Excerpt 1 of 2 (G) – For Love of a Brystile Witch by Kaye Spencer #paranormalromance #PrairieRosePubs #westernromance
It will take more than a hanging to end a 200-year-old curse…
Mercy Pontiere is the last ‘daughter’ in a long line of heredity witches. Two hundred years ago, Reid Corvane’s ancestor condemned the “Brystile witch” to hang. On the gallows, she placed a curse of short life and great suffering on the men of the Corvane line.
As the years passed, unintended consequences developed that impacted both families.
If Mercy overcomes two centuries of generational hatred to find love and forgiveness for Reid, and if he returns her love, the curse will be broken. Mercy thinks time is her ally; Reid’s time is running out.
Love must find them by midnight All Hallows’ Eve, or the Brystile witch will claim the life of another Corvane man. Reid has thirty-one days and counting…
A throng of onlookers filled the area around the hanging site. Even when standing on tiptoes behind the crowd, all Mercy could see was the gallows platform and upper steps, which wasn’t at all interesting to her. She wanted to see Reid Leighton, not watch him die.
The local citizens knew Mercy well enough to overlook the eccentricities of the Harmony Spring women, so when she hiked her calico skirts above her knees, shinnied up a tree near the scaffold, and perched herself at the juncture of trunk and horizontal branch, few even noticed.
“Here he comes!”
The crowd hushed. As if the on-lookers were a many-headed, gigantic bird, they craned their necks to see over the people in front of them. Mercy had a close up, clear view from her perch. With arms tied behind his back, and flanked on either side by the valley’s two deputies, Reid Leighton approached the scaffold stairs with dignity and bearing. For a man whose solace had come from a whiskey bottle, his strides were remarkably steady. When he paused at the base of the plank stairs and gazed up at the gallows platform, she wished she knew his thoughts. What drove him to commit suicide by legal hanging? Was he sorry? Did he have dark secrets in his past? Had he known love and happiness? Did he leave a family behind? Would a woman mourn his passing?
Reid needed no urging to mount the steps and, in spite of herself, Mercy kept watching. He ascended with an easy gait, the ball of each polished boot touching lightly upon the next plank. Once on the platform, he turned toward the crowd, head bowed and hat brim throwing a shadow over his features. Sheriff Samuel Dunne and Axel Moser, the valley’s minister of twenty some years stood on either side of the condemned man, and the deputies took watchful positions behind them and off the trap door.
When Orlie Eidler drove up with the hearse, Mercy’s gaze wandered to the glass windows and the coffin that awaited the man’s body. A shiver crawled up her back, and her hand flew to the ribbon necklace tied to the small tatted bag that held her agate stone charm as she whispered hasty words of protection against the sudden chill. “By earth and stone, by flesh and bone, by moon and sun, ill luck undone.”
The sheriff’s voice rose above the crowd’s murmurings. “If you have any last words, speak them now.”
For the longest time, Reid didn’t move. The quiet in the street became quieter. A baby cried; a woman shushed it. The autumn breeze ceased blowing. Mercy held her breath, entranced by the scene playing out before her. When he lifted his chin, she sucked in a little gasp of pity. His eyes—such sadness—maybe it was regret. Whatever his pain, it was deeper than the prospect of leaving this life in a few minutes. Did he deserve to die like this? Alone? With no one here to mourn his passing? Certainly, she didn’t know, but she blinked away tears for him nonetheless.
His deep voice resonated through the silent streets. “I hold the world, but as the world…a stage where every man must play a part. And mine is a sad one.”
A gasp of sorrow at his utter hopelessness left Mercy’s lips and, as if he’d heard, he caught her gaze with his, holding it in a way that made her feel he was memorizing her face as the last tender sight he’d take with him to the grave.
Sheriff Dunne waited a few seconds for the man to say more. When nothing came, he addressed the crowd. “As the duly appointed legal authority in Dulcet Valley, I hereby declare this hanging to proceed this first day of October 1892. The condemned will hang by the neck until dead, and his body will be interred in the local cemetery with a gravestone bearing his name, birth, and death dates. As per his signed and witnessed last requests, his epitaph will read, Teach me to feel another’s woe. Reverend Moser will settle his debts and notify next of kin.”
She knew the poem and went on in her head with the next lines…to hide the fault I see / that mercy I to others show / that mercy show to me. It was strange that the word mercy, her given name, would show up in duplicate at this moment. Two of any one thing meant balance, partnership or opposites, either way it meant a pairing of something. Since coincidences didn’t exist in her world, Fate was at work here. She swept a hurried glance around the area, searching for other signs she’d overlooked.
“Let it be known the Honorable Judge J. A. Swanson has authorized me to accept a plea of innocent and commute the death sentence.” He leveled a hard gaze on the condemned man. “Reid Leighton Corvane, this is your last chance to save your own life.”
“What? A Corvane? Here?” The words burst forth, loud and unbidden. Jolted, stunned to her bones, Mercy grabbed a better hold on the branch to keep her seat. So her months of conjuring had proven fruitful after all.
Writing through history one romance upon a time
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