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The Civil War is over, but a chance encounter between Jules Beecher and a man from her past turns a simple trip to find her orphaned cousins into a dangerous journey. Determined to keep a promise to her father, she puts her life at risk but finds a reluctant hero in Dr. Roe Greystone. Can Jules heal the "broken doll" of the battlefield or will the past destroy any future?
Roe abandoned the profession of medicine, exhausted from the suffering and butchering of the Civil War. Co-owner of a sternwheeler, Roe knew Jules was trouble the moment the kindhearted innocent boarded the Jenny Lee. He is determined to protect Jules from a madman, but will this Romeo risk all to rescue his Juliet?
Page Count: 338
Word Count: 80930
Jules Beecher had borrowed her father’s buggy on the promise she would return to the home of Dr. Sterling Beecher’s patient by eight p.m. and take him home, but she was late. The guests at the fall harvest party had asked her to sing another song, and even though Lara Herbruck hit several wrong chords while accompanying her on the piano, she had managed to stay on key.
She worked her way through the crowd, acknowledging their compliments and returning as many as she received. The Civil War had been over for more than a year, and most communities had resumed their seasonal routines. The fall parties would continue into the winter holidays before the bitter cold and heavy snows of Ohio forced the residents of Darrow Falls to seek shelter inside, huddling by fires and yearning for spring.
Jules wore a pink silk gown that shimmered in the candlelight. She had saved money from midwife duties and helping her father on medical calls to purchase the expensive material. She labored for weeks cutting out the pattern, sewing the slippery material on the family sewing machine, and painstakingly finishing the hem by hand. Her mother had tatted intricate silk lace to edge the bodice and puffy hint of sleeves that was in style. Crinolines were smaller beneath narrower skirts that gathered in the back to create a slimmer silhouette. The bodice fit snugly over a longer corset that pressed her breast to the edge of her low-cut décolletage. She had been flat chested last year but had filled out beyond her expectations.
Jules rushed to the hallway beside the staircase where coats and hats were hanging on wall pegs. She located her wool cloak and arranged it over her shoulders. She retrieved her straw bonnet from a small table nestled beneath the stairs and tucked her curls inside the cap. She paused when she heard her name spoken by Lara Herbruck.
Lara and others were descending from the second floor, their shoes pounding overhead on the steps. It couldn’t be praise. Old Sourpuss never had a kind word to say about anyone. Jules had been the target of her criticism since she was a little girl. As the youngest of the Beecher sisters, she was the easiest target.
“Juliet has been begging Matt Wheeler to be her Romeo since he began working for her father,” Lara said in a judgmental tone.
Begging? Matt helped around the Beecher farm with the heavier chores like chopping wood, plowing fields, and cutting hay. The Romeo reference was on purpose. Lara never missed an opportunity to taunt her about her given name, linking it to a boy and a fake romance. That was why she preferred to be called Jules. She had burst into tears in the past at the unrelenting teasing, but she was too old to allow Lara’s stings to make her cry.
She gathered the ribbons of her bonnet with her fingertips. Before she left, she would muster the courage to confront Lara. The next words stopped her hands from tying a bow beneath her chin.
“After Matt cleans out the stalls, he fills them with fresh straw, and they roll around like animals in heat,” Lara said.
The others gasped. One of the women giggled.
“She seems so sweet,” one of them said in her defense.
“Pretty flowers can attract plenty of bees,” Lara said. “But they don’t stay after taking the honey.”
Lara’s vicious accusations were unforgiveable. A lady had to vigilantly protect her reputation from any hint of impropriety, but Lara’s lies, if believed, could leave her a social pariah. Jules had done nothing to warrant the unprovoked verbal assault.
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