Read Southern Beauty Online

Authors: Julie Lucia

Southern Beauty

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

Many thanks go out to friends & family who helped without hesitation; Mark Struckmann for his amazing eye for photography, Ruth Muck for her outstanding editing skills, my gorgeous models, Stephanie Conboy & Tyler Ferington, my parents for helping with research and sitting hours on end listening to me read each chapter, and my dearest husband, Tom, for creating such an incredible book cover.

 

 

 

 

Dedication

 

This book is dedicated to
my God for His grace & love and showing me that “all things are possible,” to my parents for their constant love and encouragement, and to my family, Tom, Tyler, Rebekah, and Madeline, I love you always. 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Southern Beauty

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

January 1861

 

“P

ay attention McPherson, we’re being summoned,” A sharp voice broke Lieutenant David McPherson’s daydream of his family who had seemed to be right in front of him. 

David had been gazing into the clear waters of the pond that lay next to his regiment’s camp.   A slim handsome man with broad shoulders stared back at him with a grin.  His sandy blonde hair and thick eyebrows hid in the shadows of the pond’s waters.  He threw a rock to shatter what once was his own reflection.  The rock slowly sank into the marsh below.  David had received many honors for his heroics since he joined the army.  Although he loved the life of a soldier, he was ready to return to his family. 

David adjusted his uniform and made his way toward camp.  He faintly heard the commander of his unit speaking as he approached.   General George Meade stood in front of his tent and gathered the men around to discuss his plans to prevent further conflicts between the states.

“It is settled then, Lieutenant, you ride out immediately,” said Meade.  David had been still reminiscing;  family gatherings around the fireplace, his mother’s delicious shepherd’s pie he could almost taste, his sister’s lovely singing voice that accompanied him at the piano, and his father’s nightly readings of the newest novels that had come from the city.  A smile crept upon his face as he imagined the day he would return, “two weeks,” he whispered to himself with a sigh.  

“From the look of that smile, you must be pleased with my choice,” said Meade.

“Sir?” David now realizing the General was talking directly to him.

“Anyone else care to join him on this quest?” asked Meade.

“We will,” a heavyset man with a full beard and a tall self-assured man with a mustache came out of the silent crowd of young soldiers. They were friends of David’s.  Master Sergeant Jacob Evans and Sergeant Preston Myers gladly accepted to once again ride alongside their long time comrade-in-arms. 

Jacob was a quiet man with a soft-spoken voice and a kind face.  His dark black hair and beard had been turning gray, showing his many years.  Jacob was married to Emma and loved her dearly.  He only had three more months until his enlistment was up, and he looked forward to meeting his newborn son, Daniel.  

Preston
, a tall, heavily muscled, confident man intimidated everyone with whom he came in contact.  To him, women were on the earth only for men’s pleasures.  Though the women didn’t trust him, neither did the men.  People who knew him wondered whose side he would fight.  When they would ask him, he simply would say, “My side.”

Although, very different men, David loved them both and considered them brothers he never had. Their friendship was made the day their lives intersected in
Harrisburg when they each enlisted and were assigned to the same unit. The three were inseparable.     

“Men, this is a serious situation. We need that map and if possible, I want his strategic battle plans too,” Meade explained to the men. “This missi
on comes from the highest level; don’t disappoint me.”


Yes, sir,” said the men in unison.


A Lieutenant Colonel from Virginia is gaining popularity among the Southern military brass,” Meade explained. 

Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee’s loyalties were wavering due to family obligations in
Virginia.  This was known even by the newly elected President, Abraham Lincoln, therefore it was vital that before Virginia seceded something had to be done.  The plan was to elect General Meade’s elite team to ride to South Carolina undetected by the newly formed Confederate Regulation Army and retrieve strategic military plans including a map of the North and South created by balloonist John Steiner.  This was imperative for he had the only accurate map that could lead the Union into the path of victory.  The map was given as a gift to Lee and was supposedly on him at all times.  He currently resided at one of his family’s plantations in Charleston, where he was secretly visiting with the newly appointed General of the Confederate Army.  Unbeknownst to Lee, there was a mole reporting his every move since South Carolina seceded in December. 

David being the only Lieutenant among the men was elected to lead the mission.   

“He is a well respected hero of the Army, and a dear friend of mine whom I met at West Point.  Treat him with respect if you need to capture him.  Understood?”  General Meade explained with sadness in his voice and a frown upon his face.

“Yes sir
,” answered David with a salute. He silently mouthed the words, “capture him?” to his companions.

The men got upon their saddled horses, grabbing their sabers and revolvers on the way.  Under his breath, David cursed the dangerous plan the commander ordered.  The three men and their horses galloped off, leaving behind
Salisbury, and the many women of Preston’s nightly pleasures. 

 

#   #   #

 

Beyond the thick dusty clouds, a ray of sunshine peered through and shone upon an immaculate plantation, surrounding it with fields of exquisite flowers that seemed to be an endless array of bouquets.  Inside, the rooms were handsomely decorated with a man’s touch:  a quiet fire burning in the fireplace, before it a sable bear skin rug, and a hat rack that once held a colonel’s hat.  The cupboards were sufficiently stacked with an extravagant abundance of liquor. 

Below in the cellar was wine, fermenting, as it silently waited to be opened.  Against the wall hung a new Secession Flag; beside it stood an impeccable, sturdy black musket with a bayonet.  Up the flowing oak and marble staircase were elegant bedrooms of crimson velvet.  Out on the terrace, a ravishingly beautiful young lady posed in the noon sun, eagerly awaiting her mentor.

Johanna Lee breathed in the deep countryside air.  Her long golden hair blew in the timid breeze.  Her emerald eyes twinkled in the sun’s light.  Her ivory skin hid behind an eloquently decorated pink parasol that matched her silken gown of layers of lace that fit tightly from her full breasts to her curving hips and continued outward, covering her from the waist to the marble floor.  Johanna Lee had lived here, in her uncle’s estate, since her parents fled the country two months ago for Paris.  She was left behind for her safety and her reputation.  Although it was beautiful, she longed to be near family. 

Johanna gripped a letter in her hands. 
The letter brought her comfort and made her slightly smile through her tears. 

It was a letter from her uncle that had been sent to her recently.  She
reread it;

 

My Dearest Niece,

I hope this letter finds you
in good health.  I am sorry I haven’t sent for you.  It has become difficult for me to travel without suspicion from my superiors.   I will be meeting G.T. at Fort Moultrie and unable to retrieve you myself.  You will be sent an escort instead to take you to Arlington. I will try to meet you at the inn where the Otter resides before your departure. I have made arrangements for all servants to work for John Grady’s plantation.  He is a good man, he will provide housing, and pay them handsomely for their service. They will leave within the week.  Please take with you my favorite weekly reading material that was given to me by a dear friend who likes ballooning. What ever the cost you must keep it hidden.  Trust no one. If for some reason I cannot meet you, please retrieve my box of cigars. It will be at the cottage near your father’s preferred drink.  You know of which I speak.  Our lives may very well depend on it. Therefore it is imperative that you follow my instructions with the utmost discretion. I am sorry to put you at risk, but I know that I can depend and trust in you. Keep safe.  May God bless your travels!

With Love,

R.E. Lee

 

Johanna thought about each sentence.  She knew although her uncle had been at the Custiss-Lee Mansion in Arlington after leaving his post in Texas, he hadn’t been able to retrieve her due to the rising conflict between the states.  Now that South Carolina had seceded and Virginia silently spoke of following, it was harder for him to travel without causing controversy. 

 

#   #   #

 

   The sun’s light disappeared along with its warmth, leaving only a chilling breeze that made the stench of the horses’ sweat inflame the men’s nostrils.  A whistle sang through the forest’s trees and the dusty trail the men were following became harder to see the further they traveled.  Only a small clearing before them shone of the moon’s light.  Throughout the woods an array of twinkling lights made the blackened woods seem enchanted. 

“It’s awfully cold out for fireflies,”
Preston noticed the lights.

“I don’t think those are fireflies. You are just noticing animals watching us from the woods, their eyes are reflecting the moonlight,” explained Jacob. “Some people think these woods are enchanted.”

“Wow.  That’s amazing.  There must be a hundred of them in there,” said Preston.

“Enchanted?  Do tell,” David asked. “This trip is going to take long enough. We need something to keep us awake.” 

“That’s right, Jacob, you are always good for a story, especially when you had a few too many,” Preston chimed in and David laughed. 

“If it will get you guys to quit complaining about our mission, I will.”  Jacob laughed too.

Jacob began to tell mystical tales of fairies that supposedly live among the leaves.  Preston and David listened with much anticipation as if they were small children listening to their grandfather pass on generations of tales. 

 

 

#   #   #

 

Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee, who had recently arrived from
Virginia, was meeting privately with Charleston’s newest Confederate General Brigadier P.G.T. Beauregard at Fort Moultrie just south of the plantation where Johanna lived. Lee found it to be a gift that had fallen into his lap when she was left in his care right before South Carolina seceded in December.  He would be able to use Johanna’s unfortunate circumstance to his advantage. Therefore he decided to wait for the opportune moment to retrieve her. The moment had finally arrived.   
Lee folded a letter and motioned Private Malcolm Graystone over.  The handsome Private walked over with a tinge of pride shown in his steps.
 

“Yes sir?” he asked with a grin and a salute.

“At ease Private,” Lee grinned back with a wink and a salute.  Though Malcolm was one of his men from the 2
nd
Calvary regiment, he also was his aide, whom he had grown fond of over the last three months.  Lee looked forward to introducing him to his niece.  “I want you to personally retrieve Miss Lee and escort her to the Custiss-Lee Mansion where my wife, Mary, will be waiting for her.  My plans have changed and I will be staying a little longer to meet with General Beauregard, so I will not be able to take her myself.” His smile widened and Graystone knew he had a little more planned than a trip for him and Johanna. 

Other books

The House of Tudor by Alison Plowden
The Fourth Secret by Andrea Camilleri
The Psychoactive Café by Paula Cartwright
Your Magic Touch by Kathy Carmichael
Falling for Finn by Jackie Ashenden
In Distant Waters by Richard Woodman
The Skies Discrowned by Tim Powers


readsbookonline.com Copyright 2016 - 2020