Saturday, October 22, 2011

Coming Soon... THIS MOMENT IN TIME by Nicole McCaffery

I hope no one will mind if I change course from our usual topic of the Old West to share another of my favorite era’s with you today.  The following is an excerpt from my upcoming release, a Civil War era time travel coming in early 2012 from The Wild Rose Press.

Not even captivity can sway Southern widow  Josette Beaumont from spying for the Confederacy.
Under the nose of the Union army, she willingly risks her life to pass information to her sources.
Until a stranger appears in her bedroom one day with a cryptic message: stop spying or you’ll die. She
has no reason to believe his warnings about the future, but his company is the only solace in her long
days of imprisonment, and his friendship quickly comes to mean so much more. If only she could make
the sacrifice he asks of her…

To hell with history, real estate mogul Jamie D’Alessandro has no intention of saving the historic
mansion he’s purchased, even if it is the home of a famous Confederate spy. But when he steps into an
upstairs bedroom of the old house, time suddenly shifts, bringing him face to face with a very beautiful
and irate Southern lady. Against his will he’s drawn into her cause—to save the Confederacy. But Jamie
has a cause of his own. According to his research the lady spy has only days to live.

Should he change history to save the woman he loves—or sacrifice life in his own century to be with her for This Moment in Time?

 “TV producer and star of The House Flipper, Jamie D’Alessandro was indicted this week in Los Angeles on charges of fraud and grand larceny.
“An appraiser there claims D’Alessandro owes her more than forty-thousand dollars for work she did on some of the homes he flipped. If convicted, D’Alessandro could face up to two years in jail.  This comes just weeks after controversy began swirling around D’Alessandro’s plans to demolish an historic home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  The two-hundred year old house, used as a headquarters by Union General Stillwell during the Civil War, was the home of famous confederate spy Josette Beaumont, once known as the Virginia Rose. 
“D’Alessandro, son of the late real estate mogul James D’Alessandro, maintains the home is too badly damaged from decades of neglect to safely renovate. He plans to replace it with an upscale hotel.
In other news…”
“This doesn’t look good.”
Jamie muted the television and quirked a brow at his chief financial officer.  “I’ve been in worse messes.”
“Ashley—sorry, the plaintiff.  She’s making your life hell.” Len Goldman kicked off her low-heeled shoes and settled into a leather wing back chair. “Why don’t you just pay her off?”
“Because it’s bullshit. We were engaged at the time.  She wasn’t interested in collecting payment as long as there was a half million-dollar rock on her hand.  Now that I’ve called things off she wants compensation.”
“Jame, you could go to jail.”
He pulled a face.  Rising from the leather sofa in his office, he strolled across the room to gaze out at the night sky.  Even at eighty stories up, there were no stars to be seen, just the New York skyline and the artificial lights of the other Manhattan high rises. 
“That doesn’t concern you?”
“Nope.” He swirled the contents of his glass, then tossed it back with one gulp.  “What good is my father’s money and his team of New York attorneys if they can’t keep me out of jail for something I didn’t do?  Hell, they kept me out enough when I was younger for things I did do.”
A shadow of a smile crossed Len’s face. “I suppose they did.  Now what about this place in Virginia? The other board members and I are concerned about the image of D’Alessandro Development.”
He turned and faced his mentor, the woman who had held the company together after his parents’ unexpected deaths and been a surrogate parent to him over the years.  “Lenora. You’re not serious.”
“It doesn’t look good, Jamie.  When you acquired the property, you assured the Daughters of the Confederacy and the local historical society you wouldn’t tear it down.”
“It was a mistake. I should have listened to the appraiser, but I thought it would be great for the show.  It would take millions to restore that thing.” He strode across the room to refill his glass.  “And I never said I wouldn’t demolish the house. I said I didn’t intend to demolish it. Intentions change.” He lifted the brandy decanter toward her in silent question. 
Len shook her head, indicating her half-full glass.  “You know damn well people don’t see it that way.  They just see some hot-shot kid from New York with more arrogance than brains—”
“I’m thirty-three, hardly a kid.”
“Have you even seen the house?”
Jamie settled back onto the leather sofa, resting an ankle on one knee.  “I’ve seen pictures.”
“It’s just… I know you hate to hear this hon, but your father—”
“I’m not—”
“I know.  You’re not your father and no one expects you to be.  But Jimmy was a self-made man.  He didn’t earn his millions overnight like you did; he had to work for it.  And he believed to his dying day that a personal touch made all the difference.  He was never too big, too busy or too important to do things for himself.”
Jamie absorbed her words and the sting of her underlying message.  Unspoken words like spoiled brat and too big for your britches hung in the air between them. He studied the contents of his glass, swirling the amber liquid, listening to the ice clink against the sides.  “I have nothing to gain by going to Virginia.”
“First hand knowledge.  You know this business as well as any appraiser. Hell you’re probably the only heir in New York who has actually done manual labor.  I know what you can do with an old house, Jame.  If you haven’t seen it for yourself, how do you know it’s not worth renovating?”
“Because I don’t care.  I don’t know what it is, Len, but lately… nothing interests me.  I know you think I’m a spoiled brat, but I feel like there’s nothing left.  Like it’s all done.  My father spent his life building his fortune—building all of this,” he gestured to the ceiling.  “When he died, I became a billionaire. At twenty-three.”
“No one could blame you for feeling that way.  You never had the chance to find out what you wanted to be when you grew up. It was thrust on you as Jimmy and Regina’s only child. You’ve spent the last ten years learning the business from the ground up, you’ve proven to the world that you are your father’s son, you are a chip off the old block.  Maybe it’s time to take a breather.”
“I don’t need another vacation; there’s no place I haven’t already been.”
“Then don’t take one.  When the pressures of it all got to your father, he used to say the best medicine was to get your hands dirty.”
He reached to set the glass on a side table. “Are you suggesting I take up gardening?”
She chuckled.  “No. Do what you’re really good at.  Go fix up a house somewhere. Disconnect completely. Forget about New York, forget about real estate. Forget about Ashley and the lawsuit.”
Jamie considered her words for a few moments.  Disconnect? No cell phone, no computers. Nothing? As unreasonable as the idea sounded, it held a certain appeal.  He released a sigh of defeat “Fine. Call off the bulldozers.  I’ll go to Virginia.”
****
Spring, 1862
Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
“I want to know how Stonewall Jackson knew where my men were going to be.”
Josette Beaumont resisted the urge to flinch. She’d not show a hint of weakness, even as General Stillwater’s foul breath bathed her face.
He grabbed her chin between his thumb and finger, squeezing.  “You’ve been locked in this house for a month, yet somehow you still managed to get information to the rebs.  I want to know how.”
She jerked away from his touch, but he didn’t release her.  “Has it not occurred to you, General, that perhaps the Union army isn’t as clever as you think?  You were the ones who intended to win this war in a matter of days, as I recall.  Yet the North hasn’t won a single battle.”
He shoved her against the wall with a thud that rattled her teeth.  “Time spent in a Federal prison would do you good.”
She held her tongue.  Until he could prove she was a spy, he couldn’t truly send her to prison.  At least she hoped not.  Right now he had no proof of anything.
“Fortunately for you, my dear, I’m a man who appreciates beauty.”
A cold knot of fear coiled in her midsection.  She stepped away from the wall, all too aware of the bed in the center of the room and the lusty gleam in his eyes.
He closed the distance between them in one long stride.  “We could work out an arrangement that benefits us both.”
“I’d die before becoming mistress to the likes of you.”
“The time may come when you change your mind.  Until then, if I were you, I’d be very cautious about what you choose to share with your sources.  You never know when the information you have access to is false.  You could unintentionally send those filthy rebels you care so much about directly into harm’s path.”
A lump rose in her throat.  “If I were a spy, as you claim, then that might concern me.  But since I am nothing but a poor widow—”
“A poor widow?”
“You know perfectly well my husband’s passing left me with nothing. What little I had was taken by you and your men.”
“There is one thing I haven’t taken from you, Mrs. Beaumont.”  His cold gaze raked her from head to toe, leaving her as chilled as if he’d stripped her naked.  “I prefer to wait until you offer it freely—“
“Then you’ve a long wait ahead.”
“My patience is wearing thin,” he said, storming toward the door. “One of these nights I may decide I’ve been patient enough.” 
The door slammed. She waited a half breath until she heard the key turn in the lock and the General’s boots retreating down the hallway.
She quickly pulled the pins from her hair, allowing the waist length strands to fall free, combing her fingers through the tangles until the silk-wrapped sachet fell to the floor.  She scooped  it up and hurriedly pulled the contents from inside to review the notes she would slip to her contact later tonight. 
****
By the dim glow of propane lanterns, Jamie unrolled the sleeping bag and spread it on the floor.  His flight had arrived late, and he’d gotten lost on the way to the house.  It was dusk by the time he arrived.  He’d have to wait until morning to fully explore Beaumont House and the grounds around it. 
He rubbed his arms against the chill of the spring night.  Fortunately, he’d never minded roughing it.  In fact, sitting here in this abandoned house, with only the sound of his own breathing for company, he was more content than he’d ever been in his multi-level New York penthouse.  No servants tiptoeing about, no cell phone buzzing, no financial advisors dropping by for hours-long discussions.
Maybe he’d have a look around before night fully took over the house.  He hadn’t actually stepped foot inside before, had merely relied on the findings of his reconstruction team.  But now, flashlight in hand, the narrow beam of light lit upon yellowed paint, peeling wallpaper and architectural detail the likes of which were rarely seen these days.  He stepped closer, studying the intricate molding on the fireplace and ran his fingers along the smooth, cold surface.  It would need more than stripping and refinishing to restore it, but the wood felt solid beneath his fingertips. 
Stepping back, he drew the light up to reveal the crown molding along the ceiling.  He’d need a ladder and full daylight to get a good look at it, but the idea of working with his hands again—getting them dirty, as Len said—filled him with an excitement that renewed his spirit in a way it hadn’t been in a long time. 
The light glinted off the top of a framed painting.  He lowered the beam, illuminating the portrait.  A woman with dark hair and smoldering dark eyes.  A modest hint—downright puritan by today’s standards—of pale bosom peeked over the ruffled bodice of a white dress.  Somehow that hint of creamy flesh seemed more forbidden—sexier-- than any modern woman he’d ever seen.  There was something prim and ladylike about her that made it feel wrong to stare at her like that.  Was this the famous spy?  Her name escaped him, but he made a mental note to learn more about her.
A loud thump from the second floor caught his attention.  His heart leaped to his throat, and for a moment, he felt like a scared kid in a haunted house.  He shook his head, chuckling at himself.  The house had been locked up tight since the renovation team had come through to inspect it, there was no one around.  Probably a rodent or critter had gotten inside.  Still, he had no intention of spending the night listening to the scratching and thumping of a wild animal.
He shone the flashlight ahead of him until he found the winding, elegant staircase that led to the second floor.  Common sense warned him not to trust the stairs; the old house was full of wood rot.  But curiosity got the better of him and he tested the first step before putting his full weight on it, and the next, and the next.  Fully expecting to go through the boards and land on his ass, he continued the same tenuous journey until he reached the second floor. 
Amazed he’d actually made it, he gave a quick glance behind him, then began to move around the second story.  Shining the light upward, he saw the staircase continued to a third floor, but wasn’t about to push his luck any further. 
He paused, waiting until he heard the scratching again.  With the beam of light at his feet to illuminate the floor, he took slow, cautious steps, following the sound.  As he drew closer to the sound he paused, wondering if he should have brought something for protection. What if the creature was rabid? 
Stepping fully into the room where he’d heard the noises, he paused to appreciate the huge windows that overlooked the valley.  They didn’t make houses like this anymore, and while he had nothing but the utmost appreciation for the trappings of modern society, he had to admit, there was something about the way they built things a couple of centuries ago. They didn’t need high tech gadgets and expensive fabrics to scream wealth and elegance.  It was right here in the architecture. 
Forgetting himself for a moment, he stepped across the room. The loud groan of a floorboard caused him to freeze, wondering if the floor could support him.  The banging now came from behind him.  Heart suddenly pounding, he whirled.  A door—to a closet, perhaps?— rattled insistently.  He swallowed.  He’d never believed in ghosts, had laughed off any notion that they existed.  So what the hell was this? 
As he stood there, a cold draft of air swirled about his feet.  Wasn’t it supposed to get really cold when a ghost appeared?  No, no, he wouldn’t allow his imagination to take him there.  Dammit, he was James D’Alessandro III; he’d never allowed anyone or anything to intimidate him. It would take more than an abandoned old house to spook him.
On silent feet, he crossed the room to the door, mentally counting—one, two… three. He yanked it open.  His breath left him in a relieved exhale.  Nothing stood behind it.  The cold breeze continued, whistling through a broken window.  The branch of a tree had long since grown inside and as the wind blew, it scratched against the wall.  A gust must have blown the door shut; that was probably the bang he’d heard from downstairs. 
He took another deep breath to help slow his heart rate. While he was out gathering tools tomorrow, he’d have to get something to put over the window.  He’d never get any rest with that door thumping all night long, and the air blowing inside would only make the house colder. 
Chuckling at his own ridiculous fear, he started to turn. A voice—not the howling of the wind this time— and the sudden sensation of warmth at his back stilled him.
“Honestly, Sebastian, he can’t keep me locked up here much longer.  I’ll go mad.”
A woman?  She sounded calm, perhaps a little angry.
“Drat it, now I’ve lost count.”  A heavy sigh followed.  “The last I remember was twenty strokes, I’ll have to start over from there.”
Heart back in his throat, he turned just enough to glance over his shoulder.  The first thing to greet him were the windows—the very same windows he’d admired moments ago.  Only they were now adorned with white lace.  To the left, a warm fire crackled in the fireplace, casting a golden glow across the gleaming hardwood floor.  And directly in front of him, a dark gray cat lay sprawled across an ornate four poster bed, calmly grooming itself. It paused, tongue in mid stroke and stared up at him with curious green eyes.
“Twenty one. Twenty two. Twenty…”
Swallowing, he forced his gaze from the cat to the source of the voice.  A woman sat at a vanity, tugging a brush through long, dark hair.  In the mirror, he watched as her gaze moved from her reflection.  To him.  She let out a gasp.  The brush fell from her hand. She whirled on her seat to face him.
“Wh—who are you?”
She could see him!

11 comments:

  1. Oh, Boy! Terrifc excerpt--and so "timely" too ; ) Historical Western Romance is my favorite genre. I love westerns of all kinds. Being a Southerner, I also love Civil War romances and stories set in the South. Shenandoah Valley of VA--my lifelong home. I live in the beautiful mountains of Alleghany County, VA!

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  2. Great except, Nic. Can't wait to read it.

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  3. LOVED this, Nicola. We just visited Gettysburg and the Shenandoah Valley, so I'm all about the Civil War right now.

    Reading Killer Angels to brush up.

    Virginia, the valley was fogged in with rain clouds,we WOULD have had a view from the lodge) but it was still breathtaking. And the fall color, magical to us Californians where nothing ever changes.

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  4. Nicole and Tanya--I often speak of the beautiful mountains surrounding my home in VA. There are woods and caves and creeks and rivers. There is a majestic gorge with high rocky cliffs which give the feeling that an awesome force of nature carved its way through the valley. I like to walk in the woods, especially in the Fall after a light rain. The rain opens up all the earthy smells and gives the atmosphere a close, misty feeling. If you walk quietly by yourself, and pause now and then, you can “hear” the woods.

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  5. Nicole, this excerpt was awesome. I love Civel War history. I've often thought of what it must have been like, being a spy and a woman, in any war-time--but that concept in respect to the Civil War just captivates me. So you know I will be buying and reading this book of yours, for sure. LOL I've written some Civil War era short stories, but never anything any longer. I think that would be extremely difficult, and my hat's off to you for doing such a fantastic job of it.
    Cheryl

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  6. Should have proofread better...I meant CIVIL, not CIVEL. DUH...

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  7. Nic, powerful excerpt for a great story!

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  8. Ladies, thanks for your kind words. I've wanted to combine my love for time travel stories and my passion for the Civil War for quite some time.

    I know I've been quiet on our blog and loop lately (blame the kids' school schedule and its subsequent stresses) and I really appreciate you coming out to say hello today.

    Hugs to all,

    Nic

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  9. Nicole, this excerpt is fabulous, but I'd not expect anything less from you. I sure do hope you have lots of sales for this story. So glad you posted it today.!!

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