Marolyn Caldwell would love your feedback! Got a few minutes to write a review?
Write a Review

Battle of Wills

By Marolyn Caldwell All Rights Reserved ©

Mystery / Fantasy

Blurb

Stumbling wounded out of the mist on a cold Georgia night Jeff Preston finds himself tended to by the kind Nurse Manning. As his recuperation at the hands of his host begins, further developments occur with the death of a certain community legend, Jon Randolph. With the vultures circling above Randolph’s unprotected will, relatives and family scramble desperately over one another in attempts to defend his legacy. Still dazed and wounded Preston’s murmurings of other times and wondrous tales of stolen diamonds, piracy and slavery initially yield no qualitable response, but as time goes on and Randolph’s will threatens to be lost, Nurse Manning must unite unlikely alliances and the cryptic words of a stranger to piece together a puzzle more complex than she could have ever imagined.

Chapter 1

July 18, 1864. 10:20 p.m. Near Marietta, Georgia

Disoriented, functionally numb, he opened his eyes. Why was he sprawled face down at the muddy bottom of a deep ravine, almost buried in forest debris? Where the hell was he?

With some difficulty he lifted his head, felt moisture on his lips. It tasted of blood. He shook his throbbing head gently, trying to clear his thoughts. He’d taken a tumble, hadn’t he? He shifted his view upwards. Saw a flicker of light far above. Someone was moving about up there. Torches. They were searching for him.

Dammit, he must have slipped off the edge! He tried to pull the shreds of his memory together. This was where he needed to be—at the bottom of the ravine. It was the shortcut to the river, to the boat he and Ben had hidden near the bank a week earlier anticipating its use. But, by god, he hadn’t intended to slide off the cliff to get here! He might well have been badly injured and he still had a long distance to travel this night. The general was depending on him.

Where was Ben? He’d know what had happened. He’d know … with a searing jolt of awareness, memory wakened.

The bullet had come from nowhere, thudding into his friend’s courageous heart, stopping it mid-beat. Why Ben? He had a loving wife, eight children waiting for him at home. Only a cold husk of a thin body was now left, propped against a tree trunk close by the Federal’s bivouac area—vital credentials placed where they would be easily discovered. A tear rolled from one eye, then the other—they slid across his cheeks, dropped soundlessly to the forest floor.

The rest of the memories came rushing back. He wanted to weep, to wail. It wasn’t just Ben Ross torn from his side this day. It was Moses as well. His old mentor, his teacher, his childhood guardian, and aside from Ben, his dearest friend. Murdered in the coldest of cold blood.

A wave of anger almost suppressed the pain as he thought of what Moses had faced there at the farm—he and the two stalwart warriors he had brought with him. Tortured first, then killed by barbarians with cruel knives. A lump lay large against his throat. Tears now streamed without cease from his eyes. But hard as it was to mitigate that horror, he knew it could have been so much worse. Moses, hero among heroes, had first provided Sara a fighting chance at survival.

They had found his little sister, he and Ben, where Moses had hidden her—in the cave by the spring. They handed her less than an hour later into the care of a good friend whom quite by blessed chance they met on the trail escorting a young mountain healer back to the battlefield infirmary. Captain Marshal Manning was one of the most honorable men he had known at the Point—his very pregnant sister would be well cared for.

He remembered everything now. Nothing about it was good. It was fear for Sara’s well-being that had taken them so far out of their way. The message she had received saying her husband was injured and needed her at their mountain farm had been a cruel hoax. If he and Ben had not received the warning letter from his father’s caretaker and ventured in haste to find Sara, she and her unborn child would have been murdered by the same bushwackers who had ripped the lives from Moses and his two men.

He still couldn’t quite bring his mind to the realization that Moses was gone.

The loss of Ben on top of that was beyond all reckoning.

His senses were mired in disorientation, disbelief. He and Ben had been so cautious—all their battle-honed instincts called into play on this crucial mission, creeping silent as ghosts around ambushes, past armies.

Not this army. Not Sherman’s army. Something decisive must have happened at Kennesaw Mountain. That great implacable army was on the move again. He and Ben had stumbled upon its fringes in the dark, hungry, thirsty, angry, forgetful of how they were clad—a fatal mistake.

He moaned. The pain was catching up with him. Damnation! No excuses left for not remembering everything now. After he’d placed Ben’s body at the fallen tree, a bullet had passed through his own shoulder, almost putting it out of action— if he could get a kerchief wrapped around it he knew he could move on. A second bullet must have pushed him over the side of the cliff. It had probably hit a lung the way he was wheezing.

Didn’t matter. The general was counting on him. His goal remained: Atlanta. Without the critical intelligence he and Ben were attempting to confirm, there would be no choice left but to torch the city. He had to get to the river, to the boat they had hidden close by. He knew someone on the other side who could mend him. A Creek healer, a good friend.

He tried to rise. The pain …!

He paused; tried again.

A darkness was creeping around the edges of his brain. His battered body demanded rest. He was doubtless well concealed under the forest debris. If he just lay quiet for a moment, no one would find him. All he needed was a short rest ….

When again he woke he realized it might be harder than he had allowed to get back to his feet. He remained very still after his first attempt, breathing hard. He tried again to rise … to his knees … to his feet. There. He was up. Shaky, but up.

Light was still flickering at the edge of the ravine high above him. Perhaps it was time to do what he should have done when he and Ben had first found themselves surrounded by Federal troops. Surrender. He was one of them after all, notwithstanding the Confederate gray he wore this night. There might be a short delay in his mission, but he knew the general would understand. He began to climb.

Continue Reading Next Chapter
Further Recommendations

Dawn: This is one of the best werewolves books I've read! The plot was well constructed and thought through; I was hooked from the beginning to the end. There were many twists and turns that keep me on the edge of my seat and wanting more. The characters were realistic and relatable. There were no clic...

gracetaylor671: This book makes me want to be a lycan, it constantly excites me and I cant get it off my mind.

Icy Fire123: I absolutely adore this book and highly recommend everyone to read it. It is amazing throughout the book and I’m looking forward to reading the next book

millie baetz: Best story I have read here. Please continue and post soon!!! Can't wait to find out what happens next. DON'T trust Alpha caldwell

Brittani Nicole Case: Your summary of the story is what got me to read it. You have a way with words and with humor. I didn't really see the strong-willed version of Cordelia. When I think of a strong-willed female character the very first one to pop in my head is Buffy Sommers (There is no stronger-willed female than...

mary Ruffin: I love it. This book is different from other werewolf books. And I got to say it's one of the best one I read.

Marsha Cookie Derilus: Absolutely love it great book I’m way to eager to see how it end.. UPDATE ALREADY IM DYING OVER HERE it was just getting good

Carla Hutchinson: Just started, love this story, very engaging 👌

Ki'ami Heart: Love this book so much. It was very enjoyable and very fun. I feel like I have gone through all the events myself even though I have simply just read it. Highly recommend reading and is absolutely worth the time. I would love to read more stories published by C.M.Ortega.

More Recommendations

Madelyn Hamlet: A truly enjoyable book. I hope there is a second one because I couldn’t put it down.

dshanie76: it was awesome but u left me in suspense. so unfair. It had minor grammatical error but the plot was great. the personality of the characters where very descriptive that allowed me to create a picture for every scenario easily. you have the potential to be a wonderful writer. But i think you shou...

habbywinnie: An interesting book... You are a great writer spent my night reading instead of sleeping... Just couldn't stop myself.. Had to suffer it this morning because my parents couldn't let me sleep all through the morning... Enjoyed it all the way... Each page just wants you reading more... Please hope ...

{{ contest.story_page_sticky_bar_text }} Be the first to recommend this story.

About Us:

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered book publisher, offering an online community for talented authors and book lovers. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books you love the most based on crowd wisdom.