Excerpt for Seekers of the Past by , available in its entirety at Smashwords








Seekers of the Past


Amy Valentini







A Seekers of the Past novel















Copyright: Contemporary Romance


SEEKERS OF THE PAST

Copyright © 2018 Amy Valentini

All Rights Reserved.

First E-book Publication: July 2018

ISBN: 9780463975053

Smashwords Edition

Cover design by Amy Valentini/Romancing Editorially

Edited by Amy Valentini/Romancing Editorially

Cemetery Clouds image by Anna Plaistow, photographer from Dorset, Bournemouth. Courtesy of

Pexels

Adult Affection image by Pixabay—Stephan Seeber. Courtesy of Pexels.

All cover art © 2018 Amy Valentini


All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this book. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented without the express written permission of the author, Amy Valentini. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts for promotion and review.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the author is illegal and punishable by law. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.


Amy Valentini/Romancing Editorially

www.romancingeditorially.com


This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.












Acknowledgements



It’s always been my dream and goal in life to create. My desire to be writer began in high school and my goal of making editing my life, since college. As for so many, life gets in the way and sometimes, our dreams and goals get lowered on the list of priorities. Well, I’m working on achieving both now and I am so grateful to so many who have told me to keep going.

Susan Fisher-Davis, you inspired me so much as we traveled your journey to published best-selling author together. Being your editor has been the best job of my life, and I’m with you for as long as you wish to continue.

To every single person who ever kept telling me to go for it, who continued to believe in me, and kept telling me I could do this—you know who you are—there are so many of you, too many to list here actually, but thank you. I love you for never letting me quit.

And to everyone who reads romance—if you’re reading this book, this story is for you.

Thank you.















Dedication



In memory of my darling, beautiful, kind, and talented friend, Peggy Bird—you inspired me with your kind words of encouragement and support. My only wish is that you were here to see me finally do this. This one’s for you, my dear friend. I will miss you always.




Table of Contents


Copyright

Acknowledgments

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Bonus Chapters













Chapter One



“You’ve seen a lot over the centuries, haven’t you? Well, it’s time to give up some of your secrets.”

The orange and pink glow in the western sky was beginning to fade, and darkness now crept along coating the landscape in the shadows of tall trees as Emma Wells turned the old Jeep toward the house. It rumbled down the hill from the old cemetery and onto the access road running parallel to the cornfield. The humid summer night air filled with swirling waves of honeysuckle perfume mingling with the earthy scents of farming country surrounding her like a comforting blanket. Breathing it in, she knew it wouldn’t be long before the breath of the corn would take its place. It was nearly midsummer and the corn was already almost four feet tall.

Emma loved Green Mount Farm. It was old, centuries old actually. It had seen better days but since her colonial ancestor, Jason Embry had built the grand house, it had survived the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and many more decades of despair so she hoped it would survive a stint in her care. Although the house had gone from what was considered in its early days, a grand home, it had changed over the centuries. A kitchen fire, damage from storms, and modern modifications throughout the twentieth century had changed the grand building into a rather simple yet beautiful farmhouse. It had taken a lot of work this past spring to get the fields back into condition for planting, but it was worth it. She’d hired on agricultural students from the university to do the fieldwork while she concentrated on the house.

The death of her grandfather, Duncan Chambers, had come as a shock to her two years earlier. After burying the beloved man, she’d taken a leave of absence from her job as researcher and restorer at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. Now, she wondered if she’d ever return to her old life or continue to make a new one here, at Green Mount Farm.

A frown crossed her brow as her thoughts returned to the days after her grandfather’s death. There were still so many questions in her mind about his accident. True, Grandpa Duncan was not a young man when he died, but his mind had been as sharp as any younger man she knew. His driving head on into the Carlson’s pond just hadn’t made sense to her and she had tried to get the local authorities to pay more attention to the case, but they claimed he’d been drinking and lost control of his truck. She knew Grandpa Duncan had enjoyed hanging out with his friends at the local tavern because he used to take her there when she spent her summers at Green Mount Farm with him and Grandma Louise, so it was possible. During those visiting months, her grandfather took her everywhere with him, including the local tavern. He would have a beer and smoke a cigar, which he made her promise not to tell her grandmother about, and she would have a chocolate malted. She loved those times. Emma would sit quietly and listen to the older men tell their tales about hunting the big buck, which always got away or fighting to catch the biggest, oldest fish in the local lake. Grandpa assured her their tales were just that, tales. Tall tales, even for them, as he was sure none of them had ever really seen a buck as large as they described or a fish in the lake bigger than two pounds in weight. He would laugh and tell her if old men weren’t able to tell their heroic deeds in tall tales, they would just wither away and die. There was one tall tale however, which never changed in the telling and had long ago led Emma to begin to believe it was true. It was the tale her grandfather never told anywhere but at home in his easy chair.

Her grandfather’s story about Jeremiah Chambers, Grandpa Duncan’s own great-grandfather, had intrigued her from an early age. Grandpa Duncan had told her Jeremiah was a hero of the Confederacy. Now Emma had inherited Green Mount Farm and all of its property. She was determined to prove, mostly to herself, that the tale Grandpa Duncan told every summer was, in fact, true.

When she left the house this morning, she had not intended to be gone until dark so she was now tired, dirty, and very hungry. Having set out early in the day, she’d packed enough food and water to get her through the day but hadn’t had anything to eat since around four in the afternoon. It was now going on nine-thirty. With a great sigh, Emma pulled her long golden blond hair loose from her usual ponytail. She shook her head, loosening her hair around her as she squared her shoulders and relaxed them easing away some of the exhaustion living there. It had been a long day of clearing brush and fallen trees from the opening to an obviously manmade cave she’d found. She hoped it might be the opening to a tunnel, which might lead her to solving the mystery surrounding her grandfather’s tale of Jeremiah Chambers, her own great-great-great grandfather.

As she maneuvered the Jeep closer to the once grand old farmhouse, she saw a light shining from the kitchen window in the back of the house. One of the boys had most likely left it on again, only this time she was grateful since there were no other lights illuminating the house. The only light she had to lead her home was that one since any lights from the working quarters weren’t visible from the direction she was driving.

The vehicle’s headlights lit up the road as she turned into the long driveway leading from the farmhouse to the rural road, which stretched for miles in either direction in front of the land she now owned. It was times like this, in the quiet of the countryside, she wished her mother and her father were here with her to help uncover the secret Jeremiah Chambers had left behind over one hundred and fifty years ago.

Her thoughts elsewhere, Emma saw the dark-colored SUV parked near the carriage house converted to a garage at the last minute. She slammed the brakes on to keep from hitting the back end of the vehicle. Her lungs sucked in a great gasp of air which she held as she glanced around apprehensively, wondering where the owner was hiding.

Shutting off her lights, she killed the engine but left the keys in the ignition. Slowly, without taking her eyes away from her surroundings, she reached her right hand down the side of her leg to where a leather sheath strapped to her leg contained her hunting knife. She slid the knife from the sheath and as it came up from the shadows, the small amount of light in the air glinted off the four-inch blade. The Cocobolo handle felt cool and comfortable in her small hand.

Grandpa Duncan had bought her the slender lightweight knife for her when she was fifteen. He told her it would not only come in handy during her hikes in the woods, but no bad-ass guy would ever bother her if she had it strapped to her hip once she was on her own. Her own father had frowned when he saw it but understood his father-in-law’s concerns, and eventually admitted he was glad she had it. He’d confided this to her when she was preparing for her first archaeological exploration in Central America. Between her grandfather and father, by the time archaeologist Emma Wells headed off to foreign lands and uncharted jungles, she’d received enough lessons on how to use it that confidence was second nature whenever she drew it from its sheath. Her father had insisted she learn every means available to defend herself before heading off on digs. Emma learned very quickly it was necessary on many of her jaunts into unknown territory. She never really believed she would ever use it to protect herself against another human being but with the events of late, she wanted to be prepared and the feel of the hard steel resting against her thigh was always reassuring. In her hand, it gave her much needed confidence.

The darkness made her nervous. She opened the car door and slowly stepped out onto the gravel drive careful not to make too much noise. She decided to leave her knapsack in the Jeep in case she needed to leave quickly. With her knife in her right hand at the ready, she used her left to pull her cell phone from a cargo pocket on the side of her pant leg. Unlocking it, and cringing slightly as it clicked open and glowed, she glanced down to see if she had a signal.

Shit! As usual—no service.

It never ceased to amaze her how she could get a signal while out in the fields, but not at the house. Emma slowly glanced around her then stepped carefully around to the front of her vehicle. Her eyes had become accustomed to the dim light now and the moon was beginning to rise in the east shedding a small amount a light over the landscape. As she stepped up alongside the strange truck, she could see inside it. It was empty. She silently asked herself where the driver might be as she glanced around.

Emma could feel the hair standing up on her arms and on the back of her neck. She wished she’d left a light on so she could see if anyone was waiting on the front porch. Right now, she was wishing she had a huge mean dog.

“Note to self, get a really big mean dog,” she whispered to herself, holding the knife at the ready as she moved closer to the porch.

“If you’d remember to leave a light on, you wouldn’t need a big dog. Besides you’d probably forget to feed the dog, and then you’d have to protect yourself from a vicious hungry beast.” A man’s deep voice spoke from somewhere on the large dark veranda. “You never change, Emma girl. You never think ahead.”

Emma recognized that voice and as much as she hated hearing it, she was relieved it was someone she knew, and somewhat trusted—well, used to trust. Anger replaced apprehension. “What the hell are you doing here, Martinelli?”

She knew she’d snarled more than spoke the question as she stomped up the steps to the veranda, swung open the screen door, and unlocked the front door. Reaching inside the door with her left hand, she switched on the porch light. As the light filled the porch, Emma saw him sitting in one of the chairs, which curved around a small table. It was her grandmother’s favorite place to sit while watching her as a little girl playing in the yard. It was where she and her grandparents would eat their lunch, and take afternoon snacks with ice-cold lemonade. Now it was where Samuel Martinelli was sitting. The sight of his cocky smirk, and handsome good looks irritated the devil out of her. After five years, couldn’t he have at least gotten a little less attractive?

“Not even a hello for an old friend.”

“Old friend!” The idea incensed Emma. “You’ve got a lot of nerve even showing your disloyal, cheating, arrogant face around here. What are you doing here, and how did you know where I was?”

~*~

“Walt sent me.”

Dr. Samuel Martinelli sat relaxed in the chair, smiling at Emma. He couldn’t help but notice how great she looked. She was dirty but he could tell her figure hadn’t changed much. In fact, it might have improved and beneath the dirty exterior, he could see she was as pretty as ever. Even five years older, she was still a knockout. He watched her watching him, her full chest rising and falling quickly as she reacted to his being on her front porch. Sam also noticed her right hand held that mean hunting knife of hers. He was not going to make a move until she put it away.

Emma seemed to freeze. He wasn’t even sure she was breathing. Suddenly, as if breaking out of her trance, she quickly looked around the porch. “Did he come with you? Where’s Walt?”

“I’m afraid he wasn’t able to come. That’s why I’m here in his place.”

“Is he all right?” Emma asked, her tone giving away her recognition of the seriousness of the tone in his voice. He knew she instinctively knew something was wrong. “Has something happened?”

“He didn’t want you to worry and he’d probably bang me upside the head if he knew I was telling you, but…” Sam paused briefly before continuing. “Walt’s had a heart attack.” Knowing this would throw Emma into a panic, so he quickly added, “He’s fine though, he’s already back home. He just needs some time to recuperate.”

Emma took a seat in one of the other chairs at the small table or rather she sunk into the chair as if every bit of energy had just been sucked out of her body and left her limp as a rag doll with no stuffing. He knew the idea of losing someone else she held dear to a heart attack was too much and the paleness of her sun-kissed skin made it obvious.

“Sam, tell me the truth,” she pleaded in a quiet voice. “The absolute truth, dammit…is Uncle Walt really okay?”

“Truthfully, honey, the old coot is doing okay.”

He liked hearing her call him Sam just as she used to do when they were dating. He always knew when she was feeling scared, nervous, or even amorous for it was those times when she called him by his first name albeit the shortened version. It was when she called him by his surname, Martinelli, he knew she was truly annoyed or worse, angry with him. Her first reaction told him she was still mighty pissed off at him for what happened five years earlier. “It was serious enough to put him in the hospital for a few days but not serious enough, or so the old man claims, to worry you over. Walt refused to let me call you. Hell, when he heard your voice message, he wanted to come here himself. I had to threaten to call his doctor, so he finally gave in but insisted I come in his place.”

“But he’s okay?” Emma asked, her voice shaking a bit in need of reassurance.

Sam knew this was hard for her to hear. The idea of losing Walt was scary for her. Walt Bingham was the closest thing to family she had left. Her own father, Robert Wells, had died five years ago of a heart attack. It was during the aftermath of his passing when Sam had foolishly betrayed her and consequently, lost her. Losing Robert Wells was as heartbreaking to Sam as it was for his daughter because Robert had been his mentor, best friend, and surrogate father. Feeling lost and full of grief himself, he’d tried his best to comfort Emma, but when she pushed him away claiming a need to be alone with her own grief, he’d done a very foolish thing. He’d gone to a local watering hole, had entirely too much to drink, and gave into a temptation which he would never have given in to had he been sober—a beautiful young coed. She’d been one of his students who had been very bold in the past about her attraction to Sam. She’d recognized his vulnerability that night and offered to take him home. Once in his apartment, she set about seducing him. While the two of them entangled themselves in Sam’s bed, Emma, having used her key, entered the apartment and found them. The whole event was still foggy in his memory. He remembered thinking when he heard Emma’s voice in the living room, he must be dreaming. Even now, he only vaguely remembered her coming to stand in the doorway, her face filled with expressions of shock, hurt, and anger. Sam knew positively she was actually there when she called him every name in the book before storming out, slamming the front door behind her. Too drunk to follow, he asked the young woman to leave, and promptly passed out. It was nearly noon the next day before he went searching for Emma only to discover she’d packed a bag and taken off for parts unknown. Another two months passed before he learned of her whereabouts through Walt. Emma Wells had run off to Mexico and was working a dig there. Sam tried to contact her but she’d refused to respond. She refused to let him explain. He finally received one message back, one very brief email with words, which tore a huge hole in his heart.

You betrayed me when I needed you most.

Even now, he wished he could take that night back. He was deeply in love with this proud woman, had been nearly from the first moment he’d met her, and would continue to be despite her rejection. Pride made her run away and now her pride objected to him being here now. He hoped by being here to help her when she needed him then maybe, he could break down the impenetrable wall of pride she’d constructed and she’d learn to trust him again. Then maybe he could convince her he hadn’t actually betrayed her five years ago.

“He’s okay. The doctor said if he rests, and takes his meds as he should, he should be right back to his grumpy old self in no time,” Sam explained with a big smile. “If you don’t believe me, you can call him yourself and let him tell you. ‘Course, it’s kind of late to be calling tonight.” He tipped his arm to read the time on his watch beneath the porch light. “By the way, where have you been? It’s late.”

“Yes, it is late.” Ignoring his question about her whereabouts, she noted how he watched her as she raised her right hand meaning to run her fingers through her long hair. She surprised herself when she realized she was still holding her hunting knife. Glancing at Sam, he knew she expected some smart-ass remark but when she failed to receive it, she placed the knife on the table.

“I was beginning to think you were going to continue threatening me with that.”

“Martinelli, if I wanted to use my knife on you, I wouldn’t threaten first, I would just start cutting. Now it’s late and I’m exhausted.” Pulling herself out of the chair, she stood giving her back an arching stretch. “I’m going to go soak in a tub, get something to eat, and then sleep.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Sam said, standing up as well. “Where do you want me?”

“You can sleep in your truck for all I care.”

“Ah, come on, Emma. You can’t expect me to sleep out there.” He motioned toward the driveway. “The bugs will eat me alive.”

Emma was obviously too tired to argue because she closed her eyes on a long sigh. “Okay, okay. I had made up a room for Uncle Walt. You can sleep there.” Turning to enter the house, she stopped and turned back toward Sam. “You so much as make one move toward me and I’ll gut you for sure.” To emphasize her meaning, she snatched her knife from the table and waved it at him before returning it to its sheath strapped to her thigh.

Sam raised his hands in surrender. “Got it, sweetie, got it.”

Emma started toward the door again, but then stopped. She glanced over her shoulder to the Jeep. Shaking her head, she let her shoulders fall, turned, and walked back to the driver’s side. She returned a few minutes later carrying a backpack. She walked right past him without a word and entered the house not waiting for Sam but instead, allowing the screen door to swing back at him. He grabbed the door before it hit him. Smiling as he entered the foyer, he knew he’d won the first battle even if it was only a small one.

Once inside, he watched Emma’s backside as she climbed the stairs. His smile widening, Sam decided she still had one of the finest asses ever. He locked the front door securely before following her up the steps. As Sam reached the top landing, he heard Emma’s door shut followed by loud clicking sound as she locked the door. With a deep sigh, he started checking rooms to find the one Emma had made up for Walt.

~*~

An hour later, Emma found Sam in the kitchen cooking something, which smelled heavenly. Refreshed from a long bath, Emma stood watching him from the doorway. He was handsome as ever, and she cursed herself for noticing. He looked like he’d put on some weight. Of course, it wasn’t flab weight. He’d always been lean but now he was muscularly lean, and it gave him an incredibly sexy look. Five years ago, he’d been only a year older than she was right now but back then, he’d still looked like a college kid. Now at thirty-four, Sam Martinelli had grown into a mature looking man. The mustache helped, Emma thought to herself as she watched him move about the kitchen. His dark hair, which she used to love to run her fingers through, was much shorter just brushing his collar instead of tied back in a long tail.

Sam flipped the switch on the coffee maker. Then as if he had eyes in the back of his head, he seemed to sense her standing in the doorway with her hands on her hips. He glanced over his shoulder at her with a broad white smile.

“Hey.”

“What’cha makin’?” Emma asked, the scent of food making her mouth water while the sight of his sweet ass filling out his jeans so deliciously did things to her lower body she had to force herself to ignore.

“I figured you hadn’t eaten anything since who knows when and I was hungry too, so I’ve got sausage, toast, and I’m starting the eggs. Still like ‘em over easy?” he asked as he cracked the first of four eggs into the cast-iron skillet her grandmother always used. The smells and sounds pulled her thoughts back to good times sitting at the kitchen table while Grandma Louise fussed over Sam, frying him eggs in that very skillet.

“Yeah, thanks,” Emma answered clearing her throat first.

Her attention drawn to the neatly set table, she gently shook her head. He always was a fussbudget about making sure everything was just so. Taking a seat at the table, she made herself comfortable. She wasn’t going to bother asking if she could help because she already knew, he’d refuse. One quirk of Sam’s, which she remembered all too well, was he didn’t like any interference while he was cooking. “I’m sorry if I was a little short with you earlier. I’m very tired and you were the last person I expected to find on my porch.”

She watched Sam finish turning the eggs. While the eggs finished cooking, he divided the sausage and toast between two plates, which she suspected he’d warmed in the oven. When the eggs were finiAmshed, he placed them gently onto the plates. Using oven mitts, he carried the two plates over to the table where Emma was sitting.

“Careful, the plate’s pretty warm yet.” He warned her as she reached for it. After she’d pulled her hands back, he set the plate in front of her.

~*~

As he came close to Emma, Sam smelled vanilla. The scent brought back sweet memories of bubble baths with her and falling asleep with her in his arms after making love with that sweet scent filling his nostrils. His heart skipped a beat at the memory and something else stirred to life, which hadn’t been so alert to a woman in a very long time.

He set his plate down at his seat, and settled in while watching Emma. She picked up her fork and began eating the whites from around her yolks. Sam smiled as he watched her do this. It was a quirk of hers to eat the whites leaving the yolk intact before sliding the fork beneath the yolk to put it in her mouth whole without breaking it. Sam watched as she lifted one of the yolks to her mouth. As her blue eyes lifted, they met his. Caught off guard, Emma dropped her yolk. It broke open on her plate and she sighed in disappointment.

“Sorry,” Sam said frowning.

Emma shrugged her shoulders and used her toast to sop up the yolk. He noted how she was careful to keep her gaze glued to her plate as she enjoyed the late meal. Meanwhile, Sam didn’t take his eyes from Emma. He took in everything about her. She hadn’t changed at all. Her long silky blond hair was still damp but he wanted to bury his nose in it, inhaling that sweet vanilla scent. Her mouth was full and he remembered the feel of her lips under his as if he’d only last kissed her a few minutes ago. Her skin was a golden tan from working in the sun. There was also a sprinkling of freckles on her arms, and across her nose. Sam knew Emma was avoiding eye contact but even as she concentrated on her food, she threw a peek at him from time to time. He smiled as he picked up his fork.

“You look as beautiful as ever, Emma girl.” Her head snapped up quickly in reaction. Her blue eyes darkened as they locked with his. He continued before she had a chance to react fully. “I’m sorry about that night. I was drunk, too drunk it turns out to even do anything,” Sam said quickly.

She dropped her fork to her plate with a clatter. “I don’t want to hear it, Martinelli. It was a long time ago and it’s best left in the past,” Emma snapped as she wiped her hand and mouth with her napkin without looking at him.

He saw her blink a few times rapidly and suspected tears were now filling her eyes. He also knew Emma wouldn’t let him see her cry. Sure enough, she started to rise from the table. Sam reached out, grabbing her small wrist in his larger hand. For a moment, she froze. He silently prayed she wouldn’t move. Then as if his touch had begun to burn, Emma snatched her arm away and pushed her chair back with a loud scrape against the linoleum floor as she stood.

“Okay, okay. I won’t bring it up again.” Sam wanted to change the subject as quickly as possible. She’d called him Martinelli again, which meant she was angry. He’d tried to broach the subject casually, but now he realized he’d pushed it too soon. He should have waited but it felt so right, the two of them together like old times. “You told Walt you’d found something.”

Standing next to the table, Emma stared up at the ceiling. He knew she was counting to fifty to keep from losing her temper. He hoped she’d make it to at least twenty-five then maybe she wouldn’t try to hit him over the head with the hot skillet still on the stove. He watched her take a deep breath, let it out slowly, and then without looking at him, she spoke.

“Not tonight, I’m too tired. I’ll tell you all about it in the morning.” Turning on her heel, Emma started to leave the kitchen. When she reached the doorway, she stopped and standing with her back to him and without turning, she spoke in a controlled tone. “Thank you for the food. Good night.”

Before Sam could say another word, she was hurrying down the hallway to the stairway. He heard her footsteps as she took the stairs so quickly, he assumed it was two at a time. He wished he could go after her, but one thing Sam knew better than anyone when it came to Emma Wells…he knew to stay away from her when she was angry.

~*~

It was not anger driving Emma toward the safety of her bedroom. It was the burning ache in her heart, threatening to steal her ability to breathe. She reached her room just in time. With the door locked behind her, she fell on the bed shedding the tears she thought she’d long ago cried out. When he brought up that horrible night, it was all she could do to keep from screaming at him about how much he’d hurt her. How she had relived that night again, and again in her dreams ever since. How humiliated she’d been when she walked into his bedroom where they’d spent so much time together, only to find him in the arms of a naked woman. Each breathless sob racked her chest until she thought she could cry no more, but the tears continued until she fell into a physically and emotionally exhausted sleep.















Chapter Two



Sam woke early. The sun was rising in the east and the birds were telling the world all about it. It had been a long time since he’d been able to hear the birds so boisterously first thing in the morning. He’d become far too used to the sounds of car engines and trash trucks, which usually filled the morning air outside his Charlottesville apartment. After showering and dressing, he stopped at the window in his bedroom to take in the view. It was a beautiful summer morning in the Virginia countryside. The sky was clear and blue, the temperature somewhat cool for now, but it was sure to rise much higher by midday.

His window overlooked the back property of Green Mount Farm. On the property were three buildings besides the main house. There was the barn, a common large structure important to a working farm but nearby, were two much older buildings, which he noted looked newly renovated because he knew, once upon a time, they’d been slave quarters. Emma had always abhorred the idea that any of her ancestors ever owned slaves, so she insisted on referring to them as workhouses. Sam knew the buildings hadn’t housed slaves since before the Civil War because Jared Chambers, the only grandson of Jason Embry had freed all the farm’s slaves upon inheriting it. His dislike of slavery was public knowledge, as was his propensity for aiding runaway slaves. Sam had always wondered how Jared must have felt when his own son, Jeremiah, joined the fight with Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy. Of course, every man had his own reasons for which side he chose in that war.

As he glanced past the buildings toward the many acres of fields, he saw a couple of young men working on a large tractor. Then he noticed three more come out of the barn carrying tools. All of the young men looked strong and very young. Emma had surrounded herself with good-looking, young men to assist her with working the farm. Sam frowned at the idea. Jealousy was not one of his best personality traits but it irritated him how Emma’s greatest complaint while they were dating was how young flirty coeds hung on his every word. Sam pushed the idea of her being intimate with any of the young men out of his mind. He was not going to let his imagination go there, it would only make more trouble for him with Emma. He didn’t want to think of her being with any other man, but him.

By the time Sam arrived in the kitchen, a large pot of fresh coffee greeted him, and there were dishes of aromatic sausage, scrambled eggs, hash browns, and fresh fruit on the center island. Warming trays were keeping the hot things warm, and the bowl of fresh fruit was on ice. A tall pitcher of orange juice and another of milk sat in another dish of ice. It was obvious Emma made sure her young men ate a hearty breakfast. The coffee smelled great but just as he reached for a mug, Emma, followed by two of the young studs, walked into the kitchen.

“I was wondering if I was going to have to eat all of this by myself,” Sam said in a tone filled with humor as he toasted her with his mug.

“I was wondering if I was going to have to come drag you out of bed. I’ve been up for nearly two hours already,” Emma said in a tone dripping with sarcasm. “Jack, Bo, this is Dr. Martinelli. If either of you ever decides to take anything, other than agricultural courses, sign up for one of his historical archeology courses. He’s the best.”

Her praise surprised him but then again, why shouldn’t she praise his academic talents, it was only his lack of relationship skills which made her hate him.

“Nice to meet you,” he said, as he reached his hand out to shake each of the young men’s hands in turn. “So you’re agricultural majors, eh? At UVA, I suppose?”

“Yes sir,” the two tanned, muscular young men wearing jeans and muscle shirts answered in unison.

“My girlfriend took one of your classes last semester. She really liked it,” the one Emma had introduced as Jack remarked as he started piling food onto a plate. “I was a little jealous at first because she was always talking about you.”

“The girls all talk about Doc Martinelli,” the young man named Bo interjected before stuffing an entire sausage patty into his mouth.

“Yeah, they do. But I wasn’t so jealous after I found out how old you were,” Jack added. “I mean…uh…well, you’re older than us, you know. Not old like my Grandpa old, but old enough I figured you couldn’t compete with us.” He and Bo shared a laugh as if Sam wasn’t in the room. “I mean you’re like, almost fifty, right?”

Sam glanced in Emma’s direction and noted she was trying to stifle a grin and when he frowned at her, she coughed to keep from laughing. “Now, now, Jack. Dr. Martinelli is in pretty good shape for a man of his advanced age. He can hold his own in the field. At least, he used to be able to…right, Martinelli?”

“I want you to know, boys, I’m in top shape, and I’m thirty-four not fifty.” Sam started to say he could keep up with them anytime, but stopped. He decided it was in his best interest to go in a different direction. “Besides, you young whippersnappers have nothing to fear from me. Your girlfriends are all safe. They’re all too young for me.” He looked directly at Emma before adding. “I prefer mature, more experienced women.” This remark drew a snicker from each of the young men.

“Yeah, right,” Emma snapped in response. “It’s more likely the university’s Board of Directors told you to lay off the coeds. I’m gonna go get the others so they can eat. They’ve got a lot of work to do today.”

Sam smiled as he watched her leave the kitchen. He was getting to her. He could feel it.

A short time later, after the farm workers had eaten and returned to their work, Sam helped Emma clean up the kitchen. While they worked, Emma told Sam about getting the farm back on its feet. It had taken her two years before she legally obtained ownership because the state held the property in probate. She hired the agricultural students because they were willing to work cheap and it gave them agricultural experience. She had set them up in the workhouses and gave them room and board as well as a small salary. Emma was proud of the work they’d done and was confident the fields would yield a good harvest in the fall. Sam enjoyed her enthusiasm and willingness to tell him about it.

After they finished in the kitchen, Emma excused herself and asked Sam to meet her in the living room. A few minutes after he entered the room, she joined him there. Motioning him to sit, she directed him to the chair adjacent to the couch and coffee table.

“Do you remember the tale Grandpa Duncan used to tell us about Jeremiah Chambers being a courier for Jefferson Davis?”

“Yeah, he told it every time we visited.”

Emma took a seat on the couch next to two overstuffed manila envelopes. She traced her fingers across the tops as if caressing them. “I’m sure Walt told you my grandfather died two years ago?”

“I knew about it. I’m sorry for your loss, Emma,” Sam interjected. “I came with Walt to the funeral, but stayed in the background. I didn’t think you wanted to see me.”

~*~

“You were here?” Emma was touched he would come for her grandfather’s funeral even if he didn’t let her know. “Thank you. I know Grandpa Duncan would’ve really appreciated that,” she said feeling a sudden lump form in her throat. She glanced down at the packets and not wanting his thoughtfulness to get the better of her, she continued.

“Anyway, he didn’t leave a will so the farm and all its property went into probate as I told you. It took two years for everything to get sorted out. The farm legally became mine in March. I did my best to get it back up and running as soon as possible. I moved in here in April.” Taking another deep breath, she swallowed hard before continuing. Just talking about her grandfather’s death still affected her deeply.

“The house was in a real mess. I knew it was going to be a lot of work because the day after he was killed, the police allowed me in the house for a few minutes to retrieve any important papers, which I might need. When we entered the house, it was a disaster. All those books were on the floor, scattered about as if they had been pulled down and tossed aside.” Emma pointed at the wall of books, which were all very neat now. “The drawers from the desk here, and in his study upstairs, were all pulled out and emptied onto the floor.”

“Was your grandfather looking for something before he died?” Sam asked in quiet voice.

“That’s what the police thought and so did I...then,” Emma remarked. “But it wasn’t until I moved in here and started cleaning things up that I began to suspect it wasn’t Grandpa Duncan who had done the searching.”

Sam leaned forward. She had his full attention now. Emma could feel Sam’s eyes on her and the sensation was making her very warm. She rolled her shoulders to relieve a sudden tension between her shoulder blades.

“When the probate officers went through the property, they boxed up a lot of things, things of value. Those boxes were neatly stacked in the room in which the items were found, but the officers left everything else as is.”

“So why would you think it was someone other than Duncan who made the mess?” Sam asked, leaning back in his chair.

“Sam, I don’t think Grandpa’s death was an accident.” By the expression on his face, the statement caught Sam completely off guard. Before he could comment, Emma began to unfold her theory. “The police report said Grandpa Duncan had been drinking the night he died. They claimed he lost control of his truck and drove it into the Carlson’s pond. Sam, I talked with the guys at the tavern. They remember that night. They all agreed Grandpa had only one beer that evening. Jake Carlson was there and he said Grandpa had seemed nervous. He told me Grandpa didn’t even finish that one beer. He remembered Grandpa kept looking toward the door, as if he was expecting someone to come through it any second. Suddenly, he got up, put some money on the bar and told them he just remembered something very important, and had to get back home. Jake said Grandpa was sober when he left.”

“Maybe he passed out or had a heart attack?”

“The medical examiner found nothing. The cause of death was a blow to the head caused by the truck going into the pond. Grandpa died from head trauma.” Emma wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. “The police left it as an accident caused by drinking with death resulting from injuries sustained in the event. I don’t believe it.” She took another deep breath before continuing. “Sam, I think someone ran him off the road that night.”

“That’s a mighty strong accusation, Emma girl. You’re going to need some evidence to back it up. Especially after all this time,” Sam replied. “Have you got any?”

“No,” Emma said in a quiet voice. This was why she wanted Walt here. He’d trust her instincts. Sam, she wasn’t so sure about. After all, her trust in him was greatly lacking. “I may not have any actual evidence but I’ve got a gut hunch, and I might know the reason as well.”

Sam was silent. She lifted her gaze and found herself staring into amber-colored eyes framed with thick dark lashes. The sultry effect of that gaze thrilled her heart even yet. “Do you know a man by the name of Brad Coleman?”

~*~

“Oh yeah, sure do. Dr. Bradley Coleman, one of the most self-righteous, thieving men I have ever had the misfortune of meeting. Why?” Even as he asked the question, Sam suddenly felt his back tighten. He knew Brad Coleman and didn’t like the man at all. Worse, he didn’t trust him and hearing Emma mention the man gave him a very bad feeling.

“He came here the first week after I moved in. He offered to buy the place…lock, stock, and barrel. When I told him it wasn’t for sale, he asked to buy just Grandpa’s belongings and anything stored in the attic or basement,” Emma explained, twisting her fingers as she did. “I thought that was a strange request but didn’t address it. I simply told him nothing at all was for sale.”

“And?”

“Well, at first he went away but then he started calling. He called nearly every day for a while. Then he would drop by, on the pretext of inquiring whether I had changed my mind by any chance and to make sure I was doing well. He came here every day for about a week. Each time he showed up, he would raise the price he was willing to pay for everything in the attic and the barn. I think it was his sense of urgency and having one of the guys tell me he had showed up in the barn, which led me to start searching through the stuff stored in the attic and the barn. Finally, I got fed up with him knocking on my door every day so I went to the Sheriff’s office to try to file a complaint against him. They told me there was nothing they could do since he hadn’t committed a crime or made a threat against me, or my property. The best suggestion they had for me was to put up a no trespassing, no solicitation sign. So I did. For about a week, it seemed to keep Coleman away. Then one night, I thought I heard something in the yard. I opened the front door to check and found a note stuck in my screen door. It read, I always get what I want no matter what I have to do to get it. There was no signature, but I knew it was from Coleman. Something told me to be scared. That’s when I started wearing my knife.”

“You’re right to be scared of this guy,” Sam said in a serious voice. “Brad Coleman is a treasure hunter of the worst kind. He’s notorious for letting others lead him to a find then stealing and taking credit for it. Sometimes, in the process of stealing, people have been hurt.”

“Great. So I should take his threat seriously?”

“Oh yeah, take it very seriously,” Sam stated glancing out the window toward the road. “Last night, you thought I was Brad Coleman waiting for you on your porch, didn’t you?” He understood her having the knife at the ready. Now, he wanted to find Coleman and pound his face before warning him off. “He hasn’t threatened you in any other way, has he?”

“No-no, not in any definite way, that is.”

“So he has?”

“Not in words,” Emma replied. “I do think he threatened Grandpa though. I think he broke in here and ransacked the place. I think he ran Grandpa off the road.”

“Whoa,” Sam said, rising from his chair. He ran his fingers through his hair before turning to glance around the room. He paced the room once before coming back to stand at the coffee table facing Emma. “That’s some theory. I can believe Coleman might lower himself to breaking and entering to get what he wants, but murder...honey, I think even he wouldn’t stoop that low.”

“Well then, how do you explain Grandpa leaving his house in such a mess? Why was he so nervous that evening? I don’t believe his accident was an accident. Grandpa was a good driver. He wasn’t drunk. The autopsy showed he had very little alcohol in his system, but the cops insist he reeked of beer. And you said it yourself that when Coleman’s involved people have gotten hurt. He might not have meant to kill Grandpa, but if he ran him off the road, he did.”

Sam returned to his seat. “Okay, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt for now. What do you think Coleman was looking for then?”

“These,” Emma said laying her hand on the top of the brown envelopes.

~*~

Emma opened each brown package, and from each she pulled zipper locked plastic envelopes of similar size. She set them out on the coffee table. She then donned a pair of latex gloves. Once the gloves were on, she removed what looked like letters from one of the envelopes on the table. As soon as Sam saw the pages, he knew they were old. He understood immediately Emma’s reason for wearing the gloves.

“May I?” he asked. He waited as Emma handed him a pair of gloves to put on his hands, which he did. Once the gloves were on, he reached forward to take the pages carefully from her outstretched hands. Glancing over them, he realized quickly they were letters from a time long past. “What are these?”

“Letters written by Jeremiah Chambers to his young bride while he was in prison after being caught spying for the South,” Emma explained as she watched Sam examining them. “These were written in the fall of 1863 by my great-great-great-grandfather.” Emma paused to count the greats out on her fingers to make sure she’d said it correctly. Smiling at her own folly, she continued. “Jeremiah wrote to his bride right up to, and including, the day on which he was hung for being a spy.”

“Truly, they are a wonderful find, Emma, but nothing so important that would lead Coleman to do all you’re accusing him of,” Sam said, before he quieted to read some of the words written by Jeremiah Chambers.

“Sam, think back to the story Grandpa Duncan used to tell us. He told us how Jeremiah stayed here at the farm only one night before he continued his journey to Alexandria, remember?”

Sam glanced up at Emma because her voice had started to rise with excitement. “Yeah, I remember so what’s your point, Emma girl, it was only one night. Jeremiah even writes about it in his last letter to Sarah. Here he reminds her ‘of the blissful night we spent together, the only night. There in our home, that last night.’ Honey, what Duncan told us was true.”

“No, Sam, it’s not.” Emma reached for a leather bound book, which had lain unnoticed on the table until now. “This is Sarah Chambers’ diary.” She held it up like a trophy. “She wrote in it nearly every day until her death in the winter of 1872. In here, she wrote, ‘April 30, 1863. After enjoying what was as close to a honeymoon as we could afford, my beloved husband has once more left me. We have been forced to live a lifetime in three days for he must prevail in completing his mission to Alexandria. Indeed, he has been charged with such a great and important mission, but returning to me is of greater importance. I will count the hours and days until his safe return for he has promised to stop again on his return trip to Richmond. His promise to return is all that sustains me. I believe it is his love for me which will cause him to hurry his return not just the other matter for which I know he must return here as well.’

Sam sat quietly staring at the book Emma held. He felt her gaze on him as if waiting. Then the words she’d read sunk into his brain. “What other matter?”

“Exactly! Grandpa Duncan once told me Jeremiah had left something of great importance at the farm before he was arrested for spying. We were out walking the farm. Whenever Grandpa got restless, he would go on one of this walks but I soon learned what he was really doing was searching for the opening to the old tunnel the slaves used to hide in while waiting to cross the river,” Emma explained, her voice low almost a whisper. She glanced around the room from door to window as if she expected someone to overhear her words. “I think Jeremiah Chambers left something here for safekeeping, and I believe he hid it in the slave tunnel.”

“Now you’re just getting carried away with the romantic notion of old stories, Emma.”

“Am I, Martinelli? Listen to this.” Emma reached for the letters, which Sam still held. She took them from him, and gently shuffled them around a couple of times before finding the one she wanted. “Here it is, listen...‘My dearest Sarah, if ever you should find yourself in need beyond what you can handle, remember the great value in the land of which I have left you. It may have been destined for others, but if I should not return then the value is yours. It is my greatest wish.’

“He meant Green Mount Farm. He was to inherit, right?” Sam asked.

Emma frowned at him as if she hadn’t considered Jeremiah might have meant the land itself being of great value.

“Oh yeah, the farm, I suppose he would’ve inherited had he lived.” Emma seemed to give this explanation some thought, but then she shook her head. “His parents, Jared and Margaret Chambers weren’t very old and they lived a long time after he was hung. No, I don’t think he meant the farm, I think it was his secret way of reminding her of what he’d left behind and that it was valuable enough that if she had need, to use it.”

“Well then, what do you think it was, Wells? Gold?” Sam asked sarcastically.

Emma didn’t speak. She just stared at the letter in her hand, reading the words. When she finally spoke, she spoke with confidence. “Yes actually, I do think it was gold.”

“Gold, Emma? Really? And I suppose he put it in the slave tunnel where every day, some strange person would go in and out but no one bothered it, or took it.” Sam stood from his chair and walked to the window. He drew back the curtain to look out over the yard. He stood staring out the window for at least five minutes not really seeing what was in front of him. His thoughts ran rampant through his brain while his eyes saw nothing in front of him. He wondered if there could be any truth to what Emma was claiming.

~*~

Emma ignored Sam as he stood staring out of the window. She knew he’d never believe her theory. It was why she wanted Walt here. He’d have believed her or at least considered her theory. Walt would have listened with an open mind. She busied herself gathering up the letters, shuffling them as she placed them in their original order. She muttered to herself in words only she could hear for if Sam heard them, he gave no notice. She grumbled about him being stubborn, pigheaded, and reminded herself she hadn’t asked for his help in the first place. She muttered about his leaving if he wasn’t interested in her ideas. She hissed about his being nothing but a reminder of how much she hated him anyway. She grumbled somewhat louder how she didn’t want him here anyway. When he finally spoke, she thought he was going to remark about her muttering, but what he said as he turned to face her, surprised her.

“It’s possible, I suppose. There have always been rumors of some of Jefferson Davis’s messengers carrying large amounts of gold to pay off Union soldiers for letting them pass, or for passing along with the requests to feed and clothe Confederate soldiers taken prisoner,” Sam commented as if he was reciting a lecture to a class. He didn’t look at her but moved his hands as she’d seen him do many times while lecturing. He paced the floor, paused as if thinking, and then turned to walk back toward Emma. When he reached the coffee table, he didn’t return to his seat in the nearby chair but sat down next to Emma on the couch. “Have you read any further in the journal?”

Still mulling over what he said, Emma felt of flush of heat as Sam’s arm brushed against hers, his skin hot and teasing against hers, as he reached for the journal.

“Um, no,” she managed to say through a tight throat and wondered what he was thinking.

“What’s wrong?” Sam asked innocently as he thumbed through the pages. “Is there anything else in the journal about what Jeremiah might have left behind?” he asked again, glancing up at Emma with a smirk lifting his mustache as if he knew exactly what his close proximity was doing to her.


Continue reading this ebook at Smashwords.
Purchase this book or download sample versions for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-31 show above.)