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In rural Florida, 1903, Mae Hinton cares for her father and younger brothers, trying to fill her deceased mother's shoes. Her life is shattered and her faith tested when her innocence is stolen by roving miscreants. Left unconscious, unable to identify her attackers, she pledges to help other victimized women. She pursues an education and learns to deal with bigoted ministers, well-to-do hypocrites, and men with higher regard for their livestock than their women.
Edward Finch is nearly done with medical studies in England when he comes home for the holidays. Love flourishes, and Mae seems close to achieving her dreams of both true love and a haven for victims, once she can explain to him why she carries a pistol. Then her new-found happiness is upset by a murder as one of her attackers returns. She may settle this herself...or she may find that vengeance truly belongs to God.
Page Count: 302
Word Count: 79280
Mae had just cinched the saddle on her horse when a scream rent the evening air. She ran around the house to see a very large dark-skinned man dragging Emma by her braids. Little Jimmie was frozen in place, with a look of resigned terror on his face as if this was a scene he had witnessed many times.
Mae found herself suddenly back in time, in a place she had hoped she would never have to visit again. She could smell whiskey and feel rough hands. Her vision began to blur. She might have fainted if Emma hadn’t screamed again.
Mae sucked in a deep breath and yelled at the man, “You let go of her, right now!” The man paused, looked at Mae, and then continued to drag Emma toward a horse and wagon.
Even as her eyes were seeing this, her mind was saying, “This is what Papa feared; this is why he was worried about this project.”
This was the moment Mae would have to prove herself. Instinctively, she found the little beauty and fired a round into the air. The man froze and then turned slowly toward Mae. The look on his face would have urged most men to full retreat.
“I said let her go, and I meant it. I don’t want to have to shoot you, mister.”
The man let out a bark of laughter. “You think you can hit me, little lady, before I can take your gun away from you?”
Mae stood her ground. Her heart was racing and her insides quivering, but her voice was firm. “You can try, but I warn you, I will not hesitate.”
The man had let go of Emma and now turned fully to face Mae. “You’re the reason I’m here, ain’t ya? You’re the one who put some crazy notion in her head, like she can just up and leave and get away with it. She’s got a home, and I’m takin’ her back to it.”
As the man reached out to grab Emma again, Mae fired. The man’s arm jerked in reaction to the white-hot pain. He wheeled sharply and took a step toward Mae, then stopped. He could see she had gone pale, but her grip on the pistol was firm, and her arm was rock steady.
“Emma, get up off the ground and come here. Jimmie, you come to me, too. Now.”
Jimmie’s eyes were round, admiration shining through them. He kept one eye on the angry man and began to walk slowly toward Mae. Emma was scrambling away from the man, but she didn’t have to worry. He was busy stanching the blood flow from the flesh wound in his upper right arm.
When both Emma and Jimmy were standing behind her, Mae lowered the pistol.
“Sir, I suggest you get in your wagon and leave. My papa has heard the shots, and by now he’s about two minutes away. I don’t mind telling you he feels even more strongly about men who abuse women and children than I do.”
Emma whispered something in Mae’s ear. The man had not moved and still looked as if he would gladly kill her. Mae spoke again.
“You just stand right there and don’t move.” Mae walked to the wagon, keeping a close eye on the man. She reached in under the seat and took out a rifle. Keeping one eye on him, she unloaded the rifle, placing the bullets in her pocket, and then shoved it back under the seat. Mae stepped back from the wagon.