Title: Saving Grace
Author: Aubrey Wynne
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense/Historical Fiction
A tortured soul meets a shattered heart...
Chloe Hicks' life consisted of an egocentric ex-husband, a pile of bills, and an equine business in foreclosure until a fire destroys the stable and her beloved ranch horse. What little hope she has left is smashed after the marshal suspects arson. She escapes the accusing eyes of her hometown, but not the memories and melancholy. Jackson Hahn, Virginia Beach's local historian, has his eyes on the mysterious new woman in town. When she arrives in Pungo, he is struck by her haunting beauty and the raw pain in her eyes. Her descriptions of the odd events happening in her bungalow pique his curiosity. The sexy historian distracts Chloe with the legend of a woman wrongly accused of witchcraft. She is drawn to the story and the similarities of events that plagued their lives. Perhaps the past can help heal the present. But danger lurks in the shadows...
“Fire is the test of gold; adversity, of strong men.”
Late February 2006
Four Seasons Ranch
Shawneetown, Southern Illinois
Chloe bolted up, willing the fog in her head to dissipate. The bed sheets were twisted around her ankles. Sweat trickled down her back. The terror froze her limbs while she struggled to calm her thudding heart and listen for the sound all horse owners dread. But it was the smell that made her realize this was not a terrible dream.
Instinct took over and she scrambled from the four-poster, making a beeline for the back door and the barn. Her toe smacked against the corner of a wall as her eyes adjusted to the darkness. Pain radiated up her ankle. Oh god, not my babies. Not Bunny. Panic weighed down her legs as her bare feet hit the gravel. Sharp stones dug into the soft pads as the pungent smell of burning hay filled her nostrils. Everything seemed to move in slow motion. She tried to run down the long driveway, her eyes riveted to the red-orange flames shooting up into the black sky. Paul, her trainer, emerged from the darkness, his signature white hat on his head, his face colored yellow from the fiery glow. He signaled for her to take the front of the building as he disappeared around the back.
The frigid night air slapped her awake, but a horrifying screech from a panicked horse kicked in her adrenaline. Chloe reached the big, sliding doors and tugged them open. Heat smacked her face, and the smoke assaulted her lungs. Coughing, tears running down her cheeks, she slid back the bolts and opened the stall doors. On the other side, Paul’s voice faintly reached her over the crackle that filled her ears.
“Hiya! Move it, move it.”
The fire had consumed the other half of the barn where the arena was located. Above her was the loft, filled with winter hay and the last of her savings, now adding fuel to the already intense blaze. She pushed the thought from her mind as the flames shot through the center of the alleyway, and the arena caved in.
Grabbing one of the lead ropes that hung at each door, she smacked the first horse on the rump with the end of it and sent him flying out of the barn. The first three horses on each side followed their stable mates into safety with little persuasion. But Duchess, her mother’s old mare, wouldn’t budge. Chloe threw the lead rope over her neck and forced a calm tone. “Easy, girl. That’s my girl. Walk on, now. Walk on.”
The old horse snorted and pranced but followed her out of the stall. When they neared the opening, she withdrew the rope and whacked Duchess’ hindquarters. With a leap, the horse disappeared into the gray haze. The acrid odor of scorched hair and burnt wood filled her nostrils. Embers popped. She felt her cheek blister and wiped at it with her shoulder, while leading two more horses out by hand. She could hear BW’s shrill bark and knew he was herding the animals into a paddock as she sent them out.
Above her, a beam gave way and formed a fiery V. The horses must have sensed it also because they lunged ahead, snapping Chloe’s shoulders forward. She struggled to maintain her balance but fell to the matted floor, her knees striking the hard rubber. A boom behind her sent a spray of sparks, and pain shot along her backside. From the corner of her eye, she saw a strand of her hair spark. She beat at her neck frantically, putting it out with her bare hand. The heat was sweltering now. Images wavered in the flames that licked at the dry timbers of the remaining stalls and the heavy beams above.
Scrambling to her feet, Chloe ran outside into the frigid night and stumbled down the drive to help Paul. As she reached the other side of the barn, she doubled over as a coughing spasm racked her body. Hands on her knees, gasping to pull air into her tight chest, she heard him yelling over the crackle and whinnies.
“Bunny won’t leave the stall or let me near her foal.”
“What about Jack?”
“He’s good. C’mon, the roof is gonna give.”
His hand tightened around her arm and pulled with such force her feet almost left the ground. Plunging back into the smoking hell, they entered Bunny’s stall and found them both backed into the corner.
“Paul, I’ll push the foal toward the door, and then Bunny will follow.”
Another loud snap from above. She grabbed the lead rope dangling from the horse’s halter and handed it to the trainer. Running a palm down her mare’s neck, she spoke soothingly, “Atta girl, Bunny. There’s my girl. Let’s get your baby out of here.” The mare’s ears perked at her voice and words. Chloe tossed a rope around the foal’s neck and pulled. The baby gave in to the pressure and took a step. It was all Bunny needed to give in to Paul’s urgent pressure. They emerged from the stall, the baby dashing ahead with Chloe on its heels.
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Why is your featured book a must-read?
“This unique piece has the reader traveling between the early 1700s and the early 2000s with ease and amazement. The audience truly feels sorrow for Grace and Chloe and is able to connect with each woman for the hardships they are overcoming.” InD’tale Magazine
“The attention to historical facts and details leave one breathless especially upon learning the people from the past did exist and the memorial erected still stands.”
Enter to win an e-book bundle of all 26 books featured in the Celebrate Mothers Bookish Event:
Runs May 7 – 10, 2020.
Winner will be drawn on May 18, 2020.
Bestselling and award-winning author Aubrey Wynne is an elementary teacher by trade, champion of children and animals by conscience, and author by night. She resides in the Midwest with her husband, dogs, horses, mule, and barn cats. Obsessions include wine, history, travel, trail riding, and all things Christmas. Her Regency romances and A Chicago Christmas series have received numerous awards and thrice nominated as a Rone finalist by InD’tale Magazine.
Aubrey’s first love is medieval romance but after dipping her toe in the Regency period in 2018 with the Wicked Earls’ Club, she was smitten. This inspired her spin-off series Once Upon a Widow. In 2020, she will launch the Scottish Regency series A MacNaughton Castle Romance with Dragonblade Novels.
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