Table of Contents
PIECES OF SKY
“Readers may need a big box of Kleenex while reading this emotionally compelling, subtly nuanced tale of revenge, redemption, and romance, but this flawlessly written book is worth every tear.”
“In her auspicious debut, Warner kicks off the Blood Rose Trilogy . . . Warner develops [the] romance with well-paced finesse and great character work . . . Warner makes great use of the vivid Old West setting.”
“Romance, passion, and thrilling adventure fill the pages of this unforgettable saga that sweeps the reader from England to the old West. Jessy and Brady are truly lovers for the ages!”
“Pieces of Sky
reminds us why New Mexico is called the land of enchantment. A truly original new voice in historical fiction.”
“Generates enough heat to light the old New Mexico sky. A sharp, sweet love story of two opposites, a beautifully observed setting, andvoilà
—a romance you won’t soon forget.”
—Sara Donati, author of
The Endless Forest
“From the first page, it’s clear why debut author Warner has won several awards. Her western romance is a striking portrait of the territory in all its reality, harshness, and beauty. Like Francine Rivers, Warner creates a novel of the human spirit’s ability to conquer emotional and physical obstacles. She conveys her characters perfectly, giving them lives of their own. Readers will be waiting breathlessly for the next book in the Blood Rose Trilogy.”
All About Romance
“It’s been a very long time since I read an engaging and sweet historical romance such asPieces of Sky
. . . I absolutely loved Kaki Warner’s writing.”
Babbling About Books
“I loved everything about this book.”
Berkley Sensation titles by Kaki Warner
PIECES OF SKY
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 2010 by Kathleen Warner.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
SENSATION and the “B” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Berkley Sensation trade paperback edition / June 2010
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Open country / Kaki Warner.—Berkley Sensation trade paperback ed. p. cm.—(Blood rose trilogy ; bk. 2)
eISBN : 978-1-101-18796-8
1. Ranchers—Fiction. 2. Family secrets—Fiction. I. Title.
To Sara—princess, warrior, friend.
And to Brian, the remarkable young man she brought into the family.
My thanks to:
Sara Straley, for my beautiful website and her patience in
to teach me how it all works.
Carlee and Jason, for their excellent advice on medical and weaponry issues.
Heather and Adeline, for being the inspiration behind Penny . . . more or less.
And with special thanks to Nancy Coffey and Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation—to Wendy McCurdy, my discerning editor—and to Kathryn Tumen, my hardworking publicist, all of whom have worked so diligently to make this dream a reality.
Bless you all.
Savannah, Georgia, October 1871
“MOLLY? WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? HOW DID YOU GET in?”
So much for a warm welcome, Molly McFarlane thought, setting down her valise and turning to meet her sister’s husband as he came down the staircase of his elegant Savannah home. “The door was open.”
“Damn those children.” Reaching past her, he shut the door so forcefully the panes in the window beside it rattled, then he stood back and glared at her. “Why are you here?”
“The doctor sent for me.” Taking time to curb her irritation, Molly unpinned her hat and hung it on a hook beside the door before turning to her brother-in-law with what she hoped was a pleasant expression. In truth, she despised Daniel Fletcher, especially after the callous way he had treated the family—most particularly, his two stepchildren—after her father’s death a month ago. “How is she?”
Fletcher made a dismissive motion. He seemed distracted and on edge. Not his usual, fastidious self with that unshaven beard and soiled shirt. “Fine, fine. There was no need for you to come all the way from Atlanta.”
“The doctor seemed to think there was. Lung fever is quite serious.” Hearing the snappish tone in her voice, she reined in her temper. “I’m not here to interfere, Daniel. I’ve come as her sister, not a nurse. If there’s anything I can do to—”
“There isn’t,” he cut in. “You’re not needed.”
Molly looked steadily at him, refusing to back down, wondering as she had so many times why her older sister had taken such an unpleasant man as her second husband. Grief over her first husband’s death had been part of it, no doubt. And fear of raising a six-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son on her own had added to it. It had taken less than six months for Nellie to realize her mistake.
“May I see her?” she asked.
Being the weak, bullying man he was, Fletcher looked away first, his gaze as shifty as that of a guilty child. “Oh, all right. Stay if you must.” Muttering to himself, he went down the hall to his office, slamming the door hard behind him.
Molly wondered how he could bear to go into that room. She had only had the courage to venture through that door once. The walls had been cleaned by then, the reek of gunpowder and blood masked by the cloying scent of funeral flowers and smoke from Fletcher’s cigar. But Papa’s ghost had lingered. She could feel him still.
“Did you come to save Mama?”
Glancing up, Molly saw her nephew, Charlie, perched on the top step of the stairs. He looked lost and small and too knowing for his eight years. He’d already lost his father and grandfather. Was he to lose his mother now too? “I’ve come to try,” she answered.
“It doesn’t matter. He’ll get her anyway.”
“Who will get her?”
“The monster. He’ll get us too.” Jumping to his feet, Charlie darted away, his footfalls ending with the thud of an upstairs door.
Frowning, Molly started up the stairs. As she rose above the entrance hall, she looked down through the open parlor door to see the room was a shambles, rugs thrown back, drawers half-open, books scattered about the cluttered floor. Apparently, Fletcher hadn’t seen fit to hire a cleaning girl during Nellie’s illness. Molly sighed. Well, if nothing else, at least she could clean up the house for her sister.
Outside the master bedroom, she paused for a moment to prepare herself, then knocked. When she heard no response, she gently pushed open the door.
The room beyond was still and dark, the curtains pulled tight over the tall windows. The air was rank with the smell of soiled bedding, illness, and despair. Except for labored breathing, it was silent.
Molly pressed her lips tight against a rush of angry words. How long had her sister been left unattended? When had she last had her bedding changed, or her face washed, or her hair brushed? Had Fletcher simply left her in the dark to suffer alone? “Nellie?” she called.
“Molly? Is that . . . you?” The voice was a weak rasp, followed by a bout of coughing that seemed to rip through her sister’s throat.
Rushing across the room, Molly bent beside the bed, her years of medical training at her father’s side overcoming her disgust with Fletcher and her terror for her sister. “Yes, I’m here,” she said in the calm, soothing voice Papa had taught her.
Nellie looked ghastly, a mere shadow of the lovely woman she had once been. Her skin seemed stretched over her bones and showed an unhealthy pallor except for two bright spots of color high on her cheeks. Her lovely green eyes shone feverishly bright, and her welcoming smile looked more like a grimace.