child again. He didn’t want to die like this. It wasn’t fair.
* * * *
Finally, the noises from the battle stopped. Leona emerged from her home. It was built into the side of one of the smaller mountains, most spacious and well-hidden. People could walk right past it and not even see the entrance.
She had only known one other home. That was the plantation she had been born on. Leona was the daughter of a slave who had been impregnated by her master. Apparently, his wife had found out and so he’d sold her mother up the river and she had been born on a different plantation than she had been conceived on. Leona had never known her real father. But she didn’t miss what she didn’t know.
Leona had grown up with the youngest son of the plantation master. They had played together during the day and comforted each other when necessary, completely ignoring the fact that they were slave and owner. He had been her one true friend, up until his betrayal. He’d taught her to read and write in secret, even knowing that they would both be severely punished for it if they were ever discovered. They’d discovered and explored their intimate feelings for each other.
For Leona, there had never been another, for her mother had taken her and escaped just before she turned fourteen, after she’d overheard that the master was talking of breeding her daughter to some other slave. That and of course the punishment she had endured because of her so-called ‘friend’. She had never seen her friend again.
Years later, as her mother had been dying slowly from some strange disease, a disease that was unknown to them both, she’d taken her daughter and shown her what it was like to be free. Her mother had taken herself and her child to a place that didn’t allow slavery, but still being scared for a time she’d hidden them from most people. That had changed, however, since by the end of her mother’s time, Leona had met most of the people in the town.
Before she had died, Ellie, Leona’s mom, had shared her knowledge of herbal medicines and cooking with the only child she had seen grow up to be an adult. The only child that had not been taken from her and sold.
Now Leona was alone. Well, she had animals around to keep her company, but not much human contact. That being the main reason why she had stayed hidden when the battle had begun. Men were to be considered dangerous normally, but a battle brought out the worst in them. Brought out the worst in everyone.
As she crept cautiously to the edge of the bloody meadow, her breath left her in a gasp. The view was horrible. Dead bodies lay scattered out in the cold. Most were barefoot and without coats or even shirts on their bodies as their blood congealed with the snow and began to freeze, leaving behind a red ice-slushy mess.
Gritting her teeth, she listened for any noise of live humans before she dared venture forth. Once she confirmed that silence was all she heard, she began to skirt the edge of the destruction on the field. The battle for slavery had come back to her. These men, these intruders, believed that they could come to this island, what they called Saba, and take what they wanted. They had not counted on finding any opposition, much less the organized resistance the islanders had put up.
This island was a profitable one and had attracted many people. Slavery was not allowed, otherwise anyone was welcome to stay. There were people from all walks of life living here, and they had brought their own special talents along with them. There was knowledge of warfare, weapons, the most advanced healing methods and even the latest fashions for women.
About halfway around the field, Leona heard the moan. In less time than it took for the sound to fade from the air she had made herself invisible to the naked eye as she sought out the source of the noise. She knew the noise came from a human. Seeing no new threat, she focused on the field. The sound came again. There was a live person out there. When she’d looked before, none of the islanders had been there, only the interlopers.
Do I dare?
Her heartbeat sped up as her breath quickened. Leona never liked to expose herself this way. It was a large field and if anyone came along, they would be able to see her. On the other hand, if someone was still alive, maybe she could help them. It could be one of the islanders, her friends. Perhaps she’d not seen them.
With nerves running scared, she chewed on her full lower lip. Her eyes searching for the exact place the noise had come from. It came again and she locked on to the position. Her decision was made. She had to go.
Cautiously she stepped from her hiding place and made her way to the edge of the trees. Still no sign of any danger. As she began to creep out into the field, a herd of deer surrounded her. They stayed next to her as she ventured into the middle of the field. Protected her. Shielded her from unwanted gazes. Most importantly, they covered her tracks with their own.
Leona silently thanked her friends as she found the man who had emitted the noise. He had no shoes, which exposed blistered, raw feet to the cold, and he bled from many wounds. His thick brown hair, the color of walnuts, was matted with blood, plastering it to his head. His skin was pale from loss of blood. He lay there dying. She had to help him, and so without further thought she knelt beside him.
Gently she reached out to turn him over. The sight that met her froze her solid as the ground she was upon, for a moment. Emotions believed long dead rushed to the surface and washed over her like a tidal wave. When she regained her composure, she moved quickly. She could do nothing less.
Concern for her own safety had faded and she hastily formed a travois to move him with. Leona picked up the ends, headed away from the battle scene and back to her house. The deer followed behind and they walked very deliberately over her tracks. Erasing them. Keeping her anonymous even still.
Leona made good speed back to her home. Once there she moved the man to a bed, clumsily, for he was a large man and stood about a head taller than she and was full of hardened muscle. That done, she stripped him of his clothes and swiftly but thoroughly bathed and cleansed his wounds. She built up the fire then piled blankets upon him to warm him.
His body was perfectly browned by the sun. His wide shoulders tapered into a narrow waist. Brown hair covered his chest. There was not an ounce of fat on him.
As she gazed upon his body, Leona felt a rush of longing and trembling in her own. Staring upon such beauty made her want to touch and taste him. She shook her head to regain her focus as she made sure that he was warming up.
She made him drink down some tea to help him heal and she wondered about the head wound. Should she risk taking him to town? They had a doctor there and she wouldn’t be keeping a man alone in her home. No, the risk was too great. With all the outsiders here, she didn’t want to run into any of them. Any more of them. After making sure he swallowed at least one cup she let him sleep. Warm and safe at last. For now.
* * * *
Trace experienced a strong presence bring him back from the light that he headed toward. He felt himself being moved and felt someone giving him something warm to drink. It made his head feel better but made him even drowsier. The touch seemed familiar to him, but from where he couldn’t recall.
Weeks passed and he continued to lie as still as death. Trace woke only to take healing drinks and broth. Although his body mended, still he did not rise from the bed. Somewhere along the days, he’d lost track of how many had passed.
Pain laced through his dream state. Trace fought to remember where he was and what had happened. His memories were fuzzy and flashed across his mind in a dizzying whirl. “Hello?” His voice, scratchy from lack of use, penetrated the air. “Is anyone there?”
He tried to open his eyes, but it hurt too much. He had begun to panic when a low, melodious voice broke through his rising dread and chased it away.
“I am here. You are not alone. Stay still.” A cool hand brushed his face in a motherly or wifely gesture. At once Trace knew that this was the very person who had tended to him. The touch from her fingers, so familiar. Comfort flowed from her body and encircled him with warmth that kept the hounds of pain at bay.
Where am I? He didn’t even have the energy to ask the question out loud. Why can’t I see?
“Don’t try to open your eyes. I have bandaged your head. You are safe here, that is all I can tell you. Rest now, we will talk more later. After you have rested.”
Trace could do nothing but what she commanded him to. Her soft pleasant-sounding voice flowed over his senses and took away any thought of disobeying her words. Into a world of happiness and joy he spiraled, with only a faint wonderment as to where he knew that touch from.
* * * *
A few days later he woke to the soft voice, whosever it was, humming. His world nevertheless remained dark. Head still throbbed. He barely remembered sitting up and taking in food and water. “Water, please. May I have some water?”
Silently, the unknown woman helped him to a sitting position, placed the cup to his lips. He took gulps, feeling refreshed as the cool liquid poured life back into him.
“Not too much. Drink slowly.” Her voice brought him back to the here and now.
“Where am I? Who are you? Where is the rest of my unit?” Memories of men lying bleeding to death came to him in flashes. With them they brought sharp pains that lanced his body.
“I found you in a field. You were the only one left alive. You have been here for over a month.”