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The Gifted, Volume One
Meredith Talbot has a secret. In fact, she has nine secrets – her own and those of the eight orphans at Seaton House, a home for children. Each of them has a special talent that if exposed would get them labeled as witches. It is her responsibility to protect the children and their secrets and keep them safe from persecution. Marauding Indians force them into a nearby fort where their safety is threatened by fanatical townspeople and a captivating army officer who try to unmask the children's extraordinary abilities.
Lieutenant Preston Booth has one goal – to serve and protect his country. The military is the only life he has ever known. It’s the only life he wants. When a child is abducted and Preston goes after the culprit, Meredith has a vision of what will happen to him.
Does she risk everything by exposing her gift? Or keep her secret and risk losing him forever?
Page Count: 310
Word Count: 78505
The back of the main house remained equally quiet. Nothing stirred on the veranda or in the wide expanse of grass-covered yard. Even the laundry hung motionless on the clothes line. In her disoriented state, perhaps she had imagined the clamor.
A muted rumble drifted around the side of the house. She hadn’t imagined that. It sounded like talking. She grabbed a handful of skirt and shot to her feet. Please let that be Anna returning.
She charged for the house, grateful for a clear mind and calm stomach. She had all but broken into a run as she rounded the corner and at full speed met a blue wall of chest and arms. The air left her with a whoosh, and she tottered on wobbly legs. Strong hands curled around her upper arms.
“Whoa there,” came a deep, commanding voice. “Where’s the fire?”
Her hands splayed over the man’s chest, the wool of his jacket rough beneath her fingertips. Shiny gold buttons marched upward to a bold chin, firm lips, and a slender nose. Eyes the color of aged tree bark drilled into her, intense and searching.
Her mind went unexpectedly blank, and her mouth dry as a sunbaked pond. Her stomach was dancing again. She must have pushed herself too quickly after the vision. Certainly that was the problem.
She shrugged out of his grasp and took a step back. He wore the blue uniform of the United States Army and had a curved saber strapped to his waist. A soldier.
Like the ones from her vision.
“Do you have Anna? Is she all right?”
“Anna? Don’t know anyone by that name. I came to speak with Mrs. Mildred Campbell. I was told she ran this place.” He swept off his hat, revealing a tanned brow bunched with frown lines. “Are you Mrs. Campbell?”
Some days, especially days like today, she wished she were. “No, I am not Mrs. Campbell.”
“Where can I find her?”
“Why? What do you want with her?”
“I have an urgent matter to discuss regarding the children.”
It couldn’t be any more urgent than finding Anna. She skirted him and headed for the front of the orphanage. “That won’t be possible. She’s away on a trip.”
“When will she return?”
Not soon enough. “I don’t know. A month? Two, perhaps.”
A mule-drawn wagon and several mounted soldiers occupied the front driveway. In consideration of the recent attacks, the patrol had most likely come to check on the outlying orphanage. As much as she wanted to stop and find out, she couldn’t. A child’s welfare demanded her time and attention.
The thud of boots followed her up the steps. “I need to speak to whoever oversees the orphanage.”
“That would be me.”
“Excellent. If you’ll give me a minute to explain…”
“I don’t have a minute. Or a second, for that matter.” She yanked open the door and rushed inside. Failing was not an option. Not this time.