The Mockingbird’s Call
Amelia never planned to become a notorious agent on the Underground Railroad; it just happened. Before she knew it, the whole Confederate army was looking for her - including her fiance, Captain Luke Talbot. Jared Stuart finds himself torn between his convictions and his duty. While he can't support slavery, he chooses to use his talents as a writer to prove the pen is mightier than the sword. When Luke arrests Jared, Amelia must face herself and make difficult decisions. Will she admit to her actions, freeing Jared and destroying her own engagement?
John 8:32 – And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
Jared leaned out of the doorway and waved until the train turned a bend and he could no longer see his family. He stepped into the narrow space between cars and pulled off his spectacles which had unaccountably become blurry. The problem couldn’t be connected to the burning sensation in his eyes. That would mean he was crying. Grown men didn’t cry. Surreptitiously he wiped the lenses clean and replaced the spectacles, looking around to see if he’d been noticed.
He opened the door in front of him just as the train lurched. Allowing the movement to push him forward, Jared passed several benches and chose one that was unoccupied. That’s when he noticed the lovely young lady sitting on the other side of the aisle from him.
She glanced in his direction before modestly returning her attention to the book in her lap. She was the most beautiful girl in the world. The quick glance she sent his direction showed eyes as blue as a summer sky. He also noticed her delicate complexion and generous, bow-shaped mouth. Although her hair was pulled up and mostly hidden under her bonnet, he could see shimmering strands around her face that reminded him of sun-drenched corn silk. She could be the subject of poetry, perhaps the fabled Helen of Troy.
The train began to pick up speed as they moved farther away from the station, seeming to race as quickly as his mind. Where was the young lady’s maid? Was she traveling alone? Chivalry filled his chest and squared his shoulders. Like a knight of old he could watch over her and make sure she reached Chattanooga safely.
His imagination soared. Over the next couple of hours, Jared would gradually win her confidence, and offer her his protection. If she was traveling beyond Chattanooga on this train, he would speak to the conductor about her and make certain a suitable replacement would help her reach her final destination. If by some miraculous chance she was journeying to Knoxville, he would guard her from all the dangers they might encounter. It was the least he could do. If one of his sisters found herself traveling alone in these dangerous times, he would hope some man might do the same.
He tilted his head to see what she might be reading. Perhaps that would be a good place to start a conversation. It was a fairly thick volume, so not a book of poetry. Jared craned his neck further but could not see the title. He thought he saw her gaze slide in his direction, so Jared sat back and straightened his cravat. He didn’t want to make her nervous.
After a moment, she returned her attention to her book and turned a page. From the corner of his vision he saw a red ribbon she must be using as a bookmark flutter to the floor between their seats. Jared reached down for it at the same time as the young woman, narrowly avoiding a head collision.
He plucked the ribbon from the floor and put it in her hand, noticing her dainty wrist and long fingers. “You dropped your ribbon.” He nearly groaned as he heard the words. He sounded like a simpleton. Why couldn’t he think of something besides the obvious to say?
“Thank you.” Her smile was perfect, friendly but shy. Her fingers closed over the ribbon, and she settled back in her seat.
Say something! His mind screamed the words, but nothing came to him. His gaze lit on her book. She had partially closed it when she reached for the ribbon. He saw the title and inspiration struck “You’re reading A Tale of Two Cities. What do you think of it? Dickens is one of my favorite authors. I was hoping to procure a copy of that novel before leaving Nashville, but with this and that, I never quite found the time to visit the bookseller. I hope to purchase it once I reach Knoxville. If I can find someone to tell me where the bookseller is located, of course.” He cringed as he realized he was babbling.
She opened her mouth to answer him but was stopped by the arrival of a broad-shouldered man who looked a year or two older, and much more debonair than Jared could ever hope to be. A brother?
“Is this man bothering you, Amelia?” The newcomer’s ferocious frown raked Jared from head to foot, and his hope of protecting the pretty traveler withered.
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