As the Civil War rages on, Kitty Wright must fight to keep her child—and her love—alive.
The Coltrane Saga, Book 2
Kitty Wright finds herself alone in the smoldering ashes of the Civil War. Her beloved father has been killed, along with the man she was once engaged to, and fate has sent Travis Coltrane, the Yankee cavalry officer whom she truly loves, marching on with General Sherman's troops.
Unbeknownst to Travis, Kitty gives birth to his son. Struggling to survive, she marries carpetbagger Corey McRae, grateful when he saves her from a mob of angry neighbors. But her life soon becomes a a living hell as he forces her to endure his depraved lust.
Kitty's indomitable spirit and love for her child keep her fighting for the day when Travis will return to her. But when he does, he is angry she has married and thinks her child is McRae's. And once again, Kitty must fight for the two greatest loves in her life.
This book is a reprint and was originally published by Avon Books in April 1982.
Product WarningsThis book accurately depicts the horrors of the Civil War, including graphic battlefield scenes, wounds, and trauma.
Copyright © 2012 Patricia Hagan
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Kitty wiped at the perspiration on her brow. She was dirty, grimy. The ragged Confederate uniform she had taken from a dead soldier was now bloodstained and stiff with soil from her work in the field hospital. A strand of hair tumbled forward, and she pushed it back from her eyes, seeing that it, too, was stained with blood. How long since she had bathed? She could not remember.
“Kitty, Kitty.” Travis was gently shaking her, turning her around to face him, his hand cupping her chin. “I’ve been talking to you, but you don’t hear me. Are you in shock over all that’s happened? I know it’s been terrible, darling, but you’re a strong woman. I know how strong, remember? Because we have been through hell, together.”
“Yes.” Her voice was barely audible. “We have been through hell. It’s over now.”
“Well, it’s almost over. A few more months, that’s all the war can last. Then it’s a new beginning for us.”
She stared up into his handsome face. This man could warm any woman’s heart with just a smile. And he was looking at her now as though he wanted to touch those warm lips against hers. His head moved, lowering, but she stepped backward. It was not proper. Not here, now, moments after her father’s burial.
She turned from him.
She turned to stare at him. They had not talked much since he had loomed up out of the swamps at Bentonville in time to avenge her father’s death. Kitty had been too anguished. Now, standing only a few feet away from the man she had alternately desired and despised, she felt suddenly shy.
“Kitty. We have to talk. You may not feel it’s the time, but we have to. As I said, I think you realize by now that I do care for you.”
Kitty stared at him, thinking once again how beautiful his eyes were—not blue, not black, but a blending that became the color of steel. Now they looked warm, loving, but once they had mirrored anger, disgust, even hatred. His hair was the color of the raven’s wing, shining black, and he had a firm set to his jaw. His lips were smooth, the bow even. Now she saw a muscle tense. He stood before her, waiting for her to speak, the Union cavalry uniform as dirty and blood-splotched as the clothes she wore.
“I remember an afternoon on a windswept hilltop outside of Richmond,” she said. “Poppa and I were sitting on the hilltop talking, happy to be together after so long. And then you came along, saying you had to talk to Poppa about the new orders you had just received from General Grant. You made me leave, saying I couldn’t be trusted, since my heart belonged to the Confederacy. I was angry, and I left and went back to the little shack where I was staying in the Yankee camp. And you followed me there, grabbing me and forcing me to submit to you.”
“Kitty, I didn’t force you,” he protested, taking a step toward her, but she held up her hands. “I might have made you want me, but I did not force you.”
“Your words were, ‘I’m the way I am, and I’ll never change, but I do give a damn about you.’ Well, Travis, I’m the way I am, and I’ll never change, but I do give a damn about you.” She smiled sadly. “I remember something else about that day, after we made love so sweetly and tenderly. Even though there were times you abused me after you rescued me from Luke Tate, times that I hated you and could have killed you with my bare hands—on that afternoon, I loved you with all my heart. And then I slept in your arms, and I awoke later to find you gone. I went to search for you, and I found you with another woman.”
“Kitty”—he gestured helplessly—“that was planned. As cruel as it sounds, it was all set up on purpose. I had to anger you enough to make you leave our camp. I knew what our orders were. I knew you would want to go along, not only because you wanted to be with your father but because you and I knew at last that we loved each other. Having you see me with that woman was the one way I could send you away from danger.”
“My father slipped into Goldsboro to tell me these things. He said you set the whole thing up. But I felt like such a fool. I look back now and think of the way Nathan used me, and then you, and I don’t think I can ever trust another man. Poppa was the only man who never deceived me or hurt me.”
The steel-gray eyes that had gazed at her so warmly turned cold. “Can you say you never deceived me, Kitty? Remember after I rescued you from Luke Tate and you tricked me into believing you could be trusted, made me think you loved me? I let my guard down, and it almost got me killed. In fact, the ball intended for me hit another soldier and sent him to his grave. And you ran away with a Rebel soldier and never looked back.”
“I did look back,” she cried, her body trembling as the memories took over. “When I thought you were dead, it hurt me terribly. But you did use me, Travis. Remember how you scorned me? You said it was beneath you to force yourself upon any woman. You made me feel like dirt, Travis, remember? I had every reason to hate you. You wouldn’t set me free then or send me back to my own people. You kept me with you, dragging me through the battlefields. You gave me no other choice. I could not stay with you, not with the humiliation you offered me.”
She turned her face away, unable to meet his angry gaze. “I remember the times in your arms, when you made love to me. No, you never forced me to submit, did you? But you knew a hundred ways to make my body scream, ways to make me tremble with desire, my blood turn to fire. Never had I envisioned such joy, and I thought it had to be love. Later, I felt used.”
“I never meant to make you feel that way.” He stepped forward and put his arms around her, pulling her to his strong chest. She could feel the pounding of his heart. “You had your painful memories to bear, but so did I. I learned early that a woman can’t be trusted, and every time I came close to giving you my heart, you showed me you were like all the others. I wanted to give you a chance. I want to give you another now. Damn it, Kitty, I’m asking you to give both of us a chance at a future together. Maybe this isn’t the time or the place, with the Union troops marching over your homelands, and your father hardly cold in his grave. But the future is actually the present when you stop and think about it, no matter what the circumstances. This is here and now, and I’m telling you that I love you, that I want you, and that I want us to have a life together.”