ACROSS THE RIVER
by Megan Easley-Walsh
For her, he'd go to the ends of the earth.
When she disappears, he might have to.
In the English countryside in 1774, Caleb Haroldson and Rebecca Turrington are destined to be together. Stealing her inheritance to fund the life of her choosing with Caleb seems like an easy enough task for Rebecca, as she schemes with him beside the river late one night. But Rebecca is not the only one making plans for her future.
When Turrington Manor is ravished by flames and a mysterious hooded figure on horseback appears, Rebecca is swept into a plot of revenge and revolution. Is anyone safe in a land where hundreds have gone missing.
As Rebecca struggles for her freedom and Caleb endeavors to find her, both sides of the Atlantic are poised to erupt and everywhere lurks the haunting phrase "Across the River.”
There is no life and death.
There is only life.
Death is an illusion, an appearance, nothing more.
It is a fleeting shade that disappears in the light of truth.
And life, life is constant, ever-flowing like a river.
The English Countryside, Summer 1774
Rebecca's head rested against his chest, as Caleb lay with her beneath the star-strewn sky. The afternoon's rain had dampened the grass, but the ground was not muddied. Rich earthiness whispered against his nose, but was drowned by the scent of Rebecca. Clasping her hand with his, she leaned over him. Her cheeks, rosy from the coolness of the night, danced merrily under her eyes.
“Come away with me,” Rebecca said. He knew that look.
“Come away with you?”
She nodded, the stars conspiring with her to more intensely highlight her beauty.
“I could not bear to marry another and they are so intent on promising me to someone else.”
She knew what she was doing. Merely hearing her words had cast a dagger into his heart, though he knew she had not meant to be cruel. Rebecca only meant to use the truth to make her proposition irresistible to him.
“Caleb, I could not bear to be with another man.”
The softness of her skin as she held his hand stood as reminder to the sweetness in his memory, when there had been more than—
“Come away with me,” she repeated.
Caleb swallowed. Oh, how he wanted to indulge her! It was all he could do to keep from agreeing. But, he had to be practical; one of them did.
“What would we live off of?”
She was not so naive to think this the only necessity, but she knew the power of her charm on him and she was determined to get her way.
“And how shall I pay for food when you are hungry?”
She said nothing for a moment. He wasn't supposed to object.
“Those silver plates, the ones my mother is forever having polished.”
There wasn't a servant for miles that didn't dread the thought of Rebecca's mother's plates.
“Your mother would never part with them.”
“Then, I shall have to take them.”
“Your plan is to steal the plates?”
“It can hardly be called stealing if I am taking my own inheritance.”
Caleb put his hands behind his head, forgetting he was supposed to be applying practicality and now only concerned with watching her loveliness as her mind raced forward.
“Yes, yes, that is it. I shall hide them in the river,” Rebecca said.
“In the river, whatever for?”
“You ask too many questions,” she said, leaning into him. Her lips brushed against Caleb's, to silence him.
“And you,” he said, feeling the softness of her hair over his arm, “make it truly difficult to concern myself with the answers.”
Rebecca looked at him to remind him that yes, she was the power-holder here. She lay her hand against his shirt.
“I feel your heart,” Rebecca said, “I feel it as strongly as though 'twere my own. truthfully, Caleb, I hear your heart beat.”
“You hear my watch,” he said, with a laugh, pulling his watch from his pocket. The face was marred, but it shone in the sunlight as he worked, glinting at him when he clicked open its half-broken hinge to count the hours until he could see Rebecca again. She stared at him with such intensity that his laughter dried up like a brook encountering an oasis.
Temptress. Beautiful, beloved temptress.
Tiny prickles of grass pushed against his skin, like splinters in his workshop. The world was awake here, rawer, but in a pleasant way. Everything burst with vibrancy, with vitality, like a thousand trees with arms outstretched to the skies above. Pines clung in his nose, fully rooted, away from the saw and the hammer that he would transform them with into the finest furniture for miles. Furniture that someone as noble as Rebecca could even sit on, and yet furniture that cemented his place in the world as a craftsman.
“Caleb, you have kept me waiting far too long. You really ought—”
“So, this is where you wander off to,” the words sliced through their shared moment, shattering all promise of what was to come.
“Richard,” Rebecca said, hastily moving away from Caleb at the sight of her brother. Caleb's eyes went wide, as a guilty flush washed over him. He scrambled to his feet, pulling Rebecca up with him.
“Richard,” Caleb said now, “I can assure you that I mean Rebecca no harm. I only have the best of intentions toward her.” Though caught, his honor would not be sullied.
Richard looked from one to the other.
“I know my sister well enough to know that she can only abide by her own will. I am sure that the only one who has been led here this evening is you.”
“I—” Caleb opened his mouth to speak and then, realizing he could make no argument, shut it again. Yes, Rebecca had led him. Caleb, accustomed to cursing the gentry beneath his breath as he toiled for the paltry wages they offered, would bend to no man. But Rebecca, her long hair falling over her silken body, was no man.
“Richard,” Rebecca said now, stepping nearer her brother and resting her hand on his arm, “we have done nothing wrong. Promise me, Brother, you will not speak of our innocent secret.”
Whether she had deftly bent the truth or spoken the reality she believed was unclear. When Rebecca spoke with such sweetness of purpose, one soon found himself agreeing with her.
Richard, fond though as he was of her, was adept at navigating his way through her persuasive powers. Looking at them now though, with their eyes absent of fear and only love finding a home therein, he couldn't help but agree with her. Perhaps, he was not so immune after all.
“All right, I will do as you ask. But, Sister, do be more careful. You can hardly think that Father would be willing to overlook the state I have found you two in. Mother would have you married off or else sent away to a nunnery before the sun rose.”
Caleb wondered at the validity of the threats, but Rebecca, successful in at least one dealing tonight, brushed aside his comments.
“Richard, you worry far too much.”
“Even so, you must realize that if you are gone any longer you will soon be missed.”
She really couldn't object to this point. Turning to Caleb one last time, she said in a voice that only they could hear,
“Do consider what I have said, my love. I admit to wishing to sway you, but believe me, it is no whim. I have thought of nothing else for days.”
“Rebecca,” Caleb said. Doubt had dragged its ugly fingers across his face and she wanted to see nothing of the sort.
“Kiss me, Caleb, kiss me as though 'twere for the last time.”
She threw her arms around him before he could object and Richard turned away.
“Rebecca, we best leave,” Richard said, beginning to walk away from the two.
Her lips pulled slowly from Caleb's, only to say,
“Yes, I am coming.”
The words had hardly slipped from her mouth, when she pushed her lips to Caleb's again.
“Go,” he whispered against her. Assuredly, if he had known what was to happen, he never would have said it.
~Buy ACROSS THE RIVER at Amazon
Megan Easley-Walsh is an author of historical fiction, a researcher, and a writing consultant and editor at Extra Ink Edits. She is an award-winning writer and has taught college writing in the UNESCO literature city of Dublin, Ireland. Her degrees are in history-focused International Relations. She is American and lives in Ireland with her Irish husband. She is also the author of Flight Before Dawn, What Edward Heard, and North Star Home.
Across the River’s ebooks are published by Macmillan and are available from several retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Ibooks,and Kobo. Paperback and hardcover books are also available and can be found on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.