Prologue

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© Copyright 2015


"What does it say, Levi?" Hope asked her husband. He was reading a telegram that had been delivered a few minutes ago. The sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach continued to grow worse by the minute, especially when her husband didn't answer or even acknowledge her. She walked the few steps to him, then laid her hand gently on his forearm. "Levi?"


He knew this day would come and he had wondered how he would feel. Levi reread the telegram for the fourth time. Each time it said the exact same thing. His younger brother Benjamin was writing to tell him that both of his parents had been killed in a carriage accident. Because Levi was the oldest, he had to go back to Charleston to settle the estate.


How long had it been since he left Live Oak Plantation, too many years to count. He didn't think about Charleston anymore and had certainly never planned on going back. Once Faith moved to Red Valley, everybody he cared about was here. Levi's mind drifted back to the day he'd left, more specifically the argument he and his father had.


"You're a disgrace! How could I have raised a son like you?" Edgar Matthews spat as he stared at his oldest son, then continued to pace in front of his mahogany desk. He was going to be the laughing stock of Charleston! How could Levi do this to him?


The words ripped through Levi like the sharp talons of an eagle. He and his father had never really gotten along but he had hoped the old man would understand. There was just no way he was going to fight in the War Between the States. He had too many friends on both sides of the Mason Dixon Line.


"I'm not doing this to you Father. I am simply not going to fight." Levi looked around his father's office. Three of the walls were paneled in a dark stained imported English Oak. To his left was a floor to ceiling book case full of his father's books, taking up half of one of the paneled walls. Turning his head to the right, he could see an Italian marble fireplace with an intricately carved mantel imported from some grand English manor. Above the mantel was a beveled mirror that stood at least 5 feet tall in a gilded frame.


A massive mahogany desk sat in front of him dominating the room, just like his father. Behind the desk was a set of French doors that opened onto the wrap around porch. Dark green velvet curtains framed the doors while silk material of the same color covered that one wall. Levi's eyes moved back to the French doors behind his father. It was a beautiful day. The sky was a brilliant shade of blue. A soft breeze from the Atlantic blew just enough to stir the Spanish moss hanging from the old oak trees that lined the drive. He loved his home and the land this plantation was on; one day it would be his.


"Did you hear me boy?" Edgar slammed his palms down on the desk to get his son's attention.


"I'm sorry Father, what did you say?" He had only been paying half attention to his father's rant, so he must have misunderstood him.


"You heard me! You have a choice; you can join the Army and fight like a man or you can run like a coward. I'm warning you though, if you leave, you'll be dead to me! You will never be welcome in this house again and I will disinherit you!"


"Father, you can't be serious."


"Oh, I am. Decide, what will it be, Honor or shame?"


Levi sat there in stunned silence for a moment then stood. "I will not fight." Pain tore through him. How could his own father be so callouse?


"Then you leave me no choice. Get out and don't come back, ever! You can take what you can carry on your horse, you have until sunset."


Edgar Matthews watched as his first born son rode down the tree lined drive, the sun setting behind him. He never thought the boy would leave. Who in their right mind would give up their entire life to not fight in a war that will be over before it even gets started good? Levi was weak and a coward! Now he was going to have to deal with the shame of having his son be a traitor!


"Levi?" Hope said again, squeezing her fingers slightly to get his attention. "What's wrong?"


Shaking his head slightly to clear the old memories away, he turned to his beautiful wife; her eyes were full of concern and worry. Levi sighed deeply. "I have to go back to Charleston, Father never changed his will."


"I'm so sorry." Hope wrapped her arms around her husband gaining as much comfort from his as she gave.


"Don't be, they were dead to me over 20 years ago." Levi slid his arms around his wife holding her as close as possible.


"You need to ride over and let Faith know. Do you want me to go with you?"


"No, I'll go." He leaned down softly kissing Hope's full lips, loving the soft sigh that escaped her throat.


"I'll start packing. We should be able to leave by tomorrow."


"You're not going, just me."


A perfectly arched black brow shot up in the air. "If you think for one minute that we aren't going with you, think again."


Gone was the sweet woman he'd just held in his arms, she'd been replaced by the tiger pacing in front of him. He loved it when she got angry, just not at him. It took all he had to fight the smile that threatened. "Hope, there's no need for you and the children to go." They were just going through the motions now, both of them knew she was going to win the argument and get her way. She always did.


"There's every need. Now, this subject," she pointed to the piece of paper he was still holding in his hand, "is closed."


Despite the emotional turmoil rolling through him, he smiled. "Yes Ma'am." Levi leaned in for another kiss, this one not so quick then tipped his hat, turned and went to the barn. When his wife had her mind made up about something, there was no changing it.


Okay, so we're off on a new adventure! I've tried to think of a few new twists and turns for Blake and Ellie. Please let me know what you think.


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