SOUTHERN PRIDE, NORTHERN HONOR
Pittsylvania County, Five Miles Southwest of Danville, Virginia - August 5th, 1863
"Up or down?" An expectant pause followed the words, and preceded an irritated
huff an instant later. "Bre-anne. Are you even listening to me?"
Frowning, Breanne pulled her distracted attention back in through the loft window, though she was loathe to look away from the activity taking place down below in front of her home. It wasn't often soldiers stopped at their farm. "Wh-what did you say?"
With another huff, Sarah Jo dropped the golden mane she'd been holding aloft, folded her slender arms over her nonexistent bust and scowled. "I asked you if I should wear my hair up or down?" To Breanne's continued expression of confusion, she added, "When Joshua comes home."
Poor Sara Jo. She really didn't have the assests required to catch Breanne's brother's eye, but she would never, ever tell her best friend that sad truth. Instead she tried to deter her friend's interest in another way, albeit futile in the extreme. "Sarah Jo. He isn't coming home until Christmas, and that's months away. Besides, he doesn't like girls to make a fuss over him."
She returned her gaze to the tattered soldiers standing just below the front porch.
"Hah! Shows what you know," Sarah Jo retorted in her best haughty tone. "All fellas like girls to make over ‘em -- your brother included." She sighed, another one of those heart-struck sighs that she'd been given to making of late. A sound that sent irritable shudders down Breanne's spine. "I declare. Your brother is purely the most handsome boy in the county. And this time when he comes home, I'm going to make sure he notices me."
Breanne cast a frown at her lifelong friend. Sarah Jo was fast becoming an intolerable companion. All she wanted to do these days was talk about Joshua — how handsome he was, how tall he was, how smart he was. Breanne was getting heartily sick of hearing his name, especially in combination with that -- that sigh. How could Sarah Jo have done it? How could she have allowed herself to fall head over heels for Breanne's brother? It was an act tantamount to betrayal, since Breanne hadn't been afflicted with similar feelings for any boy as yet. Though that could well be blamed on the war. All the best young men had gone off to fight, eagerly leaving without a thought given to the girls they left behind. Although, truth be told, Breanne hadn't formed any attachments to any of them, but it was rather lonely knowing that her best friend had been shot by Cupid's sweet arrow while she had not.
Or maybe a whole quiver full of arrows, she amended silently as she watched Sara Jo primp and preen.
It took no effort at all to return her gaze back out the loft door, to the porch below, to her mother and Cora, their darkie cook, doling out food -- a precious commodity in these difficult times, but her parents would never turn any hungry man away. She scanned the ragged soldiers, little more than scarecrows, the lot of them. How they mustered the strength to withstand the enemy she couldn't guess.
A squeal of delight reached her ears and her gaze shot to her baby brother, Caleb. One of the soldiers was holding him, bouncing him on his knee and Caleb's golden curls bobbed in proportion to his laughter. Breanne smiled. Caleb was always such a happy baby. He brought joy to everyone he met.
But something...something nagged at her. Something just wasn't... right. She glanced up at the perfectly blue sky. The sun was shining as brightly as ever, the day was warm and pleasant. So what was it...?
"Well, if you aren't going to talk to me about Joshua, then I'll just go sit with Cora and your mama. At least they don't mind hearing about my plans for his homecoming."
Sarah Jo's words barely registered, so intent was Breanne on the scene down below, and she didn't pay the least mind when her friend abandoned her. Not until she spied Sarah Jo halfway across the barnyard did she finally rouse herself. She should join her mother and greet the soldiers. It would be the polite thing to do.
She rose to her feet, dusting bits of hay from her worn dress. Papa had promised he would try to get some new dress cloth the next time he went to town...
Breanne glanced up.
Pop, pop, pop.
Almost immediately the foreboding she'd experienced moments before returned, no longer a teasing nagging but a great wave of sensation. Her gaze flew back to the barnyard, but... nothing appeared to be amiss. Not at first. Not until the first soldier fell to the ground. And then all the soldiers were all turning toward the road and drawing their guns...
"Wha-at?" Breanne gasped, her heart leaping into her throat. Her eyes skipped from the soldiers to her mother on the porch, now holding Caleb, yet standing motionless. "Mama?" she breathed.
The next moment the tranquility below dissolved into a chaotic morass. Mounted soldiers -- Union soldiers -- swarmed into the barnyard, firing their weapons, yelling, cursing. The Confederate soldiers fired back. And Breanne's attention was fixed on the macabre scene, so horrible, so...surreal.
"Lord amighty! No! God, no! Not the baby! Not Caleb!"
Cora's agonized shrieks ripped through Breanne's heart dragging her attention back to the porch and her mother holding Caleb's limp, chubby body. He hung from her arms like a rag doll and it took a moment for Breanne to realize the cause. But she never heard her mother's agonized cry of pain. Her heart pounding so hard in her ears, she could only watch as another shot, errant or deliberate, she would never know, tore into her mother's body, sending her reeling backward.
"Dear God," Breanne whispered, her legs numb beneath her she gripped the door frame for support, her fingers digging into the worn wood in an effort to keep her upright. "Mama," she whimpered.
Cora was the next to fall, dropping heavily to the porch.
"Cora!" Breanne cried, but the moment of horror was far from over. She spied her father in the doorway at the same moment the Union soldier did, and she watched helplessly as the man lifted his rifle and took aim. "Papa! No! Papa!"
She finally found the strength she needed to tear herself away from the loft door, and she half-staggered, half ran to the loft ladder. Somehow, she managed to get to the bottom without falling but as she ran for the barn doors she tripped on her skirts and fell.
"Breanne!" Sarah Jo's shrill scream filled the barn and still struggling against the cloth that sought to hold her down, Breanne looked up. Sara Jo halted in the doorway, her hands wrapped in her skirts, her face an unnaturally pale mask of terror, and yet she just stood there, staring. She didn't take another step. She didn't utter another sound.
And then she fell... face forward, her beautiful golden curls now a mass of red.
Breanne choked on the bile that roiled up her throat, but she couldn't even manage a scream. Darkness rose up around her like the great jaws of some beast, and swallowed her whole.
Pittsylvania County, Virginia, August 1863
David settled himself on a fallen log and took a satisfyingly deep breath
of the pine scented air. He was back in Virginia, where he belonged--although
there were those who would contest that fact. His decision to serve
with the Union had made him a veritable traitor in the eyes of most who
resided here. Yet he was still proud to call himself a Virginian,
proud too to be a Unionist, and he was determined to see his country survive--whole.
He took one more look around the small copse. The trees cordoned this small clearing from the rest of the shattered world like a fortress of green and he was able to have some seclusion at last, something camp life little afforded. And he was safe enough. This area was too destitute to support any Confederate troops. They were away to the south or the north, so he had no cause to be overly concerned. Besides, his own men were less than two hundred yards away on the other side of the trees, and the perimeter was well picketed.
But more importantly, he was away from the prying eyes of his own kind. The fact that he'd been assigned commander of this company of men, relieving the officer in charge, did not make him a particularly popular fellow. Even less would they respect him if they knew the true nature of his assignment. Investigating one of their own.
Sometimes he found himself disillusioned with the nature of his work, but more often was he disgusted with those he pursued. Those who betrayed his country. He had more respect for the enemy. At least those men who fought for the Confederacy did so with conviction and a loyalty to their cause--even if they were wrong.
He pulled a letter from inside his tunic and turned the envelope over while absentmindedly refastening the garment. It was from Malcolm. He smiled sadly, a pang of regret passing through him. He had not seen his older brother since their respective units had gone separate ways. Malcolm had tried to have him reassigned so that they could remain together. David himself had arranged to have the appointment blocked. But then, his brother had no idea that his captaincy in the 5th Artillery was just a cover. Just a sham. That he was actually a... a spy. And if David could help it, he never would. Malcolm had had first hand experience with spies, and he despised the lot of them.
Carefully preserving the envelope, David tore open the letter and hungrily read the contents.
I've good news to send. Abigail has been delivered of a little girl, with the blue eyes of a MacInnes and the beauty of her mother. We've named her Grace Lynn, and I cannot wait to introduce her to her Uncle David. Both mother and daughter are doing well. Abigail's time was easy, as childbirths go. We were able to reach Rose Hill before the advent of the little one, and for that I am grateful to God. Mother was with her, as was Moira, though I will tell you I was a nervous fool throughout. I find the rigors of a battlefield less frightening, but Abigail bore it all well, and I am sure you can tell from my letter than I am more than proud of her.
She sends her love...
David again glanced at the top of the letter. March 3, 1863. Six months
He sighed and closed his eyes. Abigail. He still envied his brother for having married her. Her laugh floated into his mind followed by her angelic vision, her auburn hair, her quick, brown eyes. And again came the empty ache. She was everything he had wanted in a woman, but she had made her choice between them, and now she was his brother's wife.
Forcing his eyes open again, he devoured the rest of the letter--more news of home, his mother and sister, and details of his brother's latest campaign. Carefully he refolded the letter and stashed it back in his blouse for another reading at another time. He would have to write to Malcolm, and let him know he was well. He should write his mother and his sister, but even more he wanted to write to Abigail. But what does one say to a married woman who haunts your dreams? If he could say what was truly in his heart, his brother would want to see him drawn and quartered.
David stared off toward the distant woods, surprised at the strength of his feelings. It made no sense. She was married, but his heart refused to accept it. He had never realized just how deeply he cared for her until the day of her wedding. Then the finality of it all had struck him, but by then it was too late.
Not that she would have ever considered him. She had loved Malcolm from the start, and he knew it. But knowing that fact did not soothe his longing.
He shook his head in self loathing for continuing to entertain these thoughts. Abigail was his brother's wife now and nothing would change that--not that he would ever try. He loved his brother dearly, and missed him and he was looking forward to their reunion in Washington. Malcolm would be there by the time he arrived, and they would have a chance to visit before they were forced back to the war.
Since their separation he had heard Malcolm had been in the action which took place in Pennsylvania, near a little town called Gettysburg. A terrible battle, but a hard won victory for the North. He himself had been with Grant at Vicksburg. But even under the guise of an artillery officer, he had been hard at work on his investigation.
He sighed and wearily rubbed his eyes. He would be glad to see his big brother again. He just wished that Abigail...
He shook his head. "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride," he muttered aloud. He glanced up toward the tops of the tall pines. "At least I'll be home soon."
Home. Rose Hill. His unit would march very near there so he would have a chance to see his mother and sister before leaving Virginia.
Lowering his gaze back to the woods surrounding him, he reached a hand up to rub his face. He was tired, so very tired. The war was wearing on him and he had long since decided this was not the life he cared to lead. His brother was a cavalry officer and a soldier. But he was not. He wanted only to find peace and a place where he might forget the horrors he had seen. He wanted only for the war to end so that he could go home.
But each day he awoke in his tent to repeat the day previous. Sometimes they chased the Confederates, sometimes they were the ones being chased. Often they passed burned out homes, or farmsteads which had been reduced to rubble by shell fire, the hapless residents killed, or driven off. And always men died from these encounters. Young men whose lives had shone bright with promise.
He thanked God daily for his own survival. He wanted to live, and hoped he would be afforded the chance. He wanted to find what his brother had found: love and devotion in a woman who would share his trials and his dreams.
He rose from the log and stretched, ready to return to his duties. But as he turned to go, a rustling in the woods caught his attention. Instinctively he drew his revolver and whirled around, searching the woods from whence the disturbance came, and his keen eyes caught the movement- -and a flash of red.
He took off running toward the treeline before he'd made the conscious decision to do so, his adrenalin rushing in a wild torrent through his veins. The enemy! But how could anyone have gotten so close with the pickets posted all around? Well, he'd have the answer to that question soon enough, when he caught the brigand.
"You there -- halt!"
The blur of color disappeared into the brush. Instantly he assessed the situation--it appeared to be only one man and he could easily take him without help. He plunged into the trees.
Ahead of him the bit of red flashed again, then appeared to halt momentarily before running on. Trying to get a look at who was following, no doubt. David grinned. He would catch this devil! He redoubled his speed, nimbly avoiding the trees and fallen limbs, skirting the underbrush, and closing the distance.
The figure ahead seemed to pause again, then let out a strangled cry of dismay. David could see him, though not very clearly. It was a man dressed all in red, but he wasn't moving now. He was standing still. No, he was struggling to free himself from an entanglement. David resumed his pursuit. He leapt over a fallen log, crashed through a heavy stand of laurel and abruptly halted, nearly falling forward when he did so.
His eyes widened incredulously. "You're a -- woman."
"Stay away from me, you dirty Yankee!" The girl hissed, struggling against the vines which had snagged her skirt.
His eyes skimmed over the obviously feminine figure. Her bosom rose and fell heavily from her exertion, and no doubt, fear. But it was her face which held him spellbound. A very delicate face, though now twisted in anger. Firm set but full lips beneath a slender nose which turned up just so at the tip, high rosy cheeks gracing an ivory complexion, and flashing green eyes ringed with long golden lashes. And hanging in a wild tangle down her back, reaching nearly to her waist, volumes of wheaten hair streaked through with deeper strands of gold. Were she not scowling she would be attractive.
It took several moments before David realized he was staring, then he finally reholstered his revolver and started toward her. "Let me help you."
"No! Stay back you filthy blue-belly."
David saw the arc of a blade flash from the folds of her skirt and he halted again. He stared at the stilleto and judged it could do a fair amount of damage before he might wrench it from her grip.
"Don't be foolish, girl," he growled. "I have you. You're not going to get away."
The girl stared down at the traitorous vines which held her, then her eyes darted frantically about as if hoping to find some means of escape.
David correctly interpreted her thoughts. "Even if you could get free, I could shoot you before you got ten yards."
Her green eyes warily met his, but her hands reached down to work furiously against the vines, the one with the knife attempting to cut through, the other trying to pull them away. But for each one she cut, another seemed to reach up and snag her. "Damnable blue belly. Yankee scalawag. Bloody murderin'--Ow!"
She snatched back her hand to press a pricked finger to her lips.
David grinned. "If you're quite done with the insults, I'll help you out of there. It doesn't look like you'll get free by yourself."
Her scowl returned. "I'll die before I let you touch me, you--you Yankee--"
"Captain," David interrupted. "David MacInnes, 5th Artillery. And you are?"
"None of your business, that's who I am."
David chuckled and shook his head. "I'm sorry, but you'll have to do better than that. You see, you seem to have wandered into my camp, miss, which makes it my business to know who you are."
She reached down to try snatching her skirts free, but the sound of more ripping cloth quickly convinced her to belay that tack. Slowly she raised her gaze back to his, and stared at him, golden brows furrowed furiously.
"My name's Breanne," she said mutinously.
"Breanne -- what?" David prodded.
The girl stared at him for a moment, then huffed in exasperation and thrust her hands on her hips. "Breanne Ritter."
"Ah, Miss Ritter--" He halted and his eyes narrowed slightly. "It is miss, isn't it?"
"Very good." He nodded. "Now that we've been introduced, I suggest that you toss that knife over here near me. Nice and easy, mind you. I don't fancy being skewered."
Her golden brows furrowed deeper for a moment, then she shrugged and relinquished the knife, but not in the manner he had requested. Quick as lightening, she flung the blade, and David barely had time to jump backward before the tip found it's mark, landing forcefully point downward in the earth--just short of the toe of his boot. David looked up. Unrepentent green eyes gazed back.
"You're a very good aim, Miss Ritter," he said coolly.
"You should see me with a pistol," she said, her chin tilting defiantly upward. Her scowl, however, had disappeared and David reassessed her features.
He'd been right. She was quite attractive when she wasn't snarling.
He eyed her for a long moment, then reached down to pull her knife from the ground. Hefting it in his hand, proceeded toward her.
The girl stood completely still, returning his gaze warily, her eyes widening slightly as he neared. For another moment David simply stood beside her holding the knife, turning it in his hand, then in a swift movement, he reached for one of the thorny vines and sliced it.
Startled, she jumped and a small gasp slipped from her. David glanced upward into her eyes and was surprised to see a flash of fear. Obviously she wasn't as brave as she pretended. He grinned and reached for another obstinate vine, neatly severing it as well.
Breanne looked quickly away, past him, into the woods beyond. She had fully expected him to slit her throat, but she had never intended him to know she'd thought it. And she had never intended to show any fear. Fear only invited death, she'd seen that often enough. The strong always preyed upon the weak, and that fact was no different for her own kind.
She'd witnessed a band of Confederate soldiers harrassing a poor young girl begging them for food, until the girl had succumbed to their sexual advances in exchange for some hard tack and coffee. She had seen a widow and her family put out of their home in order that Confederate officers -- gentlemen -- might occupy it. She had seen the soldiers who crowded the brothels and bawdy houses, and had herself been accosted when walking the street. And she had suffered first hand...
She closed her eyes hard to squeeze out the harsh memories. She had to be strong, and brave, else the wolves of the world would tear her apart.
The tugging at her skirt snapped her gaze back down to the Union officer who had moved around behind her as he cut away the vines. His head bent, his face turned away, she studied his back, wide and strong, and her eyes moved down to his lean hips. He had muscular legs, she'd noticed, and a broad chest, and she could recall his face as clearly as if he were looking at her now. He was quite incredibly handsome, with eyes of the deepest blue, surrounded by long dark lashes, dark hair which neatly reached to his collar under that hat, and his smile... she had nearly lost her composure in the face of it. It was only her anger that had saved her from complete humiliation.
But... She quickly averted her gaze. He was a Yankee. He was the enemy. She could not allow herself to think of him in any other terms.
He moved around to the other side of her and tugged so hard at another vine that she nearly lost her balance. She tottered sideways, her hand instinctively reaching out for support to prevent her fall and coming in contact with his shoulder. He looked up then and smiled. That beautiful, dangerous smile.
Breanne stared down into the depths of his blue eyes and knew an unfamiliar rush of heat through her limbs. She drew a sudden hard breath and pulled her hand away, then quickly looked up, but it was too late. The blush was already stinging her cheeks.
In the next minute he was standing close beside her.
"You're free now, Miss Ritter," he said softly.
She turned to meet his eyes and realized, he meant only that she was free of the vines. She was still his prisoner. He extended an arm in the direction from which they had both run. Breanne lifted her skirts and started carefully picking her way back. There was no use in trying to run now. He would only catch her, and he had both her knife and his gun. He could use either to stop her, and he might.
He may be handsome, but he might also be despicable. He might be cruel. He might... force himself on her. The thought stiffened her with renewed fear and she clutched the cloth of her tattered skirt in her hands more tightly. If he intended to rape her, she would at least fight. He would not wrest her virtue from her easily. But she knew there was an entire encampment of men beyond those trees, and if they came to his aid, as they surely would... Union soldiers were no more honorable than Confederate soldiers, of that she was certain.
They reached the copse and suddenly she felt his hand on her upper arm. With a cry she pulled away hard and whirled to face him, ready to fight.
"Don't touch me, you Yankee."
"My apologies, miss. I meant only that you should stop here for a moment."
"Why? So you can have me all to yourself? So you can take your pleasure on me?" she snarled, glaring at him, her hands still clutching her skirts.
His dark brows lowered. "I don't see that having you would be such a pleasure, Miss Ritter."
"Oh! You dirty, rotten--"
"Yankee?" He grinned. "Please calm yourself, Miss Ritter. I only want to ask you a few questions before alerting the camp to your presence."
"So you do intend to turn me over to your men."
"Right now I intend only getting to the truth of your presence in my camp--"
"You mean, you want to know if I was spying on you, isn't that it, captain?"
"Please, Miss Ritter, keep your voice low--"
"That is it! You mean to accuse me of spying," she cried louder.
"You can go straight to perdition before I'll tell you anything, captain. Do you hear? Straight to--" She halted suddenly. His attention had been drawn past her, and spinning around she saw why. Several of his men were hurrying toward them through the thin veil of trees.
"Captain, we heard shouting." A young lieutenant was the first to reach them, but though he addressed his commander, his eyes roved over her form.
Breanne stumbled a step backward.
"It's all right, Lieutenant Mayhew. I was just having a conversation with the lady --"
"Captain MacInnes--who is this--this--woman?" Another man reached them now, also a captain, by his rank. His gaze went to survey her appearance, but his face betrayed his contempt at the regard of her clothes, which were worn, faded and torn. His presumption of her vocation was quick. "Captain MacInnes, I do object to the encouragement of such creatures in camp. Sir, you have heard what disease women like her carry?"
Just then several more men arrived, in time to hear the man's assessment of her, and they too looked at her with a leering light in their eyes. Breanne shrank further back from the men, her face reddening.
David noted her embarrassment and her fear. It didn't take an intelligent man to realize she was an innocent, hardly experienced in the manner Captain Bainbridge suggested. He glared at the captain. "Sir, she is not that kind of a woman--"
"No? Just look at her. No decent lady would go about dressed like that--" Bainbridge insisted.
"Captain, there is a war on. You can hardly expect every woman to be clad in the fashion of the day," David growled impatiently.
Bainbridge took a step closer, his hands balled into fists, a snear evident beneath his neatly trimmed beard and mustache. "Sir, we both know the enemy sends these women to seduce our young men. They ply their craft and leave them hopelessly crippled with disease."
"She is not a--" David shot Breanne a quick glance, then gentled his expression. "A lady of easy virtue. I found her hiding in the woods."
"In the woods?" Bainbridge turned to Breanne, his dark eyes raking her coolly before he again addressed his counterpart. "What was she doing in the woods, unless... Captain, you know how unfriendly the populace is hereabouts, and we've been warned to be on our guard against spies."
"I'm not a spy!" Breanne cried out in horror.
David, who had been focusing his frown on Bainbridge halted for a full moment, turning back to Breanne, whose face had paled considerably. How ironic that she should be denying the charge to him. He forced away the thought, concentrating instead on the fear shining in her eyes. Spying was a hanging offense, and though he knew from personal experience that people usually protested their guilt most vehemently when they actually had something to hide, he couldn't quite believe that she was involved in espionage. No, she had another reason for being here, for hiding in the woods...
"I don't think Miss Ritter is a spy, Captain Bainbridge."
"But what other explanation could there be for her hiding in the woods? She was obviously watching our camp--"
"If she had been watching us, captain, what was she doing on the far side of this clearing?" David interrupted impatiently. "She could hardly see our camp from here."
"She may have been waiting for dark to come out of hiding." Bainbridge went on. "Lee would like nothing better than to know what our plans are--"
"Our plans at the moment, captain, are simply to report back to Washington. There's no secret in that."
"Captain MacInnes, we must be cautious. We don't know why she was here--"
David whirled to face Breanne. "Why were you in those woods? And why are you in our camp?"
Breanne started under the ferocity of his demands and she shrank back another step. She should just tell them the truth, but the truth might see her jailed, or worse, violated by these men. She had been warned about Yankee justice. Yet not telling them they would brand her a spy, and surely see her hang. She drew a deep breath to keep from trembling. "I was hungry, and when I saw your camp, I--I thought I could steal some food."
She glanced at Bainbridge and Mayhew, and the men behind them. Their faces were hard as stone, blank with disbelief. She turned back to Captain MacInnes and the warmth shining in his cobalt eyes. Desperate, she held onto his gaze.
"But how did you get past our pickets?" His voice was gentle, reassuring, and Breanne felt a little of her courage returning.
"They're not very good guards. They weren't paying much mind to the woods. I just sort of... slipped by," she answered truthfully.
A grin tugged at the corners of his mouth and Breanne felt a small wash of relief.
"But why were you hiding way over here, when the food is way over there?" He pointed to the far trees and the camp beyond.
"That's a silly question, Yank. I couldn't very well steal food in the middle of the day," Breanne nearly giggled.
"Sir, that's a convenient excuse," Bainbridge interrupted.
"It sounds true enough to me," Captain MacInnes said flatly.
"She may be a very good liar," Bainbridge growled. "And I for one don't want to get murdered in my sleep. She's obviously a Rebel, and very likely a spy--"
"She's very likely a private citizen caught up in the misfortune of this war--" Captain MacInnes corrected.
"She's in our camp, sir. If she is a spy, she should be tried and hanged."
"We don't know that she is a spy--"
"And I say we detain her until such time as her innocence can be ascertained."
"Then I say we simply ascertain it now--"
Breanne had never panicked in her life, but listening to their exchange, her confidence of a moments just past was shredded by renewed fear. Northern justice would see her hanged for a spy and there was no way to avoid it--unless she ran.
So she bolted. Back toward the trees she ran, forgetting for the moment that they could cut her down with rifle fire. Fear surpassed all reason.
Behind her she heard the cry go up, "Get her! Stop her!" And adrenalin rushed through her veins. Her heart pounded in cadence with the pumping of her legs and blood thundered past her ears. Just ahead were the trees. If she could only reach them. Please God, please God...
And then she heard them--the sound of pounding footfalls right behind her. Dear God, no!
She felt his breath on her neck a split second before his solid body slammed into hers, his arms snaking round her as he tackled her to the ground.
"No!" Breanne's cry whooshed from her lungs, but was answered only by his grunt of exertion as he sought to hold her down.
Her flight arrested, she resorted to struggling and kicking, but he managed to avoid her flailing legs and succeeded in flipping her upon her back, then straddling her midsection. Breanne swung her fists, laying in a solid punch to his jaw, and another to his ribs.
He grunted, then growled. "Stop -- hold still."
"No! Get off me, you dirty Yank," she ground between grit teeth, still trying to twist beneath him, to dislodge him, but his weight bore her down.
Finally he caught her wrists in a grip so strong she feared he would crush her bones, and he leaned forward to pin her arms above her head. His face only inches above her own, his eyes glittered angrily down into hers and his breath scorched her cheeks and lips when he said, "You are my prisoner, Miss Ritter."
Breanne gasped, and staring up into his gaze she couldn't keep from trembling. Food was the last thing on her mind, as was hanging. For now, just this minute, she was at the mercy of a Yank captain -- and he was glaring down at her with all the fury of the North.
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