Authors: Dorothy Wiley
AMERICAN WILDERNESS SERIES ROMANCE
Copyright © 2015 Dorothy Wiley
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.
To obtain permission to excerpt portions of the text, please contact the author.
Cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill
Whispering Hills of Love
is a fictional novel inspired by history, rather than a precise account of history. Except for historically prominent personages, the characters are fictional and names, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental. Each book in the series can be read independently.
For the sake of understanding, the author used language for her characters for the modern reader rather than strictly reflecting the far more formal speech and writing patterns of the 18th century.
Other Titles by Dorothy Wiley
WILDERNESS TRAIL OF LOVE
NEW FRONTIER OF LOVE
To my dear sister Maria
Just east of the Shenandoah Mountains,
northern Virginia, Summer 1797
he western horizon claimed the warmth and light of the sun, leaving Kelly to cry sitting in the darkness, her heart and body aching.
After tapping lightly on the door, William carried a bucket full of water inside and sat it on her table. Grey tendrils of steam curled up off the top of the bucket. He had heated the water. Then she watched as he built a fine fire in her small stone hearth.
She gazed at him for a long moment, then closed her eyes tightly, squeezing out even more tears. She thought her tears might fill another bucket. But she couldn’t stop weeping, not yet.
He sighed heavily. “Goodnight,” he said simply as he turned to leave. “Stephen and I will sleep outdoors. We’re used to it anyway. Don’t worry, you’ll be safe. I swear.”
Her bruised arms and a tattered blanket wrapped tightly against her, and still shaking, she could only nod to thank him.
William responded with a warm smile that lit up his kind face.
After he left, she stared at the wooden plank door to her cabin, wanting to remember the warmth in that smile, the only bright
spot in the darkest day of her life. He was already her hero. Not just because he and his younger brother Stephen saved her, but his kindness was something she hadn’t felt since her mother died. Someone had actually done something for her. For four years, no one had done even the simplest thing for her.
Kelly needed to wash herself thoroughly in the nearby creek. But for now, the bucket of cistern water William had thoughtfully heated would just have to do. She made herself stand and walk to the door, slid the bolt into place, and removed her ripped and bloodied clothing. She picked up a square of cloth and dipped it into the water. Why was the rag shaking? Rubbing some soap across the cloth, she stared at the terrible rope burns on her wrists and winced when the warm water touched her raw skin. Her ankles burned too.
But her torn raw skin did not hurt nearly as much as the terror branded on her heart.
Kelly closed her eyes to the images—like a mirror in her mind—a special mirror capable of replaying the horror in vivid detail over and over. Seeing it all again made her feel depraved and her body soiled with a filth she would never be able to wash away. She squeezed her eyes as tight as she possibly could but it did not break the mirror. She pounded her fists against her forehead, hating the images.
Feeling vulnerable all over again, she tried to swallow the hot emotions tightening her throat. She wanted to scream, scream, scream, but instead choked back a cry.
Unable to continue standing, she sat down. Shame and anger entwined inside her and wove a heavy dark shroud around her heart. The weight of it threatened to stop her heart completely and she lowered her head to the table top.
Wanting to regain control of herself, Kelly took slow deep breaths until she felt calm enough to at least raise her head. She forced herself to think about something else. She would think about William and his brother. Who were they? Why did they come here, to this remote place? William had said something about being a sheriff in pursuit of murderers.
Oh God, those men could have murdered her! But they hadn’t. She was alive. And she would go on living despite everything they did to her. Scrubbing her tears from her face with the back of her hand, she stood and made herself finish washing. Maybe concentrating on that would stop the wave of apprehension beginning to sweep through her, threatening to overcome her mind.
She needed to make sense of it all. Ben Jack and Grover were dead. She clung to that thought for a moment. William and Stephen had killed her rapists. Thank you God for sending help. Just a few minutes ago, they had dragged the two bodies outside. Then William explained that he was in pursuit of the two vile men, and tracked them here because they had killed their friend’s husband. They heard Kelly’s screams, burst in, and shot Ben Jack and Grover, saving her.
But not from rape. They were too late to save her from that.
Finished with washing and dressing, she turned to the pile of her ripped clothing. She owned only two well-worn gowns, but she never wanted to see the clothes those men had touched ever again even if it meant wearing the same dress for the rest of her life. She flung the garments into the hearth fire and then pitched the wash rag in too. As the wet cloth hit the flames, it sizzled and steamed, matching her growing anger.
She watched her dress burn, wishing the fire could burn her
humiliation away too. Through her tears of shame, the fire’s flames sparkled and wavered, blurry and softened. When the tears slid down her bruised cheeks, Kelly turned away from the fire and grabbed her Bible, clutching it to her breast as if it were hugging her, not the other way around. Kelly sat and rocked herself until she could finally open the book.
As she did every night, she read by the warm light of the hearth fire. Her mother’s dying wish had been that Kelly read her Bible every day and she had faithfully complied. There were only two other books in the cabin anyway. She’d read them so many times the covers fell off, and the pages came loose. Since her mother died, the three precious books and her animals were the only company she had. She often battled a fierce adversary—lonesomeness. Her trapper father left her alone here for weeks at a time. The isolation and solitude sometimes left her feeling empty, like a bowl with nothing in it.
When he was home, her Papa spent most days drunk and occasionally that made him a little violent. She understood the reason for his fury, but she couldn’t understand why he took it out on her. Or why he found showing her affection so difficult. Weren’t fathers supposed to love their daughters?
Forcing her thoughts back to her reading, she finished the chapter and put the Bible on the small overturned crate next to her bed. The good book had been right there when Ben Jack attacked her, but the sight of it didn’t stop him.
Maybe if she had never let them inside the cabin it wouldn’t have happened. Her home seemed changed now. She glanced around the room, remembering happier times when both her parents loved her and each other. That was before all the bad came—her mother’s sudden death, her father’s drunkenness, and
When Ben Jack and Grover showed up yesterday, she’d been feeling especially lonesome. The big empty spot inside of her had spread and loneliness threatened to consume her entirely. Without a friend in the world, she relished the idea of company, even though her common sense told her to beware of the two strangers. She desperately wanted to just talk to somebody. And they had seemed like such nice young men. Never had she been more wrong.
Remembering the deception of the two wolves in sheep’s clothing, her lips twisted in anger and her temper flared. She needed to go to bed before the few shreds of control she’d managed to muster disappeared completely. She said her nightly prayer, quoting a verse from Psalms 103 aloud. “The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.” God had seen justice done. She should bury her anger. If only she could.
“Thank you Father for delivering me from evil, for sending two good men to replace two evil ones. Forgive me of my sins as I forgive those who have sinned against me,” Kelly prayed, struggling not to cry, and to believe what she was saying.
Can I ever forgive? As she asked herself the question, hatred again welled up inside her like an angry bristling animal. She doubted she would ever be able to feel forgiveness. For now, anger claimed her and it felt right. Better than tears. She wanted to hate those men and her lips pressed together as she thought about how she would punish them if they were still alive.
She heard a soft knock on the door. Not up to talking to them, she ignored it. She would let them think she was asleep.
“Kelly,” she heard William call in a gentle voice. “We just
wanted to be sure you were okay. If you need us, or anything at all, we’ll be right out here. Try to sleep. Tomorrow will be a better day. I promise.”
“How can he promise such a thing?” Kelly whispered to herself. She crawled into bed and clutching the ragged old quilt tightly in both hands, drew it up to her chin. Laying on her side, she stared into the dim light of the waning hearth fire. She again pictured the same vivid images—visions of a nightmare. But you can wake from a nightmare. This time, there would be no waking up to find that everything was the same. Now, everything had changed. Forever.
She wanted to dream now—to escape the oppressive memory if only for a little while. But sleep would not come. Her wrists throbbed and the rawness between her legs remained an incessant stinging reminder. And her mind filled with how it felt when he thrust himself into her, tearing her like a rag.
It felt like what it was—a savage violation—of not just her body, but her soul as well.
She sank into pure misery. She could hear the muffled voices of the two brothers talking outdoors, but she still felt horribly alone. Abandoned. Robbed. Cheated. Damaged.
But most of all, shamed.
She gazed out the small window beside her bed, hoping she could still see the pink and red wildflowers that grew beyond her cabin in peaceful clusters among the rolling verdant hills. But they lay hidden in the darkness waiting for a new day.
“He promised tomorrow would be a better day,” she whispered to her beloved hills.
And somehow, she knew he spoke the truth.
Boonesborough, Kentucky, Fall 1797
illiam Wyllie scanned the fort’s largest room once more hoping to set his eyes on Kelly. He was certain she would come. The crowded noisy room, constructed of sturdy pine logs, contained Boonesborough’s leading citizens, including its Mayor, director of the land office, members of the militia, Judge Webb, and Kentucky’s most famous son Daniel Boone. A number of people stood gathered around Colonel Boone, including William’s oldest brother Sam and their adopted Scots brother Bear—by far the largest man in the room.
William’s eyes halted, but his heartbeat quickened, when he finally spotted Kelly. She stood frozen in the doorway for a moment, the bright sun behind her outlining her shapely silhouette. Radiant and smiling tentatively, she walked in with stiff dignity, escorted by her employer. William’s eyes weren’t the only ones taking notice. He saw many of the men in attendance glance toward Kelly—her beauty turning heads all over the room.
The temptation to race over to her before some other man did flew into his head, but he held himself back. He had forced
himself to take this one slowly and he would continue to do so. At least until he knew for a certainty that Kelly was prepared for a man’s attentions.