Welcome to Excerpt Friday! Each Friday we’ll be featuring excerpts from recent releases by our very own Fillies. So grab a cup of coffee and read on. And if you find you’re hooked by what you read (and we know you will be!) just click on the book cover to purchase the entire book.
From Author Mary Connealy – TRIED AND TRUE
He’d been a skilled Army officer and he considered himself a good land agent. He put all his skills together and had a suspicion. Standing, he said, “Well, I’ll be going then.”
Wilde didn’t rise.
Aaron closed the space between them and thrust his hand down to shake. A stretch of seconds went on far too long, and finally a gloved hand came out and took Aaron’s. With a single jerk, Aaron dragged the youngster up and whipped that stupid hat off.
Honey brown curls sun-streaked with yellow tumbled down around Kylie Wilde’s falsely-padded shoulders.
She squeaked and looked up at him, her starburst eyes wide with fear.
“I—I can…can explain.” Kylie had no idea how she was going to explain.
“No need. I think I see things more than clear.” Aaron’s eyes flashed with contempt. “You’re using your brother’s identity to claim a homestead, using the service exemptions to get out of doing your five years. That’s fraud, Miss Wilde. A woman is free to homestead on her own, you’re just lying about your time in the Army to get out of two of those years. You can go to prison for that.”
“P-prison?” Kylie tugged against his iron grip and it didn’t give at all.
“And you can certainly get thrown off this land and be barred from ever homesteading again. Does your brother know that his years of danger and sacrifice are being stolen and used by his lazy, dishonest little sister? Is he in on it or are you cheating him too, on top of cheating your country?”
“Let go of me.” She jerked her hand free of his, leaving her glove behind.
Her hands were so obviously feminine she’d had to keep them covered with the buckskin gloves.
“Did you know that on top of being a land agent I also have authority from the Government to make an arrest? I don’t have to let go of you.” He threw her abandoned glove down on her porch floor, and grabbed her wrist.
Kylie froze at the word ‘arrest’.
“In fact I can arrest you right here and haul you to jail.”
His jaw tightened and his grip on her wrist hurt. He leaned down until their noses almost touched. “Is your brother even alive, Miss Wilde? Or did he die fighting to preserve the Union and now, like a vulture, you’re profiting from his death?”
“You stop right there.” The last was just too much. “I did have a brother who died in that awful war. Everything I’ve done for the last five years has been because of Jimmy. I will not let you stand there and accuse me of profiting from his death.” She no longer wanted to escape, instead she was tempted to blacken his eyes.
“Jimmy? You said his name was Kyle. You said he was at Vicksburg, you said he was a spy.”
“My brother’s name is Jimmy, you idiot. I’m Kyle!”
Aaron jerked his face away from hers. “Y-you’re Kyle? What?”
“And I was at Vicksburg fighting with the Ninth.”
“B-but women can’t—don’t—”
“Women can and do, Mr. Masterson. I’m living proof that there were women serving right there alongside men. I faced all the danger I was called to face, and I earned that service exemption.” Her voice grated until it could have ground glass.
Aaron’s face was a picture as he lost the last of his anger. She could see his mind working, sorting through the surprises of the last few minutes. “And you couldn’t have the exemption because you’re a woman.”
“You tell me who’s being cheated. I say I’m being cheated out of what I rightfully earned.”
“But women can’t earn the exemption. They aren’t allowed to enlist.”
“Well, I did enlist. I used my own name, too. I never told a single lie. I dressed as a man but no one ever asked me if I was one.”
“Didn’t you have a physical?”
Kylie’s snort was purely rude. “The physical was a man looking at me. He said my name, saw me standing upright and waving me through.”
Nodding, Aaron said, “I remember mine. That’s how it was.”
“I served my country honorably, and I will not let—let—” Her voice broke but she steadied it. “When my brother died, we—I went to fight in his place. He believed in this country enough to give his life to preserve it. And I could do no less.” Of course she’d have never considered fighting, even with her grief over Jimmy’s death, if Pa hadn’t goaded her into taking up arms.
The prying land agent shook his head just briefly as if trying to shed water, then he stepped back and sank into the chair he’d abandoned. Kylie had hoped he’d storm off and leave her. She wanted him to go away. But if he did, he’d go straight to Aspen Ridge and disallow her claim. So maybe she didn’t want him to go away.