Authors: Therese A. Kramer
Tags: #romance, #romance historical, #romance 1880s
LOVE BY DAWN
Thérèse A. Kraemer
Copyright Therese A. Kramer 2013
Published by Spangaloo at Smashwords
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Editor: Murray Coleman
Cover Design: Spangaloo
The urgent command shocked the dead of the
night. The sound of horse hooves beat upon the sleeping earth like
a tom-tom, waking all creatures and a young Cassandra Walsh. But
she only half listened, as she struggled with her
“Casey!” This time there was no mistaking
the truth. She was being summoned and she came awake with a jolt.
At first, she thought perhaps she was dreaming; the mind can work
strangely when suspended in sleep. Struggling with real and
imagined images, she shook her head trying to calm the wild beating
of her heart. Dream or not, something was wrong. Born with an
uncanny sixth sense of knowing when anything bad was going to
happen, spasms of alarm erupted within her and she swallowed the
terror that rose in her throat.
She heard it again.
“Casey!” The familiar voice was urgent; a warning bell rang in her
brain. Now fully awake, her mind instantly recognized her father’s
voice that ripped the night, sending a chill up her spine. He was
not at home, but she had heard him as clear as if he were in the
room. Quickly, she slipped on a cotton robe.
hands, she clutched it together and ran from her room, through the
small cabin to the front door.
For a moment, she hesitated before throwing
open the weather-beaten barrier. The damp night air chilled her
immediately as she peered into the darkness. The wind picked up the
moment she stepped onto the rickety porch; an owl hooted, making
her jump. Her long hair whipped around her face and she shivered
more from her uneasy feeling than the night air. Frustrated because
she couldn’t see past the large pine trees, she went inside and
returned to her room feeling her heart tighten as if a web was
being woven snugly around it. Trying to sleep was useless; her mind
was filled with anxiety, half in anticipation and half in
A coyote howled for its mate in the distance
made her feel more isolated.
Many long minutes passed. Casey paced the
floor until she heard a horse’s whinny outside the cabin. Her head
snapped up and her heart raced as she listened to the footsteps
before her bedroom door flew opened. She stood frozen in time.
Her father nearly fell into her room. His was
panting and gasping, clutching his chest, as he took in deep
breaths of air. Despite her fears, she felt a moment of relief and
awful joy. “Father?” she gasped, going quickly to his side. “What
happened? What’s wrong? Where’s Hunter?”
Her mind was in turmoil; part of her dreaded
his answer. Part of her suspected she should be frightened to hear
it but she needed to. Her father was covered with mud and acting
like the devil himself was chasing him. Her hands trembled as she
led her father to the bed. Her relief was short-lived and she
wanted her questions answered, but he needed tending. His breathing
was uneven and labored, telling her he’d been riding long and hard.
She feared for her brother also. Where was he?
“Get dressed child,” her father ordered with
a gasp of breath. “I’ve no time to explain.”
“Now!” The command was blunt and to the
point, but his voice lacked strength.
Casey wanted to question him again, but she
bit back tears of frustration; she had to obey him and believe that
it must be important for them to leave in such a hurry. She would
find out later and prayed that her brother was all right. Quickly,
she dressed, remembering the last time she and Hunter fled into the
night, they were running from Union soldiers. She was sure this was
the case again.
Once more, she donned her brother’s clothes,
something she took to doing a long time ago. With no mother to
scold her into wearing dresses and since she did most of the
chores, she found boys clothes more comfortable. Anyway, who saw
her deep in the woods? She never recalled living anywhere except in
the wilderness, even when her mother was alive.
“Oh, mama,” she sobbed, “I wish you were
here. Maybe papa wouldn’t be on the run all the time.” She shrugged
to herself. The truth was, even her mother couldn’t change him; he
was always doing something that got him into trouble. She was sure
it was this kind of life that killed her mother at an early age.
Inhaling deeply, she wondered if her mother could have kept her
brother from following in her father’s footsteps. She frowned and
swore unladylike under her breathe. Probably not.
“Hurry up, girl!” she heard him bellow from
outside. She shoved her long golden hair under her hat, grabbed her
rifle, then ran. Her father was waiting for her and had her horse,
Once again, she asked as she mounted Sadie.
“No time to explain,” he grumbled. His eyes
warning her that this was no moment for stubbornness.
Casey swung her mount
around and they fled into the darkness, riding hard all night.
Although she was an excellent rider and could keep up with any man,
her backside was quite sore. Her spine ached and her legs were
beginning to chafe. It had been a while since she spent time in the
saddle and her aches were reminding her of that fact. By morning
she was thirsty, sore and chilled to the bone from the drizzle that
had started shortly before dawn. The country was remote and calm, a
far cry from her own emotions; her insides were in a whirlwind.
to stop soon, for the horses couldn’t continue at
that pace. Finally, her father stopped at a stream where they,
their mounts drank and rested.
Marcus believed they were safe now, but the
pain in his left arm was getting worse. How could he tell his
daughter that they had been ambushed? That her brother was probably
captured or maybe dead? He had barely escaped himself. After he had
hightailed away, he was sorry for dragging the boy into his
dealings. He prayed he’d not find his son’s dead body. He had seen
the boy fall from his horse; never would he forgive himself. Never!
His self-chastising was a little late but he had to try and save
It was time to explain to his daughter the
facts. He felt the weight of her gaze on him, as he turned to see
confusion and fear written all over her lovely face. There was such
prettiness about her, innocence, but his daughter was by no means a
novice of life. For her it had been a hard one and it was entirely
his fault. He swallowed his sad thoughts. It was too late for
“All right,” Casey said. She sat on her
haunches after taking her fill of water. “Let’s hear it, pop.”
Marcus sat wearily on the damp ground knowing
in his aching heart that his feisty daughter wasn’t going to like
it one bit. He couldn’t fault her and once again he blamed himself
that Hunter was in danger, maybe dead. If only his wife, Maisie was
still alive, but wishing didn’t make things right. He sighed,
wiping his beaded brow with a damp bandanna; he was getting too old
for this. Once more he had promised himself and his dead wife that
this was going to be the last time. Marcus realized too late that
he should have left Hunter home, but the boy was a man and had
insisted on coming along. He dreaded telling his daughter the
truth. Damnation, he was tired and not feeling very well.
Unconsciously, he rubbed his sore arm and let out a big belch.
He saw Casey’s beautiful face. It undulated
before him and he blinked seeing his Maisie sitting by his side.
How beautiful she was. How he missed touching the long blonde hair
that had a texture like woven silk. Her soft topaz eyes held so
much love for him; she could see no wrong with them. Oh, how he
“Maisie,” he gasped and tried to fill his
lungs with the air they begged for.
“Papa?” A flicker of apprehension coursed
through Casey, assuming that she wasn’t about to like what he was
going to tell her. She watched her father curiously; he didn’t look
good. His skin had a funny hue to it and he was sweating profusely.
His clear blue eyes were red and watery and void of emotion,
something she’d never seen before. She wondered how he had aged so
much, for he looked much older than forty-five. His hair was the
color of pewter and thin, like wisps of clouds. “Papa.” She was
beside him now. He seemed to be staring into space. “Papa?” she bit
her lower lip not understanding what was happening. Why was he
calling her by her mother’s name? She put her arm quickly around
him and his head fell onto her shoulder. “Oh, Papa. What’s
happening with you? What happened to Hunter?”
“Hunter,” her brother’s name was but a
whisper on his dry lips. He fell over taking her with him.
Terrified, she cried and struggled to right them both. “Papa?
Please tell me.”
The moon cast an eerie glow making her
father’s irises gleam like glassy rock full of remorse and
remoteness. She saw that he had trouble breathing and she began to
grasp the fact that he might be suffering a heart attack!
“I deserve to die, but not my son,” he rasped
above a whisper.
“Please, papa,” she tugged at his shirt,
uncaring how rough she was. His gaze was icy and unresponsive and
she shook him, screaming at him to answer her. His mouth took on an
unpleasant twist and she began to sob frantically. She hardly heard
the gurgle in his throat but she did hear him whisper Hunter’s name
again. She stopped herself from crying and put her ear to his
“Hunter,” he rasped, “was caught by the
abolitionist.” That was all he said.
Casey sat dazed for a long time before she
let out a bloodcurdling scream in the unfamiliar surroundings, then
she reached out and clutched his hand before collapsing onto her
father’s dead body. She wept like she had when her mother died.
Much later, when her tears were gone and her
throat was raw, she lifted her dazed body from her father’s and
walked over to his horse to retrieve a tin cup from his saddlebag.
It took hours for her to dig a shallow grave. Her hands bled from
torn fingernails while her shoulders and back ached from fatigue
and labor. She ignored the pain and numbness in her legs from
kneeling on the hard ground, as she mustered her last strength and
pulled the heavy body into the grave. She covered him with dirt and
rocks to protect him from wild animals. Then and only then, she
fell into an exhausted sleep. Somewhere between the dimension of
sleep and wakefulness, she heard the chirping of a bird. In her
sleepy mind she was back home and she stretched feeling rested but
sore as hell. The pain in her body brought her fully awake only to
recall her horror once again. Her eyelids slowly opened only to be
greeted by a gray dawn. A fitting companion for her state of