Monday, January 6, 2014

Historical Fiction Excerpt: A Newfound Land

by Anna Belfrage

It’s 1672, and Matthew Graham and his family have left Scotland. Having taken the drastic decision to leave their homeland due to religious conflicts, Alexandra and Matthew hope for a simpler, if harsher, life in the wilds of the Colony of Maryland.

Unfortunately, things don’t always turn out as you want them to, and the past has a nasty tendency to resurface at the most inappropriate moments. Both Matthew and Alex are forced to cope with the unexpected reappearance of people they had never thought to meet again, and the screw is turned that much tighter when the four rogue Burley brothers enter their lives.

Matters are further complicated by the strained relations between colonists and the Susquehannock Indians. When Matthew intercedes to stop the Burleys from abducting Indian women into slavery he makes lifelong – and deadly – enemies of them all.

Once again Alex is plunged into an existence where death seems to threaten her man wherever he goes.

Will Matthew see himself – and his family – safe in these new circumstances? And will the past finally be laid to rest?


Alex recognised the horse first, gulped and tried to make herself as invisible as possible. Difficult to do when one was wearing a flowered shawl and a white cap, and with a low whoop Philip Burley brought his horse to a halt.

“Well, well, if it isn’t Mrs Graham.” His mouth stretched itself into a cold smile. “And what may you have in your apron? More of those peppers you so kindly anointed my eyes with last time we met?”

“No.” Alex succeeded in sounding much more relaxed than she felt. “These are hips.”

“Hips, you say?” Philip let his eyes travel up and down Alex.

“She has good ones,” one of his companions piped up, eliciting a snicker from the other two.

Alex looked from one to the other. “Oh my God, it’s actually true. You do have three brothers.”

“Why is that so surprising?”

Alex just shook her head. Dark-haired and light-eyed the lot of them, the youngest not much more than a boy, the other two closer to Philip in age, somewhere in their late twenties. “I was commiserating with your mother. Imagine giving birth to four like you.”

“Seven actually, but the three eldest were girls,” Philip said.

“Lucky her,” Alex muttered.

“Very,” one of the other brothers said. “Four sons to keep her well protected – unlike you, Mrs Graham.” He looked over to Philip. “Is she the wife of the man who stole the Indians from you?”

“Stole? Matthew stopped your creep of a brother from abducting them!” Alex shifted a couple of yards further away from the path, eyeing her surroundings.

“Yes, she is.” Philip rode his horse into the underbrush, and Alex retreated behind a stand of maple saplings. “Think you can run?”

“Run? Why should I? Matthew will be here any minute.”

“Really?” Philip drawled.

“Really,” Alex said, taking yet another step away from him. “What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be in Virginia?”

“Our business is none of your concern,” Philip said.

“Business? Here?” Alex swept her arm at the surrounding wilderness. “What do you do? Sell nuts to the squirrels?”

Philip laughed. “There are always buyers for our goods – and services.” He turned to his brothers. “What do you reckon she’s worth?”

“Worth? Me? Why you—” Alex broke off at his look and backed into the closest bramble.

“She’s quite old,” the youngest of them said.

“Yes,” one of the others agreed. His eyes stuck to Alex’s chest, did a cursory inspection of the rest of her and returned to her chest. He had eyes as light as Philip, eyes that made her knees wobble.

“Just because she’s old it doesn’t mean we can’t sell her,” the third brother said. “Some sort of compensation for the lost Indians.”

“Just because you walk on two legs and can talk, it doesn’t follow you have a brain, does it?” Alex retorted.

“Feisty,” Philip said. “I like that in a woman. Makes it more fun to...” He made a rude gesture and his brothers grinned, eyeing Alex hungrily.

“I just told you. My husband will be here shortly.”

“Now why don’t I believe you, Mrs Graham?” Philip Burley leaned forward over the neck of his horse.

“Because you’re stupid?” Alex said.

“Stupid? I think not, Mrs Graham.” He rode closer. Alex groped for her knife and raised it high. Philip looked at her with a glimmer of admiration in his eyes. He smiled, a slow, dangerous smile further enhanced by the lock of coal-black hair that fell forward over his face. For eternal seconds, she was nailed to the spot by his eyes. The palms of her hands, the insides of her thighs broke out in a cold sweat.

Finally, he wheeled his horse. “I’ll be back,” he threw over his shoulder. “If nothing else to offer my condolences to the recently bereaved widow.”

She couldn’t help it, she gasped, making him laugh.

“We don’t have time to waste. We have a militia to join – coincidentally the same company your husband belongs to.”
“But...” the youngest whined. “I thought we’d—”

“Not today, Will,” Philip cut him off. He smiled at Alex and touched the brim of his hat. “We know where to find her when we want her.” With that he was off, his three brothers in his wake.

Alex sank down to sit where she stood.

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