Welcome to Wednesday Writers. Today’s guest is Denise Weimer who is sharing an excerpt from her Historical Christian Romance Bent Tree Bride. Welcome, Denise.
Step into the Southern frontier during the War of 1812 with Bent Tree Bride by Denise Weimer
Susanna Moore can’t get him out of her mind—the learned lieutenant who delivered the commission from Andrew Jackson making her father colonel of the Cherokee Regiment. But the next time she sees Lieutenant Sam Hicks, he’s leading a string of prisoners into a frontier fort, and he’s wearing the garb of a Cherokee scout rather than the suit of a white gentleman.
As both Susanna’s father and Sam’s commanding officer, Colonel Moore couldn’t have made his directive to stay away from his daughter clearer to Sam. He wants a better match for Susanna—like the stuffy doctor who escorted her to Creek Territory. Then a suspected spy forces Moore to rely on Sam for military intelligence and Susanna’s protection, making it impossible for either to guard their heart.
On the Tennessee-Cherokee Nation Border
The smell of books—leather and dusty pages mingling with the burnt ash of the morning fire—stirred Sam’s blood as war cries stirred some men. Despite the commission in the inner breast pocket of his swallow-tailed coat, Sam saw the way forward in words, not wars. The library was left wanting in comparison to his father’s, but for a white man like Captain Gideon Moore living in Indian Territory, ’twas not poor.
The house, however—a massive, white-washed rectangle flanked by chimneys and facing the Hiwassee River—had given him pause. Only for a moment. Still, he was rather glad Moore had a visitor in the parlor when he’d arrived, giving him time to acclimate … and browse.
Where to start? Laying his top hat aside, he faced a polished bookcase. On the shelf above, a volume with a German title drew his attention. A warmth, a comfort, filled his chest as he opened the book and smoothed a hand over the pages. Even Cherokee chiefs like his father’s friend The Ridge marveled that people and ideas lived in books like this, but Sam knew truth when he saw it. Had since the missionaries came, bringing that truth when he was a child.
The library door flew open. A figure in olive green darted inside, not turning, but closing the door with stealth and speed. He’d seen a fox move that way once, slinking out of range of his blowgun into the cover of thick woods.
Sam opened his mouth to alert the woman to his presence, but with three rapid steps, she backed into him. The volume toppled from his hands, and she whirled.
“Wha—” He didn’t get to complete the word.
She clasped her hand over his mouth the same moment she used the force of their bodies coming together so suddenly to secure the book between them. Sam could only stare.
The muslin of her raised collar trembled with her breaths. Her nostrils flared. The girl smelled of outside—the crispness of September flaming into October—the wool of her riding habit, and expensive soap. Intoxicating. It made his heart race. But in her eyes was pain.
She addressed him under a tremulous whisper. “Please, do not speak.” Her glistening brown eyes searched his. Indeed, the eyes of prey when cornered.
To show his agreement, Sam exhaled. His breath on her fingers—such soft fingers—must have jolted her to awareness, for she dropped her hand, and if possible, the flush on her cheeks grew even rosier.
“I’m sorry. But no one must know I’m in here.”
He was almost reading her lips. She still stood so close, he could lower his face and …
As the fringe of her lashes swept down, Sam gave his head a brief shake. He was not here for women, even one as young and lovely as this one. He straightened.
Her gaze snapped to his again. “Please.” At the sound of voices coming from the parlor, she tilted her head with a puffy, brimmed bonnet—like a u-lo-que, er, mushroom, atop her hair—toward the door.
“Very well.” He used the same volume she did. Only then did she step back, and Sam could breathe again. “Are you the daughter of Captain Moore?” He’d thought the children of Gideon and Polly Moore all younger.
She nodded, her fingers fluttering to the chest of her short, cropped jacket, trimmed with ridiculous braid. With the movement, the train of her skirt swept forward. A loop connected it to her left hand. She had been riding.
Despite her fair skin, she possessed the dark hair and eyes that could mark her as the offspring of Moore and his one-half Cherokee wife. But even Peggy Vann, the wealthiest mixed-blood woman in the territory, didn’t dress like this. “Forgive me. I heard … what I heard …”
“Sam Hicks.” Clasping the tome to his chest, he executed the type of bow he made to the American officers who frequented the Hiwassee Garrison. Then he waited.
But no recognition lit her expression. In fact, she asked, “And you are here …?”
“On business to your father.”
“And waiting where I am hiding. While reading …” She turned the book in his hand. “Idea Fidei Fratrum?” Her full lips twitched, raised brows betraying skepticism. “You know German?”
The familiar resentment pricked Sam’s chest, but he kept his face passive. “It’s the English translation, but yes, I do. This is, in fact, the book that brought my father to faith.”
The dark brows winged higher. “Not the Bible?”
Sam dipped his chin in acknowledgment. “The Bible too. But it was this account of Moravian theology which explained to him what he read in the Bible.”
She studied him, something elusive flickering behind her eyes. “You sound very proud of him.”
“I am.” Wasn’t she proud of her father? The son of a famed Revolutionary War colonel, himself a captain in the Tennessee militia, wealthy, respected by whites and Indians alike?
“That’s good. Because despite one’s efforts to become one’s own person and make one’s own decisions, fathers so greatly influence their children.” With a swish of the olive train, she paced toward the front window, drew a fancy curtain aside to reveal a shiny buggy, and jerked back. “He is still here.”
“No, the doctor.” She sank onto a leather wingback chair.
He knew only one doctor, but he belonged at the fort. Maybe, like Moore, the man had purchased acceptance into Big Springs with the acquisition of a Cherokee wife.
Sam approached her. “Why are you hiding from this doctor?”
She jerked her chin up. “Because I cannot marry him.” So much for Sam’s theory. A tear plummeted down her cheek so fast it looked as if it fled from the hand that chased it. Dashing it away, she made a soft growling sound. “What you must think of me.”
“Only a dead man—or woman—has no weakness.” He tugged his handkerchief from his pocket and offered it to her as he sat on the ottoman nearby. “What I think is, what kind of man must this doctor be if he brings you to tears?”
“That’s just the thing. He is a good man.” She blotted her cheek, then extended the white square of fabric back to him.
Flicking his fingers, Sam shook his head. “In case you cannot escape this good man.”
In the girl’s face, panic hardened to determination, and her voice firmed past her previous whisper. “I must. I will. But thank you.” She stuffed the handkerchief through the pocket slit in her skirt, then squared her shoulders. A dimple appeared in her right cheek when she pressed her lips together. “Normally, I am an optimistic person. I’m sorry you caught me in a pucker.”
“Please, do not apologize. You came across a stranger in your home.”
“I’m still mortified. Father would scold me for such a display in front of one of his business acquaintances. Are you here about our family’s trading post?”
She thought him a white man. It was not the first time Sam Hicks had passed as one, despite his high cheekbones and black hair. He’d learned to turn such situations to his advantage. Amazing, the political and military intelligence he gleaned from merely nursing a drink with men who fancied him a citizen of Tennessee, a simple clerk. But if Moore’s daughter was a mixed-blood like him …
Want to read more? You can find Bent Tree Bride on Amazon
About the Author:
Denise Weimer writes historical and contemporary romance and romantic suspense, mostly set in her home state of Georgia. She’s authored a dozen traditionally published novels and a number of novellas. As a managing editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, she also helps others reach their publishing dreams. A wife and mother of two daughters, Denise always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses.