3/11 Overcoming With God MaryLu Tyndall
3/12 Laurie Alice Eakes Roseanna White
3/13 MaryLu Tyndall Debbie Lynne Costello
3/14 Patty Smith Hall Gina Welborn
3/15 Roseanna White Carrie Fancett Pagels
3/18 Gina Welborn Patty Smith Hall3/19 Debbie Lynne Costello Laurie Alice Eakes
The Charleston Chef's Table:Extraordinary recipes of the old south
Choices of the Heart & Wilderness Road:Music of the Back country
Civil War Ebook Novella & Basket from Shirley Plantation
$10 Amazon Gift CardQuill and Ink
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A VOW FULFILLED
“Pistols?” The world tilted and spun around Celia, as though she stood on the deck of a shrimp boat in a hurricane. “No, Papa, you cannot duel with Mr. Cane over something this. . .frivolous as a little kiss.”
“I can, and I shall, if you don’t agree to wed him. What kind of father would I be if I didn’t defend your honor?”
“One who loves me enough to let me choose my own way. And that way isn’t to up and marry a man I scarcely know.” Even as she declared the words, Celia cringed at how childish they sounded. But they, like her vow in front of Mabel and God, hung in the humid air like that snake from the tree—poisonous, potentially deadly.
“I should have loved you enough to not give you your own way. But it’s not too late to make you suffer the consequences of your careless behavior.” Papa’s chin jutted, a familiar sight—
Because its feminine version faced her in the mirror every day.
She cupped her hand over the offending feature, pressing her forefinger to her lower lip to stop it from trembling. “But marriage is for a lifetime.”
“So might the pain be for all those men you hurt.” Turner’s voice, though quiet, rumbled through the clearing like distant thunder. “I love your spirit and your intelligence, and your pretty face, but you playing fast and loose with hearts is going to stop with me.”
“How dare. . .you.” She could scarcely breathe. “You won’t meet Papa if I refuse to wed you.” She turned to Papa. “Mr. Cane won’t meet you.”
“I will to preserve my honor, Miss Sheldon. My family depends on it.”
“Even if your honor gets you killed?” Celia shot him a glare over her shoulder and wished she were a dozen years younger so she could stamp her foot, though a leather slipper meeting marshy ground wouldn’t be particularly satisfying, not like a slam loud enough to make them all jump. “You men are so. . .frustrating with your honor.”
“Maybe if you had more honor,” Papa said, “you wouldn’t have gotten yourself in this fix. Now you’re forcing me to maybe kill this fine young man.”
“I’ll be your second,” William called. “Maybe you’ll get your brains blown out, and my troubles will be over.”
“I think,” Turner interjected, “your troubles are just beginning, Cousin. When our grandsire hears of this, you’ll be finished in Charleston and the family.”
“My Papa’s troubles won’t be,” Celia cried.
“You made the vow.” Mabel’s upper lip curled, then her mouth opened wide with a laugh.
“Laugh all you like.” Celia did some sneering of her own. “But you’re finished in Charleston, too. In fact, you might be in trouble with the law.”
“I won’t be.” Despite her protest, Mabel’s face paled, and she began to back into the trees, dragging William behind her. As she spun on her heel, clearly intending to bolt, she tossed over her shoulder, “You may be rid of William and me, but you’re not rid of God. I warned you not to do it, not to make a vow before God like that. You’ll pay, I’m sure.”
Celia crossed her arms over her middle and glared after Mabel, nearly obscured by trees, and William, still lingering in the shadow of the branches. . “I never meant it, that vow, I mean.”
“Just like you never meant you’d marry any of us you got yourself betrothed to?” William’s tone held a taunt.
“Or that you cared about me enough to kiss me?” Though gentler than William’s voice, Turner’s words stung like a jellyfish.
“I. . . Well, I. . .” Celia’s throat closed. She spun on her heel, picked up her skirt, and ran.
Tripping over vines and careening off of tree trunks, she didn’t stop until she slammed face-first into a low-hanging limb festooned with Spanish moss. She batted the vegetation aside, then leaned her crossed arms on the rough bark of a tree, heedless of insects.
“What have I done?” she wailed into her crossed arms.
If she married Turner, she would surrender her pride and will to others’ wishes, not to mention marrying a man she scarcely knew. But if she didn’t marry him, her Papa might kill him, or he might kill Papa. Either way, she would be responsible for a maiming at best, or death at the worst.
So what if she’d made a vow to Mabel and to God. She hadn’t kept any of her vows to marry the men who had asked her for her hand. Those were just words. They meant nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
Or perhaps that was the trouble. She spoke words to people and, worse, to God without meaning them. Her stomach twisted like hemp on the rope walk. If she didn’t mean the vows she spoke, then she must not have meant her decision to repent of her sins and follow Jesus.
That was all too obvious for comfort. She hadn’t repented of anything. She had asked forgiveness, then trotted right back to her old tricks and games.
Something hairy began to crawl on her arm, and she jerked away from the tree in time to meet Turner Cane face-to-face.
She jumped. “What are you doing here?”
“Your papa sent me after you to make sure you’re all right.” He didn’t smile at her, but his eyes held tenderness. “He’s occupied holding that gun of his on Mabel and William until the sheriff gets here and decides if they’ve broken the law.’”
“He should let them go. They can’t harm anyone here now. I’m the one Papa should be upset with.”
“He’s upset enough with you, never fear.” Turner let out a bark of mirthless laughter. “Or maybe you should fear his wrath.”
“Yes.” Celia stared at the muddy hem of her gown. “I’ve connived and cajoled and done everything but treat him with respect my father deserves. Yet he’s willing to fight a duel and risk his life to preserve my honor. For that alone, I should agree to wed you just to save your lives.” She raised her head and made herself meet Turner’s gaze. “But I’m not ready to marry anyone.”
His mouth compressed, and a streak of heat lightning flashed through his eyes. “If you’re not ready to marry anybody, you shouldn’t be going around getting yourself betrothed, let alone kissing—“
“No, no, that’s not what I mean. You see”—she laid one soiled gloved hand on Turner’s sleeve—“I can’t give my heart to any man until I have my heart right with Jesus. I made a vow to follow Him when I was a child, but kept on living my life as I pleased. Now it’s gotten us all into a deadly fix because I went my own way instead of His.” She worried her lower lip, trying to form the next words. “You are the only man to come after me, and back there in the clearing, you were honest with me. No one’s ever done that for me. And I think”—she pressed her hands to her hot cheeks—“I think one day I would like to marry you, even if you don’t inherit.”
“Thank you for that, and I expect I will inherit now that William’s been exposed as a blaggard.”
“It doesn’t matter how much money the man has when I care about him. But first I need to get my heart right with the Lord.”
“And that’s how I’d prefer my wife to be—with her heart right with the Lord.” Turner smiled.
Celia’s insides quivered like strawberry jelly, and she had to look away before she could continue. “If. . .if you’ll wait for me. . .” She tugged and twisted a glove button so hard it popped off. “And I promise it won’t be very long now that I know what I need right first, I-I promise I’ll marry you.”
“Are you making another vow?” His tone was lighter, but still somber. “Don’t say it if you don’t mean it.”
She raised her chin, though it quivered rather than set firm, and smiled. “I am making a vow I truly mean this time.”
“Then you make me a happy man.” He kissed her then, gently, tenderly, and Celia knew she would indeed fulfill her vow to marry him.
The End Contributed by Laurie Alice Eakes http://www.lauriealiceeakes.com/