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Author: Diane Merrill Wigginton
Title: Olivia's Promise
Published On: Aug 4 2017
Publisher: Jeweled Dagger Publishing
Pages: 380
Format: eBook, Print
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The year is 1804. Lady Olivia Sophia Allen Townsend has just turned 20 years old, beautiful and considered by some in polite society far too eccentric for her own good. When Olivia was younger, she was very open about her gift of being able to see spirits, but the shunning by her peers has caused her to turn her back on those who need her the most - spirits caught between two worlds. That is until her best friend Lilly Collins comes to her in the middle of the night and asks for her help. Lilly can’t remember what happened to her so finds herself in need of Olivia’s unique gifts.

Olivia’s younger sister, Coco, is also gifted with a unique set of skills - she can touch someone and know things about them that they would sometimes prefer to keep hidden. Together, the sisters set off on a sea voyage, from Ireland to America, intent on solving the mystery of Lilly’s untimely death.

Brody and Quinton Beaumont, fine-looking, eligible, southern American gentlemen, and heirs to a successful cotton empire, are twins hiding a deep dark secret. Their mother, Annabelle Beaumont, died eight years earlier on the night of their annual birthday winter ball, yet she continues to rule over their plantation home with an iron fist.

Olivia, drawn to no man, feels suddenly akin to Brody Beaumont, but she must figure out if she can trust him, and if he or his brother had anything to do with Lilly’s death.

Looking up at Brody, who was still seated on his horse, I brought my hand up to block the sun. “New surroundings, different noises, you know how it is. I couldn’t sleep, so I decided to take a walk before breakfast,” I answered, placing my hands in the small of my back and leaning back, stretching, somewhat dramatically.

“Do you like to ride?”

“I tend to avoid it, whenever possible,” I answered, placing my hand to my forehead again as I looked up at this tall, handsome figure of a man and tried to act normal. I could still feel disbelieving eyes staring at the back of my head. I gave a little shiver and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t stop my eyes from straying back to that porch.

With a skeptical look, Brody climbed down from his horse and took me by the hand. Then leading me around to the other side with a laugh that said you must be jesting, he placed my hand on the neck of his horse. Trailing my fingers through the silky, thick mane with his assistance, he continued.

“Nonsense, you just haven’t had the proper riding partner. This is Zeus. He stands seventeen hands high and is what they call a Friesian,” Brody proudly proclaimed. “I traveled all the way to England, just for the pleasure of paying top dollar for him,” he added with a half-smile on his handsome, full lips. Then he chuckled as if he had just told a great joke. “I knew the moment I laid eyes on him that Zeus was meant to be mine. He and I have been together for three years now, and to tell you the truth, I can’t remember what I did without him.”

Zeus nervously pawed at the ground with his powerful front legs, as his coal black eyes stared in the direction of the porch. Soon he began to prance around, restlessly and snort.

“Maybe we should lead Zeus back down the path. He seems spooked by something,” I suggested, knowing full well what was spooking him.

“It’s these buildings. He always gets like this whenever we ride through here,” Brody said solemnly, looking towards the rundown wooden structures. “Ghosts from the past, I suppose,” he added while staring at the porch, as if he could see people standing there.

I nervously laughed, knowing he didn’t realize how true that statement was. Steering his attention away from the porch and back to his spooked horse, I pulled on his sleeve. “I still think that it would be prudent to walk Zeus out of here.”

“Now that’s just crazy talk. You will be perfectly safe with me,” Brody boastfully stated, slowly dragging his eyes from the porch. With a confident smile, Brody boldly looked at me now. Placing the leather reins in my hands with purpose, Brody grasped either side of my waist and lifted me onto his horse.

Sitting sideways, with one leg over the saddle horn, while Brody hoisted himself up behind me, I was afraid to move. But at the same time, I didn’t miss the fact that his well worn pants were faded in all the right places, as if he wore them often, while riding or performing manual labor. His boots, while broken in, shone black with a fresh coat of polish and his white shirt, minus a formal cravat, was paired with a dark gray waist coat which accentuated the green of his eyes.

My heart began to beat wildly against my ribs as he came in close behind me, hooked one arm around my waist and slid me back against his chest and hips.

“How is that? Are you still afraid that you might slip off?” Brody asked with confidence.

“No, Mr. Beaumont, I am no longer afraid of falling from this great beast of a horse. I am, however, concerned that your father or someone else may see us and call for a priest to marry us post haste.”

Throwing his head back and laughing, Brody tightened his grip around my waist even more, crushing my lungs as he kicked Zeus in the side. Turning around on the path, we headed for the stables.

“Oh, my dear woman, you are, if nothing else, entertaining. I am truly grateful that you agreed to come.”

With a terse smile, I took one last look at Lilly and the others still on the porch, giving the slightest nod of my head. Lilly knew what to do, and I knew that I could find her again if I needed to. Brody called out as we rode into stable area.

“Jamie, take care of Zeus for me. I must show Lady Townsend something,” he bellowed, pulling me unceremoniously from the back of Zeus like a rag doll. “And don’t forget to give him extra grain. It’s going to be cold tonight.”

“Yes, sir,” Jamie replied, spiriting Zeus away, the moment Brody had spoken.

“Where are you taking me, Brody Beaumont?” I tersely asked, attempting to pull my hand from his grasp.

Tightening his grip, Brody smile mischievously and continued to pull me behind him. “I told you. I need to show you something,” he said with an air of mystery mixed with excitement. “And you will just have to be patient, we’re almost there.”

Pulling me towards the house, he stepped onto the porch and wound around to the left side of the house. A dog house, mimicking the main house in structure, sat off the ground on stilts about two feet high. A gently sloping ramp was attached, with two large paws and a dog’s snout rested upon it.

“Here girl, I have a treat,” Brody called out and drew closer. At first, only a gray nose popped out and sniffed the air, then a head peaked around the corner followed by the rest of the dog.

A beautiful, gray, hunting dog walked down the ramp wagging a stub of a tail, rubbed up against Brody and obediently sat down next to him. Her short, shiny, slick coat was beautiful. Brody placed his hand next to her muzzle and gave her a piece of meat from his pocket.

“Oh Brody, she is a beauty. I have never seen anything like her. Are her eyes gray or blue? I can’t tell,” I asked, squatting down to look closer.

“They are a little of both,” he said. “She’s a German Weimaraner and built for hunting. I took her off the hands of a merchant ship captain last year. Unfortunately, she tangled with one of Jackson’s hunting dogs and now the pups are worthless.”

“How can you say such a thing, Brody Beaumont?” I scolded. “All life is precious.”

“They are mutts, Olivia.”

“What kind of dog does Jackson have? And was it really such a hideous match?” I asked, scratching the dog behind her ears.

“You need to be careful, Olivia. She isn’t always so friendly to strangers.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, she isn’t going to bite me. I think she recognizes a dog lover when she sees one,” I replied.

“To answer your question about the dogs, separately they are both a beautiful breed, but together the Chesapeake Bay retriever mixed with a Weimaraner, well, let’s just say that I haven’t decided yet,” Brody answered, retrieving two of the puppies from the dog house to show me. “The Retriever is a stockier breed, where the Weimaraner has a finer bone structure and body.” He handed me one of the pups. “As you can see they are merely round little balls of fur now.”