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Amelia Island's Mark of a Man

Amelia Island's Mark of a Man

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Amelia Island's Mark of a Man

Länge:
500 Seiten
8 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Dec 2, 2014
ISBN:
9781496944443
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

The Goodbye Lie - first novel in the Goodbye Lie series

Where Little House on the Prairie meets Gone With The Wind ...   

HIS FACE DARKENED. "HAS HE KISSED YOU YET?"

Men will die for Breelan Dunnigan. The heart-wrenching romance and unexpected drama don't stop until the last page of The Goodbye Lie, Jane Marie Malcolm's first installment in her mystery-romance series, set in 1882 on Florida's Amelia Island. An aspiring writer, Breelan is literally swept away, first by a tornado at the beach and then a stranger, who steps into her life and into her soul. Escape to New York City brings new love, but when Breelan returns to Fernandina, her small town island home in the deep South, her existence has turned upside down. Strong Irish bonds and values are soon pitted against passion, jealousy and murder in this richly ripe saga. Readers will rejoice in the clever twists of plot. Abundantly layered personalities, late Victorian conventions and gentle humor flavor up the mix of epic romance, treachery and glory. This is only the beginning of The Goodbye Lie series as it continues with Amelia Island's Velvet Undertow and Amelia Island's Mark of a Man, more Fernandina fancies ...

 

Amelia Island's VELVET UNDERTOW, The Goodbye Lie Series - Carolena Dunnigan witnesses the unthinkable and her safe, secure life on Amelia Island, Florida turns to ashes. Vowing to save her siblings, she seeks work and is lured to Charleston, South Carolina. Lust, love, and decades of lies do fierce battle, driving her into Pennsylvania's deadly Johnstown Flood of 1889. It scours away secrets of the past, but will anyone survive the churning undertow of it all?

"Engaging historical romance … Known to her admirers as GRACIOUS JANE MARIE [of GraciousJaneMarie.com], the author has written a delightful story with THE GOODBYE LIE. Set in the late 1800's …, the story takes off to far away shores-and far away desires, lies, and deceit. I look forward to the next [novel in the series], VELVET UNDERTOW." - Jennifer Wardrip for RomanceJunkies.com

Amelia Island’s Goodbye Lie series “where Little House on the Prairie meets Gone With The Wind”

“Intense drama, passion and laughter satisfy every emotion.
Realistic characters, convincing dialogue and slap-you-silly moments in
Mark of a Man will delight, charm and touch hearts.”
-Kate Brown, author of The Rose Legends

Amelia Island’s Mark of a Man
It is 1898. Amidst the Spanish American War and a horrifying hurricane, the beloved Dunnigan family struggles to salvage their beguiling island existence.  Pat Dunnigan lives hard and loves wild.  His sister, Marie, is a beacon for trouble.  Will she forgive the unforgettable?  Will Pat’s demons become hers? Will he drive away his lover? Is she unsuitable?
Pleasing. Poignant. Passionate. This is Amelia Island’s Mark of a Man.

* * *

...The breeze off the ocean aimed its balmy breath at the white beach cottage, snapping the faded blue cotton curtain at the open window. He’d long ago blown out the oil lamp. No need advertising anyone was in residence. Privacy and secrecy were always aphrodisiacs for him when it came to matters of the heart. Matters of the heart? What was that? It was more like matters of the loins. His grin was broad. His feelings for her were comprised of one thing..lust – pure, deep and dark.

* * *

Visit Jane Marie’s family-friendly blog at www.GraciousJaneMarie.blogspot.com , part of GraciousJaneMarie.com, for more about Amelia Island’s Goodbye Lie series, plus articles, recipes, projects, Martha Bear© silly stories, hand-painted Secret Pebbles©, future novels, and other treats to delight her diverse legion of readers. Find Jane Marie Malcolm on Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram, too, and join her verbal voyage to...

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Dec 2, 2014
ISBN:
9781496944443
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Her fans call her Gracious Jane Marie. Jane Marie Harkins Malcolm, originally of Erie, Pennsylvania, celebrates heart and home every day with roses, recipes, and romance at GraciousJaneMarie.com. Her complimentary and always tasteful on site newsletter includes Martha Bear short stories for MarthaBear.com. A mother, grandmother, and former first lady of Fernandina Beach, Florida, Jane Marie makes her home there with her charming husband, Bruce, and several enchanting cats. She is an avid Prince of Peace handbell ringer, as well as, a member of the American Legion Auxiliary, the Amelia Island Museum of History, and the General Duncan Lamont Clinch Historical Society of Amelia Island. Jane Marie is a practicing rosarian, quilter, and artisan, and has fashioned family christening gowns by way of French heirloom hand sewing techniques. Her cleverly created painted crafts, including Secret Pebbles, tie into the GOODBYE LIE Series. She dabbles in playing the musical saw and has mastered the harmonica to the best of her ability. Jane Marie invites you to enter her world of lace and laughter at GraciousJaneMarie.com. Discover the fascinating Dunnigan family recorded in the historic GOODBYE LIE Series set on Amelia Island, Florida. Let her imagination embroider your realm with mysterious wanderings and delightful rainbows because Jane Marie Malcolm believes in happy endings.


Buchvorschau

Amelia Island's Mark of a Man - Jane Marie Malcolm

life.

AMELIA ISLAND, FLORIDA

Amelia Island’s MARK of a MAN, part of THE GOODBYE LIE Series, is set on north Florida’s barrier island in the Atlantic Ocean. Just south of the Georgia border, Amelia is named for Princess Amelia, daughter of George II of England and is the only place in the United States to have been ruled under eight different flags. 32 miles northeast of Jacksonville, it is naturally protected from hurricanes, most of the time. Just 13 x 2.5 miles in size, the average temperature is 70ºF. Birthplace of the modern shrimping industry, the Victorian seaside city of Fernandina Beach has a population of approximately 12,000. This town covers ten square miles and has a 50-block area listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Fort Clinch State Park, a pre-Civil War fort, sits on the northern tip overlooking Cumberland Sound.

Giggles polish the heart and keep it from rusting.

Love feeds the heart and keeps it ever alive.

God enfolds the heart and makes all things right.

– Jane Marie

Mid-January 1898

Chapter 1

Stop staring at that stranger and take the handle of your fan away from your mouth, hissed her brother. You know it’s a direct invitation to him to come over here.

That’s what I want, Marie Dunnigan breathed back. Oh, just leave me be! I need to be kissed hard—and kissed long and at this particular point, I don’t much care who the man is! She craned her neck to survey all the musicians disappearing into the antechamber during intermission in Centre Street’s Lyceum Hall. The wide, wandering, forget-me-not blue eyes in her eighteen-year-old round face confirmed the sincerity of her statement.

Hush up! No one else needs to hear you say such a thing, Jack Patrick snapped. Older by five years and with dark good looks, he was fun loving, free loving and frequent loving. His standards of propriety concerning his baby sister were far different from his own.

I guess the secret language of the fan isn’t so secret, especially to someone like you, she said. You’re fluent in it.

"I understand enough to warn you against Mama catching you carrying that thing in your left hand. You don’t need to be sending out those come and meet me signals, now or any time. You wait for someone to introduce a man to you the proper way. Be a lady like Breelan and Carolena, would you?"

Not appreciating any lecturing about her always-perfect big sisters, Marie shifted away from him as best she could since they were sitting side-by-side.

Pat steered their conversation elsewhere. "It’s pretty special having John Philip Sousa and his band right here in Fernandina this very morning. Do you realize he conducted the President’s Own United States Marine Band for twelve years, from ’80 to ’92?"

You think you know everything.

Hey, I overheard some old ladies talking about it.

Oh. Still agitated, Marie said, Mmm, I guess that is something of worth. But what I find much more fascinating are all those men in their uniforms.

Mind what you’re about, little girl, commanded her brother as he tried to rub out the mild cramp in his leg from sitting so long.

Marie jerked her chin, dismissing his wagging finger. Heck fire! Who are you to be cautioning me about anything? You’ve got the reputation as the wildest tomcat on Amelia Island.

He laughed. I can’t come close to old Big Fat. Now, he’s the one with the reputation. If I had as many girlfriends as that roly-poly feline does, I’d be walkin’ tall, too.

It’s not fair. Men go out and do whatever they want and girls have to act so prim and proper like. It’s all just a scheme to get men to marry us.

You’re worrying me, sis. His words fell to the floor with a silent thud as Marie crossed to the cluster of women serving refreshments in the back. He saw the veil of perspiration on her delicate ivory face and yet she didn’t look bedraggled or wilted from the heavy heat in the hall. Instead, she gave off a healthy radiance. Could it be? The little sister who hung her head in humiliation at the first tease, who never had the courage to defend herself, who was once freckled with no self-assurance—Could it be she had changed without his realizing it? A butterball of a child was now quite a looker. He didn’t like that she’d grown up. No, he didn’t like it at all.

Hey, Pat.

Hey, Mickey, Pat replied to his nephew, who was brawny where Pat was all slender muscle. They let you off?

For a little bit. I have to get back to the docks in an hour. It’s hotter than the hinges of hell out there, but just because I’m the son of Captain Waite Taylor and work in his Aqua Verde shipyard, doesn’t mean I make my own schedule. All I can say is I’m glad there are rich folks who like their own boats. Keeps us in whiskey and cigars, huh? He gazed about. Looks like lots of the family are here, ’cept Marie? Oh, there she is. He waved until he caught her eye.

Speaking of her, have you noticed she isn’t our Little Marie anymore? Pat would keep her new radical attitude in complete confidence. He hoped this was simply some errant whim infecting her. Should he be wrong then she was willing, wanting and welcoming trouble.

Sure. We all do. Does this mean you’re growing’ up, too? Mickey elbowed his best friend in the ribs.

Maybe, in some ways. He elbowed Mickey back. Not every way though, so be on guard!

With windows closed to keep out the rain, the humidity bounced off the natty-white walls of the lower floor, causing the men to turn up their shirt cuffs for relief. Pat’s older siblings advanced, each dabbing a hankie against her temples.

Hi, Ma, Mickey said, kissing his mother’s cheek. Aunt Carolena.

What a happy surprise to find you here, baby. See, your father isn’t such a difficult task master, is he? Breelan asked.

No, ma’am. He’s pretty easy to work for, if the truth be told.

Could it be he likes you?

That might have something to do with it. So, I heard you two ladies hung the decorations in here. They confirmed the fact with nods and he said, Your purple, white and gold colors are very handsome. And our American flag with Florida’s beside it is a nice touch, too.

The place looks great, Pat reinforced.

Didn’t think you boys took notice of such, said a pleased Carolena. Thank you. Hey, Bree. Hate to rush off, but we need a quick chat with Thelma Twiggs. Intermission is far too short.

See you later. Breelan winked at her son and brother.

See ya, Pat replied, while his eyes followed where his ears led. Playing a rollicking doodle about Yankee on the piccolo, a pretty newcomer to town was lone entertainment during the brief recess. Her sash matched the hall’s colors and meant she was among the ranks of the Women’s Suffrage meeting, which was immediately to follow the current musicale.

Come on. Let’s get some cookies and a cup of Peeper’s root beer punch. I’m so thirsty, I’ll even drink that.

You go on, Pat said. I’ll catch up.

Marie, a teacup of cool water in hand, had found sanctuary between a seated and chatting Father Foley and Miss Lynnbreeze, the new librarian. As long as she could avoid her meddlesome brother, she would. Instead of joining in the conversation and anticipating more music to come, Marie pictured how she appeared in her new blue dress with the yellow collar, piped in white. She hoped she looked fetching.

Excuse me, Pat apologized, filling the empty chair beside pretty Miss Lynnbreeze, whom he’d heard his mother mention. While he was trying to reason with Marie, there was no sense wasting a chance to get to know this girl. Would you mind switching seats with me so I can talk to my baby sister?

Not at all, she whispered, admiring the most masculine man.

Pat took the librarian’s spot, noting it was extra toasty and crediting it to her body heat, and not just the hot room.

Mr. Sousa, once again, was on stage. When the applause died down, he said, Ladies and gentlemen, before we commence the second half of our presentation— He eyed the reporter leaning against the side door, pencil and small notebook in hand. For the record, I need to say that, as a group, publicly, we cannot support or oppose this suffrage organization. A disquieted rumble erupted from the women present. He raised his voice. Let me continue, please. It is a mere happenstance that heavy rain washed out the tracks and caused my musicians and me to make this unplanned stop in north Florida. Having said this, good fortune is ours as we perform for you today. You are most cordial to postpone your rally while we perform.

Resentments forgotten, for the most part, the crowd tossed cheers into the atmosphere as they recognized the first cords of The Washington Post March.

Figuring Marie might say something rude to him, Pat leaned in front of her and asked, Father Foley? Might you introduce us?

Miss Lilly Lynnbreeze, Mr. Jack Patrick Dunnigan.

Good to know you, Mr. Dunnigan.

It’s my pleasure. I—

Sh, Father Foley snapped, anxious to hear every note of the concert.

Pat cocked his head and shrugged, his expression saying I’ll catch up with you later. The well-read woman nodded in reply.

Back to business. Addressing Marie in his tiniest voice, which wasn’t so tiny, You aren’t staying for the suffrage meeting after the music, are you? You hate politics.

Over applause, That’s the old me. I’m a proponent of suffrage.

His face wore doubt.

I am! Maybe I’m not as bold about it as Carolena and Breelan, but— Marie watched her married sisters with their yellow roses pinned on the brims of their hats. Besides their families and work, suffrage had become a passion for them both. Anyway, since most men like to talk politics and I like most men, it would reason I should be up on the general happenings of the day so they find me appealing.

You don’t realize what you’re saying. If that kind of talk gets around town… Men can and will… Achoo! With his usual verve, Pat let lose a thunderous sneeze, frightening the liver out of their Aunt Noreen.

The fully formed sister of Pat’s father, Michael, jumped up without a struggle. Who did that? For emphasis, she stamped one fat foot three times. Aunt Noreen clutched at her heart, as her eyes darted about, daring the lout to come forth.

Mrs. Duffy, hush!

Sorry, Father, but not until I find the offender.

Pat raised his hand in confession, further supplementing another layer of his reputation, that of being honest far more often than not.

Now that she’d revealed the transgressor, there was little Aunt Noreen could do to scold her grown nephew in public. She glared at him, took her seat, again, and settled for a dramatic, Well, God bless me!

After realizing it was the reactionary Noreen Duffy interrupting, the locals returned their attention to the show.

Pat guessed a stranger could tell his aunt was a pushy, nervous woman, maybe the most nervous woman he’d known or heard of, and he was being charitable. From the hair in her husband’s nose to, in her mind, the excessive newspaper coverage of the oppressed in Cuba—Whatever her grievance, genuine or invented, she voiced it with all the anguish of the souls in purgatory. Ooo-weee, but she was a distasteful creature.

At the conclusion of the entertainment, That was so special, a recovered Aunt Noreen said to her daughter, Nora Gage.

I know that’s right, Nora agreed.

They watched the musicians pick up their instruments and disappear, once again, into the antechamber. Do you think a few of them might ride out to Duffy Place to enjoy tea and savories?

Mother, the ladies have laid out more refreshments right here.

Pish-posh. Why, the cinnamon cream cheese on raisin nut bread is so worth a trip to our house, Nora. And I’d particularly like Mr. Sousa to see my new sheet music from England. That should impress him. Winnie has been whining about all the last minute extra cooking, just in case they can come over, but that girl needs a challenge. She’s spoiled. She only has to wait on your father, myself and our Warren Lowell, now that you’re married.

Casually standing and stifling a yawn, Noreen added, By the way, daughter, I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but did you speak to Austin about his pigs and their smell?

Nora sprang to her feet.

I am aware your father gave him permission to corral his animals out back of your house, but the odor … You know how I hate to complain …

Nora was proud of herself for not choking since her mother was the queen of queens when it came to belly aching.

And I’ve been so patient in not saying much about it, yet I must alert you to the disagreeable situation. Since Clabe brought Abby home, I can’t seem to catch my breath in my own house. Why else would I relegate that dog to live with Justice in his cabin most of the time? I admit, she has made me smile once or twice when she’s not tearing up the newspaper or tracking sand inside or leaving her fur on my rugs, but she smells like the animal she is. My tender constitution requires open windows as weather permits to keep the house fresh. When the wind blows, it blows Abby’s odor out and then it is quickly replaced by all that pig stink. There are times Duffy Place smells as bad inside as it does out! Oh, how I dread rainy days like today or cold days when we have to button up everything and that nasty odor gets trapped indoors. Should Mr. Sousa smell it, I would die of embarrassment on the spot! On the spot! By way of a natural perfume, I have instructed Winnie that she is to steam apples, cinnamon sticks, cloves and orange peels at the first sign of a cloud.

Unable to keep her patience, Nora sniped back at her mother, ever the hypochondriac. Tender constitution?

Remembering her daughter was still young and had yet to appreciate the depth of her physical and mental suffering over the years, Noreen said, We will save the discussion about me for later. Now we are talking about your husband’s offensive pig farming occupation. How you can stand to be touched by a man in such a line of work?

How dare you. How dare you! Nora spit in anger and none-too softly. Austin is a fine, honest, loving husband to me. You knew when we married he was a pig farmer and a volunteer fireman. I don’t ever hear you saying a prayer for his safety when it comes to risking his life to save others or their homes. All you do is carry on and find the negative in everything. When you and Father suggested we build our house behind Duffy Place like Breelan and Carolena did behind Dunnigan Manor when they wed, it was explained how Austin’s animals needed to be close by for him to care for them. We built on the back of your property, as far from your house as possible, with the pigpens behind that. We could have just as easily gotten a piece of land somewhere else, but you insisted we stay near to you. You assured us you’d have no problem with this. Besides, Austin keeps the pens in pristine condition. Like most of your problems, this one is all in your head. The only foul smell in your house is when you burn the beans! And my husband bathes twice a day, if you must know!

Noreen crossed her arms over her ample bosom, tightened her lips and tried to close off her hearing, as was her usual when she was admonished.

You pretend that if you preface your comments with an ‘I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but—,’ it takes away the sting in what you say. You know it doesn’t! Who made you Lord High Executioner anyhow, dear mother?

Calming herself, Nora thought of Winnie. Trials, tests and chores were just some of the words, which could apply to the working circumstances at Duffy Place. After a long intake of breath, the daughter’s inherent good nature returned as quickly as it left and, as gently as she could, explained, I don’t think any of the musicians have time for much of a lunch. The women have made them all plates so they don’t have to wait to eat until the rally is over. Warren said he heard they’ve hired wagons to take them to Savannah, their next stop.

Noreen’s pouty-face presented itself and she marched to the long bench beneath the hanging community quilt with twelve-inch cross-stitched squares depicting important city buildings. There, with a not so graceful plop, she deposited herself to wallow in her disappointment and gloom.

Carolena Dunnigan McKenna stepped to the podium next. Ladies and gentlemen, after all that rousing music, are your hearts not overflowing with patriotism? The thinned audience, now of only fifteen women, most with matching sashes, eight men, a dozen children and a reporter from the Florida Mirror, clapped in agreement. "Let us begin by calling to order this meeting of the Fernandina Chapter of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association. As chairwoman, I am pleased to see so many of you dedicated to the Cause. She watched her listeners flailing their fans, as the 11:30 a.m. steaming air inside the hall made for droopy shirtfronts and wilted bodices. With us this day is a veteran of our crusade. He, she emphasized the masculine, is traveling far and wide, speaking on our right, as women, to vote in local, state and national elections."

How do you expect us to concentrate on politics, Miss Carolena, when you’re so dang pretty, shouted her former classmate, Muggie Marlin, who pounded the floor with the shoe brace supporting his clubfoot.

Just sit down and be still, boy! scolded Mrs. Monroe, seated on the front row. Your mama, rest her, would be ashamed of her son’s lip. Your light-hearted disregard for such a serious subject as this is shameful.

It’s fine, ma’am. Muggie, I surely do thank you for your kind remark, but disrupting our proceedings will not deter us. We will not be put off. We gentlewomen mean to have this thing!

Amens rang, suspended only when a male stranger yelled, God made men smarter than women. It’s a fact!

Boooooo! countered a feminine chorus.

Breelan Dunnigan Taylor, also in the front row, stood and addressed Carolena. If I may speak?

The chairwoman nodded.

Sir, I’ll have you know my sister, Carolena, is a college graduate, and next to our mother, she’s the smartest woman I know. Miss Carolena is Chief Interior Designer for Aqua Verde Passenger Line. This is my mother here beside me, Mrs. Ella Dunnigan. She is Vice President of the line and I, myself, work in sales, all part of our family firm.

Ah-ha! You’ve just said the key word. Family! It’s nepotism, pure and simple! Your whole clan works for each other!

We do and we’re all proud of our Dunnigan owned and operated business, Breelan answered back.

Don’t got ta have no brains ta get hired by the family.

At this point in time, it’s a darned successful business, so brains and education must have something to do with it.

Pat saw no need to step into this debate. His sisters were holding their own. This was turning out to be more interesting than their usual rallies.

Hey! What about women gettin’ too emotional? Y’all cry if anybody looks cross-eyed at ya, Muggie sneered.

This argument was often true, particularly in the case of the Dunnigan girls. Their tenderhearted half-Irish weeping was something with which each struggled. Well Muggie, Carolena replied with ease, when we do shed a tear, it simply means we’re sensitive and in tune. Involvement naturally leads to better understanding, which leads to better decision making. Hence, a more informed woman means a more informed voter!

When a woman works outside the home, she neglects her family! Disprove that! old R. Buey Waldo complained.

Ella Dunnigan, matriarch, stood to field this attack. If I may, Mr. Waldo, let me tell you all that I am proud of the job I’ve done raising my family and will hold them up against anyone.

Are you so proud of your boy, too? asked Muggie. The whole town knows he’s a good-for-nothin’ lay-about!

No one insulted Jack Patrick Dunnigan to his face—maybe behind his back— but not to his face, and stayed on his feet! Pat tackled his on-again, off-again friend, knocking him back over two rows of cracking chairs. Screams echoed off the walls as they rolled and pummeled away, their arms like the whirling fans of a pinwheel.

Carolena, Breelan and Miss Ella grabbed for their children reading books in the corner, to bar them from harm and, to a woman, each determined Pat had a right to defend his character. And what a character he was. The feminine Dunnigans were secretly delighted!

Warren Lowell, Aunt Noreen’s gangly, spectacled child, so pigeon-toed he sometimes stepped on his own feet, and Breelan’s Mickey pried the brawler’s apart. A couple of the other men, out of respect for Miss Ella, joined in to usher Muggie outside. Pat pushed his thick hair back off his face as he helped right the chairs and himself, kicking aside the broken scraps of seatbacks and legs.

Good to have you two around when I need you, Pat said to Warren Lowell and Mickey, over the pandemonium.

As if brawls were an everyday thing, and they frequently were, Warren replied, Father knows his son likes the ladies, so he let me off from the bank to catch some of the rally. He wants me to get married and move out, I think.

Maybe he does, but not your mother.

No, never Ma. No girl is worthy of her perfect little boy.

Perfect? Pat joshed. "That’s a riot. Everybody in town considers me the ringleader of our Terrible Threesome and I’ll not hang my head about it, but you can’t tell me we all didn’t get a charge out playing pranks at good-old St. Joe’s Academy. The nuns were perfect victims."

No, I can’t. I’m crazy about you guys, Warren readily admitted.

That being too much sentimentality for Mickey, You sure got the crazy part right, son, and he clapped his buddies on the back.

We’d best be quiet, Warren, or your mother will nail our hides to the barn door, Pat warned when he caught Aunt Noreen glaring at them over her reading spectacles.

Carolena called for order, again, as if nothing had happened. I would like to present Mr. Virgil Ramsbottom from the great state of Wyoming, the first state in the Union to allow women the vote!

This brought an ovation from the females and a few of the men, Pat, Mickey and Warren Lowell among them. The young men dismissed male acquaintances who ridiculed their support. One to remain uncommitted was Michael, saying only, Whatever makes your mother and sisters happy…

After Ramsbottom’s fiery speech, a sing-a-long and closing prayer by Father Foley, the meeting adjourned. Since it was going on toward one o’clock, Warren Lowell returned to the bank and Mickey to the Aqua Verde shipyard, both with finger sandwiches in hand and cheek. An unemployed Pat surveyed the refreshment table then transferred several dressed eggs to his plate along with some sliced fruit, and a piece of chocolate cake. He decided being let go might not be such a negative thing after all. While he found no glory in it, his days were happy-go-lucky, and he was free to ogle the pretty girls, one of whom was practicing her titillating melodious laugh. Sophie Belle Mackelprang, a born and bred Southerner, had an overabundance of the affectations for which this part of the country was famous. She was with the women in his family arranging the assorted teacups. Besides feeding his hunger, his other purpose in staying around was to eavesdrop. He hoped his sisters weren’t planning a fix-up between Sophie Belle and him. Granted, Sophie was particularly striking these days. Was she wearing her dark hair some different way? Whatever it was, he liked it. Fix-ups, on the other hand, he hated. He was a man who laid his own groundwork.

Six feet away, Pat tried to blend into the wall as inconspicuously as a male in a room rich in females could. While he ate the tiny triangular pimento cheese sandwiches by the handful, he heard Nora say, My grandmother on my daddy’s side told him on his wedding day that he and his bride should lick their thumbs and press them together and that would insure they’d be faithful to each other.

Did it work? wondered Sophie Belle.

We can’t use my parents as a test, Nora clarified. My mother thought such a thing was disgusting and refused to participate.

Carolena contributed, Peeper says if you wet a hankie, squeeze it out and throw it over a rose bush, that when it dries, the wrinkles in it will spell out the initials of your true love.

That sounds like a Peeperism for sure, Sophie said. Where is Peeper?

Her bunions are slowing her down, again. Tap dancing close to ninety, we all worry over her. We’re so blessed that a lady named Peeper Clegg adopted our family when I was a little girl, Carolena remembered. She’s been a major influence in all our lives. I was thinking, if a stranger ever overheard some of Peeper’s peculiar sayings or formulas for her elixir-fixers, they’d render her daft.

Probably, Marie agreed, but they work more times than not.

Breelan smiled at her baby sister’s loyalty. True enough. And she’s had a lifetime to perfect each one. Hey, has everybody heard about the new club Peeper’s started?

A club? Tell, tell!

"She calls it her Three Second Memory Club. You know she can’t remember to read the pie or bake the book these days. Bless her heart."

Those listening were anxious to hear more about it.

There are no rules, do dues and no meetings and she’ll ask you to join every time she sees you. Mama wanted to join until Peeper told her she was over-qualified and couldn’t because she remembered the name of the club! Could that be considered a rule? No one knows. Peep makes it up as she goes along.

The laughter captured Aunt Noreen’s attention, and hearing the mention of club, she had to find out more. Join what? Whatever it is, I want to join. I need a diversion.

Hello, Auntie, Carolena said sweetly. We were just talking about the new club Peeper has begun.

Uh! I’d rather sit in my room and stare at the wallpaper seams separate than join anything that woman heads up. She’s so wicked, as part of the initiation, she probably makes her members skin skunks and chew on chicken feet like she does. Not for me, no siree. Not for a cultured woman. I have a reputation in this town.

As the empress of anguish walked away, the girls replied in unison, Yes, ma’am, each thinking the same of the less than gracious Mrs. Noreen Duffy.

I’m glad Peep didn’t hear any of this or she’d have pitched a fit. Those two fight over everything. It’s plain exhausting, trying to keep up with them, Breelan said.

It’s also entertainin’, added Sophie Belle.

It can be, but I keep hearing our mother say a smile is more contagious than a cold, Carolena reminded them. "She sets pretty high standards for herself and expects the same from us. She’s a good example to try and emulate. I emphasize the word try here. Oh, I thought of another Peeperism I heard this morning. While we were talking about the refreshments for this event, Peep said she hopes Mrs. Stewart, the elocution instructor who’s expecting, doesn’t eat cheese or else her baby will be born naked!"

That’s hilarious, Sophie Belle said as she wiped the beginning of happy-tears from her eyes.

Chuckling himself, Pat set his plate on the windowsill, and, on guard, he joined the marriage-minded gathering.

Pat! Sophie Belle called, and offered a lemon crisp.

He opened his mouth to say thank you and her dainty finger grazed his tongue as she popped it inside. Had she done that accidently? The reason behind it meant nothing at this point as lightning shot straight through his core. It crossed his mind to spit out the sweetie and take her in his arms in front of everybody.

The thought that he and his sister, Marie, were probably a lot alike left him as quickly as it struck. He was too busy attempting to contain his physical reaction. He stepped back to the buffet table and covertly placed his uneaten cookies behind the pepper cheese tray. As casually as possible, he dangled a white and yellow gingham napkin from his hand where he’d strategically looped his thumb over his belt. He hoped it concealed his physical embarrassment.

Thanks, Sophie Belle. I’ve got to be getting along. See you around.

Must ya be leavin’ already, shugah? Wanta go ta the beach with us? Have ya seen the thinnin’ clouds? Do ya believe the rain is over for the day? Wanna take along some bread ta feed the birds?

Yes. Maybe. Yes. Yes. They need to eat, too.

Oh Pat, if you aren’t the silliest man. She dipped her chin and peered up through long dark lashes. You can see me in my new bathin’ costume. She paused for full flirtatious effect. Please come along.

Still holding his napkin, I’ve got some things to do. Y’all may see me out there later.

I’ll be lookin’ for ya.

She batted those long lashes again. Aha, she’d definitely touched his tongue on purpose. He remembered Peeper saying, ‘That Sophie Belle would just as soon ya slipped on a noodle and fell inta her arms, as look at cha.’ Peep was probably right. Yes, this was his best offer, so far, today. Life was great for a single man. He thought a moment … But maybe not so great, if you were a worried brother.

Chapter 2

With the rally over, Pat looked for Marie to give her a ride back to Dunnigan Manor. Not seeing her, he placed a goodbye kiss on Breelan’s cheek and gave another to her daughter, Lana, and Carolena’s girl, Ellen, both six, who still were playing paper dolls in the corner. After chasing down five-year-old hellion, Nugget, he gathered the wriggling, laughing child in his arms with a gentle squeeze and handed the lad back to his mother, Carolena. Miss Ella was off talking recipes, he guessed. He’d see her at home later, so headed toward the door, scouting for his youngest sister, as Nugget announced in his biggest big boy voice, Mrs. Ikles has two tummies, but Aunt Noreen wins ’cause she’s got three!

Agreeing with his nephew, Pat wore a smile when, in the shadows beneath the stairwell, he spotted Marie fingering the lapel of the cornet player. And she was whispering in his ear! But this reality was not what Pat perceived. No, he saw a stranger bent over an innocent—his innocent—slobbering onto her neck. Then he saw red! Without a word, with no hesitation, Pat charged and grabbed the man’s arm, spinning him off his sister. A solid left fist followed to the violator’s mouth. He damn sure wouldn’t be nuzzling necks or puffing on horns any time soon, not with both lips split!

Marie screamed, calling the remaining guests, including the other Dunnigan ladies. Struggling to recover, the musician, wearing street clothes and about Pat’s size, got to his feet throwing several of his own blows. They soon were polishing the floor with their garments. Dust bunnies hiding in the corners under the steps scattered like gray snowflakes in the breeze caused by the clash. Miss Ella toted a fascinated Nugget on her hip while her other grandchildren peeked from behind her skirts. Their mothers pulled at their brother, who had gained the advantage.

Pat. What in God’s name set you off again? whispered Breelan through gritted teeth, much aware the children were taking in every flailing limb and wild swing. Stop it! You’re frightening the little ones and embarrassing yourself.

No he’s not! Nugget yelled.

Tuckered out, his knuckles dripping crimson, his nose, too, Pat climbed off his adversary and wiped his face with his loosed shirttail. He probably looked a mess and the thought that Sophie Belle wouldn’t care flitted through his mind until he looked on Marie. Normally pale, she was paler still and burrowing herself into the shadows.

Assorted others dabbed hankies on the horn player’s bruises as he cursed under his breath at their attempts to minister. Cousin Nora spied a large splinter of a tooth and picked it up, timidly handing the piece to the owner. As she comforted her little Aggie with a hug, she said, Here—here’s what looks to be a part of your future upper orthodontic treatment, sir, and may I get you a larger rag for the blood?

The musician raised his palm as if to slap her away and realized Pat was watching. Instead, he stood and turned his back on the worthless offer.

Nugget, watching, made what seemed a reasonable suggestion to an almost six-year-old. Hey, mister. We have some glue at our house. I tried it on mine— He opened his mouth and pointed to where his own teeth were missing. But my Ma said it wouldn’t hold to my wet gums. Maybe it’ll work on you ’cause you got a piece of tooth still hangin’ to stick it to.

I think it might be best if you’d apologize, Pat, Miss Ella suggested softly.

No, Mama. I will not.

"Here we go again. The shine is certainly off your penny, Jack Patrick! scolded Aunt Noreen, adding proudly, I let your earlier scuffle pass without a word. But tell me, what did the gentleman do that was so awful you felt the need to beat him to a pulp? Drumming her stumpy fingers on her pink cheeks to keep up her infamous poor circulation, she was not finished. And here you are, disfiguring one of John Philip Sousa’s band members. Why, when word of this gets out across our nation, and I’m sure it will with the help of that man there, she pointed to the reporter still hanging about and scribbling as fast as he could. Your antics will do little to foster Fernandina. Businesses will fail and money will no longer flow through our banks as tourists learn they’ll be assaulted should they set foot here. We can put the blame squarely on your shoulders!"

You flatter me if you think I can take down this town’s economy single-handedly. And then he did something he shouldn’t in serious situations like this. He laughed.

Outraged, Noreen mimicked a newspaper headline, "I can see it now – Dunnigan Despot Deals Damages and Debt … again!"

Honestly, Noreen, Miss Ella said. You’re not helping.

Her ears closed to her sister-in-law, I’m now glad the weather has cleared and Mr. Sousa and the rest of his company are on their way to Savannah. Had they dallied like this poor fellow, I believe there would have been an all-out fracas as they defended their musical comrade. A question entered her mind and she asked the coronet player, Why aren’t you with your group, son. Lord knows you’d have been better off long gone from here.

What business is it of anyone’s why he’s still here, Aunt Noreen? Breelan snapped, tired of repeated assaults on her brother. And, too, she was sick of her nasty old aunt and her hateful mouth.

Indignant at such rudeness, and in public, too, Aunt Noreen was disgusted with her sister-in-law, Ella, letting her children run like banshees.

Carolena was miserable at the fisticuffs finale to her suffrage program, but said, If your reason for fighting is good, Pat, you know we’ll support you.

Pat thought fast. Politics. Pure politics. Marie heard us arguing and came out in time to see me strike first. He glowered at his enemy, daring him to dispute his statement. Under no circumstances would he let it be known his little sister might be a flirt—or worse.

That’s not sufficient justification and you know it, determined Aunt Noreen. Then to the man, You’ll tell us what happened, won’t you? she asked, her breathing somewhat labored from the pinch of her too small sash around her too full middle. She was anxious to get dirt on Jack Patrick whom she considered a bane to the life of her grown baby boy, Warren Lowell. She turned again on Pat. Any and all difficulties my son, your cousin, has experienced, are due to your influence!

The remark hurt Pat’s heart. He loved Warren. That’s one thing you’re probably right about, Aunt Noreen. If Jesus be told, I have led us into temptation a time or two. He tried to relieve her by taking credit for mistakes and misjudgments not with pride, but with humility.

She gasped. How can you take the Lord’s Prayer in vane like that? My God in Heaven, you’ll go straight to the fires for such an utterance!

Miss Ella ought to have been furious yet how could she be at such a silly statement? Don’t you think you’re being extreme, Noreen?

The injured man, having had sufficient interaction with this lot, strangled his anger to escape further loss of his remaining teeth. All he wanted was to get out of this damnable place. Pressing his jacket sleeve to his mouth to stem the bleeding where his once handsome smile had been, he lied in answer to the fat woman’s question. Yeah. What he said. A safe distance from Pat, his back to the street, his hand on the doorknob, the horn blower’s meager courage resurfaced. I won’t forget this! he lisped, and bolted out the door to push aside startled strangers. Stepping into an ankle deep puddle in the road, his curse was loud and violent as the women within hearing covered either their mouths in horror or the ears of their children.

From behind the still anguished group inside the hall, Mr. Ramsbottom shouted, Such a ruckus damages our cause and only sets our movement back. Who knows how much longer it will be before women get the vote with behavior like this!

A collective cry of distress vibrated the hanging pictures.

Aunt Noreen was right about another thing, Pat thought. He would be the talk of Fernandina if not through gossip then from the soon to be printed story in the paper as he caught sight of the reporter fast on the heels of the musician.

Come on, sweetsie, Marie’s mother called. Time to go home and put the children down for their naps.

"I want mommy covers, Grammy," Lana said.

When her grandmother looked puzzled, Breelan explained, Oh that’s where I turn the sheet down over the blanket then tuck her in, like you did for me. She came up with the name on her own.

So precious, said Miss Ella, keeping the mood as light as she could.

One by one, the Dunnigans trooped out to their wagons. Up on the front seat, Pat placed his arm around Marie, trying to ease her distress.

With her head hung, she coyly yet viciously spit an ugly response at her brother. Get away from me! I don’t like, need, or want your protection any longer! You make me sick!

***

Pat gnawed on a dogwood twig, as was his usual, after the earlier meal at the hall. Peeper had long ago instructed this practice, so that she might ensure his teeth retain their brilliance. As he chewed, he tried to listen to the person speaking, but

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