Authors: Teresa Greene
Love Me Again
Book One in the Sutton and
McDonald Family Series
Names, characters, and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any way by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author. Contact her a
Published December 15, 2013
Cover design by [email protected]
My husband David,
thank you for the great life we share.
A special thanks to Betty Bradley for her input to make
Love Me Again
Just shy of midnight, a shadow hurried through the dark forest clutching a tiny bundle to her bosom. Trees with black, empty branches seemed to reach out to grab her in her haste to flee from the riders who had forced her to brave the scary woods. The thin moonlight sparkled in the snow under her feet as it filtered through the naked trees. Damp, snapping wind tore at her cloak, which she pulled tighter to ward off the cold. Fright tore at her heart as she heard the hoof beats of the three horsemen as their mounts galloped over the snow packed road. Immediately, she dropped down in the cold, wet snow covering the small child with her body. Fear gripped her as they stopped mere feet from where she lay. They were so close she was scared they would hear her panting for breath.
She almost laughed at herself for hiding her precious bundle. If they found her, they would also find the baby. Even though she was almost afraid to look, she glanced up in time to see their coats flapping in the wicked wind. No more than shadows of the night, they listened for any sound that may give away her hiding place. Her stomach was in knots as she prayed to God to keep the child quiet. Relief washed over her as the riders rode on, unable to see her lying in the woods at the edge of the road. Waiting until they were out of sight, she forced herself off the frozen ground even though her body was begging for rest.
Silver-tipped clouds scudded across the darkness of the sky, blocking out what little
moonlight she had been using to light her way. Panic almost took over when a screech owl hooted from one of the barren trees close by. It sounded like a woman screaming in agony. She bit her lip to keep from crying out. She whispered softly as she peered into the bitter, dark sky, “Please, God, help me.”
As if God heard her prayer, the clouds vaporized leaving her enough light to continue her journey. Some of her fear evaporated feeling God was with her. Knowing that at any moment her pursuers might b
acktrack, she decided to venture farther into the forest instead of traveling the road.
When she felt the baby squirm, she lifted the corner of the blanket and peered into its perfect little face. She began to rock the baby in her arms and whisper, “Shhh, go back to sleep my sweet.” Thankfully, the child was silent as she continued to trudge through the fallen snow.
She had no idea how long she had been walking. It seemed like days, but in reality it had only been a few hours. As she stepped out of the forest into a clearing, she saw the light from a small farm house in the distance. She knew she would not be able to carry the child much longer without collapsing. She took a painful breath, fighting the wind, fighting the weakness. Her hands were already so cold they were becoming numb. The snowflakes began afresh and made it difficult for her to see the small house as they swirled around her. Making her way to the porch, she laid her tiny bundle in front of the door. With hands that trembled, she peeled back the blanket for one last look at the exquisite little face that had stolen her heart.
“I’ll never forget you.” Tears streamed down her frozen cheeks as she turned and ran away.
“Come on, Lou. I need enough milk to make butter.” Abby gave the black and white spotted cow a gentle pat. She squeezed Lou’s teats one more time causing another loud protest. Huge chocolate-brown eyes peering at her caused Abby to feel guilty. “It’s okay, Lou. I guess that’s all you have this morning.”
It had been a long winter, and Abby hoped Lou would provide more milk now that spring’s green grass was finally sprouting up from the earth. Their supply of hay was dwindling so Abby had no other choice but to cut back on Lou’s portion, and without nourishment she could not provide enough milk.
Between her father and brother’s huge appetites, one gallon of milk would not suffice, especially since she planned to make butter today. Knowing her father would admonish her for not being grateful for what God provided, she pushed her selfish thoughts out of her mind. She would have to churn the cream into butter, so she walked to the house with the bucket being extremely careful not to spill one precious drop. Dawn was just beginning to break, but Abby had no time to stop and enjoy the beauty of the morning.
She sat the bucket to the side so the cream could rise to the top of the fresh milk. The
n she began preparing breakfast for her father and brother who would need food before they started their grueling day in the fields.
“Good morning, beautiful.”
Abby smiled at her brother Nick as he kissed her cheek. It amazed her how he was always so cheerful in the morning, especially when he had put in a late night making repairs on their dilapidated old barn. Two days ago a terrible storm had blown through and damaged the roof. “I hope you slept well.”
Nick growled, lifting Abby off her feet. “Like a bear.”
Abby giggled, and pushed at him. “I don’t have time for your nonsense. Set the table, please.” She carried the bacon, eggs, and biscuits to the table while Nick grabbed three plates from the cabinet. They chatted in low voices waiting patiently for their father. The moment he sat at the table, he took their hands and all three bowed their heads.
Thank you for all your blessings. You have given us this bounty before us and may it nourish our bodies and minds. Help us to follow your path today, Lord, Amen.
In a stern voice, her father asked, “Abby, have you read your Bible this morning?”
Abby put her fork down and looked at her father as blood rushed to her cheeks. “No Father, I have to admit I was a little lazy this morning and
didn’t rise early enough. I promise as soon as I finish my chores I will read.” Distress came into Abby’s eyes. She hated when her father admonished her. She could see the disappointment in his face. Every morning she woke before dawn to milk Lou and prepare their breakfast. Yet he expected her to wake even earlier, and read God’s word before she started her chores. An extremely disciplined man, he expected the same from her.
The rest of the meal Abby remained silent. Her father and Nick talked about the seed they would need to get in the ground so they would have enough food for the winter. Because of the storm, they lost a bag of seed stored in the barn and
didn’t have enough money to buy more.
Abby’s thoughts turned to her mother. Oh, how she missed her. Martha Henley had been a gentle woman who had nothing but kindness in her heart. Since her mother’s death her father changed, becoming more abrasive. Her father had loved her mother desperately and her death left him bitter. It seemed no matter how hard Abby tried, she could not please him.
If not for Nick’s energy and love for life, there would be very little happiness in their home.
As if her brother could read her mind, he lifted Abby’s hand to his lips. “Mom is watching over you, Sissy.”
She gave Nick a dazzling smile. She loved the childhood nickname he had given her.
Nick stood and headed for the door, anxious to get his day started. “See you at lunch.”
As he disappeared through the door, she thought it odd. Nick’s blond hair and green eyes, which he inherited from their father, was such a contrast to her. She definitely did not resemble her mother. Petite and thin with coffee, brown hair and eyes, Martha had been pretty, but Abby did not resemble her in the least. Instead, she had auburn, hair and deep, blue eyes. Mother said she got her unusual hair and eyes from her grandmother.
Abby shoved her plate away even though she ate a small portion. She did not have time to lounge at the table. Tons of work awaited and no one would do it for her. Quickly, she washed the dishes and tidied the kitchen before she read her devotion for the day.
The beautiful spring day beckoned Abby to do her churning outside on the porch. From the porch Abby could view her early garden of cabbage and potatoes. Her mouth watered just thinking of new potatoes. Last year’s crop of potatoes had been eaten a month ago and she could hardly wait to have fresh vegetables again. As soon as she finished churning the cream into butter, she would plant corn and tomatoes in the empty rows Nick made for her.
As she churned the cream, she peered across the horizon and watched the sun rising over the trees. She lifted her face and let the rays from the huge orange ball warm her. Spring was her favorite time of year, lush and green, the beginning of new life. A flock of geese honked loudly as they flew overhead drawing Abby’s attention. They were in perfect V formation, their destination, the Tar River near Tarboro, which was to the south of their farm.
Surprised when she saw Nick and her father approaching the house, she stood and shaded her eyes from the sun. It was at least three hours before lunch and they never left the fields until it was time to eat. Abby ran out to meet them when she saw her father leading a horse with someone draped over the saddle. “What happened, Nick?”
“We found him unconscious by the road. He has been shot.”
Abby held the door as her father and Nick struggled with their heavy burden. The man was muscular and dead weight, so it was difficult to carry him.
Out of breath, her father ordered, “Boil some water and sterilize a knife, Abby.” Curious, Abby’s eyes were drawn to the stranger. “We’ll put him in your bed, Nick and you’ll bunk with me until he is up and about. That is if he survives. It looks as if he’s lost a lot of blood. He is in God’s hands now.”
By the time Abby entered carrying the water, clean towels, and knife, her father and Nick had stripped the man of his bloody clothes.
She placed the items on the side table. Nervous, she stood over the patient. “Don’t just stand there gawking, remove the bullet.”
Her eyes swept to her father. Instead of arguing she sat on the edge of the bed, and
examined his chest wound. Her voice slightly breathless she replied, “Father, I think we should get a doctor. It looks pretty serious to me.”
Jacob Henley barked, “It would take too long. He needs medical attention now. Besides, if it is God’s will the man will survive. A doctor will not make a difference.”
Transfixed by the stranger’s full sensuous mouth, Abby fought the urge to touch him. His looks were positively mesmerizing. Never had she seen a more handsome man. She tried to focus on the chore before her so she looked away from his face only to notice that his physique was just as impressive. Broad of shoulder, wide chest, and sculpted muscles tapered to a lean waist. There her view ended because the sheet covered his lower body. Her hands shook as she cleaned the blood from the stranger’s wound, only to have more seep from the opening, making it difficult to see how deep the bullet penetrated.
“Nick, will you please help me.” Nick leaned over Abby. “Hold the cloth under his wound while I remove the bullet. There is too much blood.”
As Abby probed for the bullet, the stranger began to thrash his arms. It took both Jacob and Nick to hold him down so Abby could soak up the blood and dig for the bullet. His whole body was wet from sweat by the time Abby held the bullet in her hand. She dropped the mangled bullet into a pan on the table by the bed.
Weakness was taking its toll
by the time she bandaged his wound. Covered in blood, she swiped the back of her arm across her forehead to remove the beads of perspiration leaving a trail of blood across her brow.
Abby moved toward the door intending to wash away the blood when her father stopped her. “We must pray for the man. Come Abby.” Obediently, Abby kneeled with her father and Nick by the bed as they prayed for the stranger. She cupped her bloody hands together and prayed
for the handsome man to live.
Jacob and Nick returned to the fields after lunch, leaving Abby alone with the stranger. Her hands trembled as she washed the blood from his body. Extremely pale from loss of blood, Abby wondered if he would survive. At least he had strength on his side. It took all the power her father and Nick could summon to hold him down.
Warmth spread through Abby as she touched his skin with the wet cloth. What was wrong with her? In all her eighteen years she had never before felt such feelings. The impulse to peek under the sheet and see the rest of him was strong. Afraid God would punish her for her lustful thoughts, Abby tried to think of her chores, her studies, anything but the man lying in Nick’s bed. Nothing worked. He was just too handsome and masculine. Her heart was about to beat out of her chest from being this close to him. Abby’s hands moved quickly over the stranger’s skin in her haste to finish the chore. Her cheeks flushed, she felt as if she were running a temperature by the time she stood to leave Nick’s room.
Glancing down at his magnificent face, she wondered why someone
had shot him. Father had put away the guns he had worn around his waist, calling them the devil’s tools. Was he a gunslinger, bounty hunter, or did he wear the guns for another reason? It didn’t matter. The moment he was well, father would insist he leave.
Two days passed and the stranger was still unconscious. His breathing was not as shallow, but he was still very pale. Abby knew if he did not regain consciousness soon, he would probably die. The thought of him not surviving tore at her heart.
As she changed the bandage by the light of the lantern, she glanced up into intense eyes, so dark they were almost black. She
had imagined that his eyes would be amazing, especially when the rest of him was perfect. Her heart stampeding in her chest, she tried to keep her hands steady. A heated flush came swiftly to her cheeks.
His voice gravelly from dryness, he whispered, “Who are you?”
Shock registered on Abby’s face when she opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. She snapped her mouth shut, and bolted for the door to fetch her father.
In a few seconds Jacob stood in the doorway. “We wondered if you would survive, son. It was God’s will to spare you.” Jacob moved to the bed and raised his hand to shake the stranger’s. “Jacob Henley.”
The man swallowed hard, and whispered as he weakly shook Jacob’s hand, “Cord Sutton.”
“My daughter, Abby, will prepare you something to eat. Nourishment is what you need to regain your strength.”
From the doorway, Abby watched Cord try to lift his head off the pillow but fell back immediately gasping for breath. “How did I get here?”
“We found you by the road near one of our fields. You had been shot in the chest. Two more inches to the left and you would be six foot under.” Cord looked down at the bandage wrapped around his chest. “Abby removed the bullet and has
been caring for you.”
Even through the pain, she saw his look of gratitude. “Thank you for your hospitality.”
“It is what God demands of us. As soon as you are better, you can be on your way.”
Her father crossed the room and tucked his arm into hers. “Come along, Abby. You need
to fix our guest something to eat.”
A short while later
, Abby entered with a tray. She sat it down on the table by the bed. She could feel his eyes watching her as she rearranged the items on the tray with shaky hands. Gorgeous brown eyes met her gaze causing her to feel warm all over.
His voice no more than a whisper, he replied, “Water, please.” Abby held the glass for him as he gulped down several swallows. With a weak smile, Cord replied, “Thank you.” He tried to lift the spoon but was just too weak. His whisper was so fragile she barely heard it. “You don’t mind feeding me do you, Abby?”
The way he said her name caused her heart to skip a beat. She lifted the spoon to his mouth and watched as he closed his full lips over the spoon. “You’re a good cook. This is the best soup I have tasted.” Abby gave him an owlish look. “Do you speak?”
Her cheeks became bright red and hot as she snapped, “Of course I speak.”
When he smiled showing all those big white teeth, Abby thought she would swoon. He was dark, mysterious, and dangerous, the way her father described sin. His beautiful smile actually stole her breath.
“Thank you for removing the bullet.” Abby wanted to ask him who shot him, but knew she should not be bold. Her hand trembled as she brought the spoon up to his mouth. She watched as some dribbled down his strong chin. Wiping it away quickly, Abby tried to calm her frayed nerves.
Thick dark brows drew together. “Do I make you nervous?”