FORTRESS OF A REBEL
Rebel Series book 1
PART 1 THE INVISIBLE CITADEL
The War Between the States rages. Tiffany Lynn Harris disguises herself as Victoria Patton, her deceased Northern look-alike cousin, in order to spy for the Confederacy. Resentment toward the Union blazes within her. The feeling is contrary to her biblical teaching; still she blames the conflict and permits animosity to grow.
Nathan James, also a spy, is wounded wearing Federal blue. Tiffany nurses him. Against her will, love blossoms. She builds a fortress to protect her emotions, but her heart becomes a rebel, too.
PART 2 BITTER ASHES
Conflicts abound. Tiffany and Nathan are pulled in separate directions to serve their country. Nathan has her heart, but the Confederacy has a prior claim to her loyalty. She wonders if loving an enemy spy is as bad as being a traitor.
An arrogant Union colonel uncovers Tiffany’s covert activities. In spite of his love for her, he vows to see her hang. The Yankees devastate her valley, and the smoke over each new crest fuels her animosity. Will anything remain unscathed?
PART 3 DARLING REBEL
Resentment plays havoc with Tiffany’s soul. Anguish gouges deep furrows in her heart, yet her love for Nathan continues to smolder within her.
With God’s help, she gradually overcomes her malice toward the Yankees, even though the colonel continues his quest to find her. After the war, Tiffany no longer hides behind her disguise. She almost confesses to Nathan that she is the one he loved as Victoria, then she discovers another devastating secret that seals her lips. Can their love flourish–or has truthfulness been violated once too often and their trust forever destroyed?
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FORTRESS OF A REBEL
Rebel Series Book 1
Cedar Hill, Virginia 1864
“Victoria!” Colonel Wellington bellowed. “Get out here!”
Tiffany jolted and an eerie feeling cloaked her. She whispered a quick prayer that her disguise had not been discovered, then shoved the tent flap aside and stepped out into the night breeze. Simulating bravado, she straightened her Yankee uniform, held her chin high, and strolled to the campfire where the colonel waited.
His face twisted in rage as he rattled a piece of paper in her face. “Did you write this?”
Her heart faltered when she realized it was the report she had falsified, but she feigned innocence. “Let me see it, Alex.”
He proffered it. “Look, Victoria, David Stone is one of my most trusted men. If he says you wrote it, you wrote it.” He stomped back and forth beside the fire. His complexion turned red in the glow of the flames, but when he turned to her, his face became a silvery mask in the moonlight. Clenching his teeth, he glared at her. “You’ll hang for this.”
Her blood turned icy. As angry as he was, hanging was possible. Would there be a trial? To destroy the evidence, she crumpled the paper and flung it into the fire.
“How dare you!” Alexander bellowed. “You South-loving little witch! Seizing her upper arms, he shook her. Her army cap toppled to the ground. He kicked it into the flames.
Wrenching free, she slapped him. The sound echoed across the clearing like a rifle shot. A man’s laugh further enraged the colonel.
“You like playing games, don’t you, Victoria?” He propped his fists on his hips and narrowed his eyes. “Well, it’s my game, now.” His nostrils flared. “You’ll marry me tonight.”
Horror smote her. “I’d rather die!”
“If that’s your choice, love.” His jaw tightened. “It’ll be a wedding or a noose.”
Seeing determination in his eyes, terror gripped her. She spun away, but gasped when she noticed another tall blond Yankee standing nearby. “Nathan,” she whispered.
He folded his arms. His azure eyes mirrored the flickering flames. His face seemed carved from granite, making his expression unreadable.
“Victoria!” Alexander bellowed. “Face me when I speak!”
She tilted her chin. These detested Yankees weren’t going to perceive her terror. A recollection of how the bummers had almost hung Jonas seared through her mind, and her courage nearly faltered. Alexander loved her, and she hoped he was too selfish to destroy something he wanted. I love Nathan. I thought he loved me.
“You aren’t going to make a fool of me in front of my men.” Grabbing her arm, Alexander spun her around. “I said you’ll marry me tonight; and you will!”
“You have someone in your back pocket to perform the ceremony?” The acid in her tone made her words sizzle, but she no longer tried to hide her resentment. Twisting free, she spun away.
Firelight played on the emerald on her finger. The gem flashed into the darkness. Shock registered for an instant on Nathan’s handsome face. A muscle jerked in his cheek and he closed his eyes.
Alexander snorted. “I’ll have you tonight, Vicky, wedding or not.”
Whirling, she jerked off the ring and hurled it at him. It struck his cheek, then bounced at his feet. Scooping it up, he rammed it into his pocket.
She clenched her jaw. “I’ll die before I let you touch me.”
“Higgens, get a rope.”
Tiffany saw Nathan flinch, but making no move, he stared into the campfire. Her heart pounded feverishly, but she stood, unyielding.
A soldier delivered a rope. Then under Alexander’s instruction, he formed a noose and flipped the end over an oak limb.
Alexander glared at her. “You still don’t believe I’m serious, do you?”
To camouflage a shiver, she shrugged. “I suppose you’re capable of almost anything.”
He turned to a wide-eyed private. “Bring her horse.”
The mare pranced into the fire light.
“Tess.” Tiffany stroked her sorrel’s neck. Nuzzling her, Tess nickered.
Alexander yanked her away from her horse. “I’ll show you what I’m capable of, my sweet.” He glanced at a soldier to his left. “Toss me a rifle.” Catching the weapon, he aimed it at Tess’s head.
The rifle cracked and Tess’s knees buckled.
Tiffany screamed as her horse fell, then faced Alexander. “You cruel beast! You hideous monster! You filthy, rotten Yankee!” Tears streamed down her face. She looked at her mare. A sob convulsed her slender body as the animal quivered her last.
“So! I’m a Yankee monster?” the colonel said with a hoarse chuckle. “And you, my sweet, are a Confederate spy. For that, darling, you’ll hang.” He glanced at an officer. “Bring my horse.”
Is this where it all ends? Tiffany thought, shuddering. Glancing at the blue‑clad men that surrounded her, words of Jesus echoed through her mind. Forgive them, for they know not what they do. Her enemy knew what he was doing. Still, was forgiveness an option? She shook her head. Could she forgive Alex? Would she? In the face of death, would she cling to her resentment? “Oh, God, forgive me. Help me get over the animosity that I know is wrong.”
Higgens led the white horse into the circle. Alexander seized Tiffany and sat her on the animal’s back. Guiding the stallion to the noose, he leaped to a stump and dangled the knot in Tiffany’s face. With a flare, he dropped the loop over her head.
Nathan walked rapidly forward. “Wait a minute. You could be making a mistake.”
Alexander whirled, fury blazing on his face. “Who are you to question my action, Major James?”
“Not your action, Colonel, but your timing.” Nathan appeared relaxed and confident, not glancing at Tiffany. “The press is bound to get wind of this and publish it in every newspaper in the country.”
Alexander grinned. “I’m aware of that.” His quest for glory shimmered in his eyes.
“It’s none of my business, but–“
“You’re correct, Major.”
Nathan shrugged. “I know your convinced that the job has to be done, but have you considered the negative repercussions that will resound throughout the North, should you hang a
woman in this fashion?”
“She’s a spy!”
“That’s beside the point.” He flipped his hand. “If I were hanging her, I’d want to avoid criticism. Some officers would relish gleaning the fame and glory it could afford.”
Alexander’s brows lifted. “You have a suggestion?”
“Make a public spectacle of the event. Have your photograph taken as you slip the noose over her lovely head.” He smiled. “You could make a speech about how deeply you love her. Explain how you had uncovered her covert activities. Give her a trial. There’s no question of her being convicted.”
“True, but . . .”
“You could emphasize how you were making this tremendous personal sacrifice because you felt it was your duty to your country. That would arouse a very favorable response. People would realize that you remained loyal to the Union at the cost of breaking your own heart.” He chuckled. “You’d be paraded as a hero.”
Alexander rubbed his hands together. “I’ll recommend you get a promotion, Major James.”
“Thank you, Colonel.” Nathan saluted, spun on his heel and walked briskly away.
Stunned, Tiffany watched him vanish into the night. As he had advised his cousin about the most beneficial way to hang her, had her heart curled into a cinder? Reality smote her. Nathan was as cold and calculating as Alexander. There hadn’t been a hint of remorse on his face as he discussed her execution. Did their secret relationship mean nothing to him?
Alexander slipped the noose from her neck and lifted her from the horse’s back. “Secure her in her tent. Post a guard. We’ll have our hanging later‑‑in style.” He stalked to the fire.
Two soldiers took Tiffany inside her tent and tied her hands and feet. One whispered that he was sorry, the other one grinned. Both left without looking back.
Tiffany strained against the hemp that bound her. Her flesh felt scalded. Her tent set at the edge of the forest, and she could almost taste the freedom it offered, but escaping was impossible. “Unless by divine intervention,” she murmured.
If Quin were here, he could chew her ropes. She shook her head. Had she brought her dog, Alex would have shot him along with Tess–if he hadn’t already killed him.
Colonel Wellington’s tent was next to hers. She could hear him throwing things and swearing. Men shuffled around the clearing, sneezing and coughing; some laughed at foul jokes.
When silence finally prevailed, her heartbeat seemed to drum louder. Closing her eyes, she rested a trembling hand on her neck. How long will it be before the Yankees hang me?
“Alex loves cat-and-mouse games,” she whispered. He would delight in prolonging her agony as long as possible.
A thud at the right side of her tent made her gasp. Something pressed against the canvas. She tensed and held her breath as the sharp blade of a knife sliced the back of her tent.