Grace Brannigan author
Photographer Isabeau Remington travels to 1894 Virgina and falls in love with a man she must ultimately leave behind when she returns to her own time...but things are not always as they seem.
Once Upon a Remembrance: Book 1 Women of Strength time travel trilogy: Photographer Isabeau Remington travels to 1894 Virgina and falls in love with a man she must ultimately leave behind when she returns to her own time...but things are not always as they seem.
Modern day photographer Isabeau is pulled from the present time and thrust back into the year 1894 in Virginia. She must help save Hawk Morgan, a man threatened by a killer, a man endangered by his own erased memories. Hawk must survive in 1894 so his present day ancestor Pierce Morgan, will be alive in Isabeau's future.
Isabeau begins to fall in love with Hawk Morgan but with both their future's uncertain and a killer on the loose, neither one of them may have a tomorrow to look forward to.
Hawks Den, Virginia
In the half light before dawn, Pierce Morgan drove toward Hawkís Den. He had driven all night to get here, hardly understanding the urgency that gripped him. Pierce stopped his truck and stared at the once majestic plantation house Hawkís Den. Forlornly, the old home he grew up in sat before him, paint faded and worn. The house was shuttered and still as light began to break, the wrap-around veranda partially concealed by a tangle of brilliant-hued azaleas.
He strode across the stone-lined path to the house, taking the shallow porch steps three at a time. The ornate entry door lay at a drunken angle and he shoved it aside as if it weighed little. Stepping inside, he paused as the stench of stale air bore down upon him.
Arrows of light peered through the closed shutters, but Pierce knew where to find the staircase to the second floor. Quickly, he climbed the stairs, his flashlight beam bouncing across the walls.
On the second floor numerous doors lined a wide, oak-beamed hallway. He walked to the last doorway and entered the chamber. Water-stained wainscoting and pieces of tin ceiling littered the floor. Furniture had been stacked willy-nilly in a corner, once prized oak and cherry pieces, now likewise stained by weather and neglect.
Shoved against the far wall was an enormous oak bed. Pierce walked through strewn feather ticking, then knelt beside a small bedside table. His fingertips tingled as he turned the table upside down. Immediately, he saw the book lodged in the drawer track. Feeling almost lightheaded, he pried it loose and slowly sank down against the wall.
The bookís leather cover was frayed and worn, held together by a gold mesh strap and clasp. Pierce undid the clasp and very carefully opened the journal.
He flipped the pages to the first handwritten entry, the tightness in his chest almost unbearable. "1878, April 2, I fear I shall never live to see land again . . .."
Sweat beaded on his forehead. The journal confirmed that six months lost in time had not been a wild dream. He had loved a woman back in time, 1894, and somehow he had to find her again.
Hawks Den Plantation in Virginia, Five Years Later
Isabeau Remington stared in awe at the tall oak trees lining either side of the narrow dirt road to Hawkís Den, as she drove under their extended branches. The dark skies had followed her all the way from New York, the heavens erupting from time to time with thunder and incredible flashes of lightning.
She shifted restlessly in her small compact car, her legs feeling cramped after the long drive. The serpentine drive took one last curve and finally a house came into view just as raindrops began to fall. Her friend and boss Leif Ericssonís van pulled up beside her as she parked. Fascinated, she stared at the beautiful two-story house. She had read about some of the restored plantations near the James River, but she had never imagined the reality would be so breathtaking. The house had been painted a soft gray and the wrap-around verandah made her think of lazy summer nights spent drinking tea and eating pecan pie, the scent of azaleas a delicious extra to any evening. Even from inside her car, Isabeau swore she could smell their scent.
A tap at her window made her jump. Leifís blue eyes peered in at her. Rain was already starting to drip through his long blond hair and onto his grey T-shirt. Quickly, she let the window down a crack and immediately the rain spattered inside.
"Iím going in," he said. "Hurry up."
"I'm coming. The house is just gorgeous, isnít it?"
Isabeau closed the window and exited her car, quickly opening the hatchback to retrieve her pull along case. She hurried across the stone walk to the house. The rain pelted them in earnest. She had a brief glimpse of wisteria climbing along one side of the house, further adding to the old-world charm. White painted balconies on the second floor graced tall, multi-paned windows with indigo blue shutters fastened on either side.
Flower gardens ran alongside the house, sculpted hedges and rows of tulips now bowing under the pressure of the rain. Time seemed suspended here, giving rise to a fanciful notion sheíd stepped into an earlier time.
She felt almost breathless with anticipation. The house seemed at once unknown and yet somehow, dearly familiar -- how intriguing!
Leif lifted the polished brass knocker on the massive, ornately carved door, the sound echoing as they hunched together under the small overhang. He shivered in his lightweight T-shirt, pulling her a bit closer as he tried to shelter her from the rain.
The door opened almost immediately. A woman, somewhere in her sixties, greeted them with a pleasant smile and urged them in with a sweep of her arm. Wearing a knee-length pale linen dress, her greying blonde hair was short and fashionably styled. Isabeau noticed her eyes, so dark they appeared almost black.
"Hello," Leif said, "you must be Mrs. Cummins. Leif Ericsson. We spoke on the phone last week. This is my assistant Isabeau Remington."
The woman nodded and smiled, quickly closing the door behind them. "Yes, hello Mr. Ericsson -- Ms. Remington. How lovely to meet both of you. My, what a miserable day youíve arrived on." Mrs. Cummins stepped back further as they entered the cool, marble-floored foyer. "My husband John will see to your bags so please leave them here in the hall."
Isabeau shook the damp hair out of her face and positioned her case behind her. "Thank you."
Together, they moved into the entryway. Isabeau looked around the hallway's high decorative ceilings and deeply embossed wallpaper. A beautifully refinished grandfather clock chimed out the hour three times. "The house is beautiful. The restoration must have taken some time."
"Almost three years, Miss and itís nearly the same as it was a century ago. Pierce is very proud of it. He did most of it himself."
"We appreciate him allowing us to photograph the house and grounds," Leif said. "I know it's a wonderful honor that he's chosen our company."
"Yes, and weíre anxious to meet him," Isabeau said. "The renovation of this house has fascinated both of us," she added. "I saw the before pictures."
Mrs. Cummins closed the door and turned toward them with a smile. "Yes, this is the first time heís allowed anyone to photograph it. Now if youíll come with me, I can show you to your rooms." From the large entryway with its decoratively carved and fixed columns, Mrs. Cummins led the way up a curved staircase with a gleaming wood rail to the second floor and down a wide, carpeted hallway. "Mr. Pierce said you were to have free rein of the house while youíre here."
Although Isabeau knew she included both of them in the invitation, the older woman's gaze rested on her.
"Great." Leif looked well-satisfied. "When he sees the article weíre doing on him, he wonít be sorry."
Isabeau again experienced a surprising familiarity with her surroundings. "Dťjŗ vu."
Mrs. Cummins gave her a curious glance.
"Donít mind me," Isabeau said, "Iím feeling a bit silly and tired from the drive. We appreciate the extra work involved in having guests, so weíll be as unobtrusive as possible."
Mrs. Cummins laughed softly, kindly. "No trouble at all. We always have rooms ready for guests. Pierce enjoys entertaining," she added, pushing open a tall wooden door to their right. "And he set aside some wonderful historic memorabilia for you to reference and work with if you choose. They're in the library in the roll top desk."
"Really?" Leif inquired. "Iím intrigued."
"Yes, he's put out some family albums and historical papers in the library for you also to peruse at your leisure. I expect you'll also find the old shipping records and there are various shipping paraphernalia stored in the sheds out back. I expect him back sometime tonight or tomorrow."
Mrs. Cummins stood back from the doorway. "Isabeau, Pierce said this was to be your room."
Isabeau stepped into the room, her feet sinking into the plush pale grey carpet. Her gaze roamed curiously over rich wood floors, antique furnishings and the bedroomís subtle blending of blue, rose and vintage white. Lightly varnished wainscoting ran halfway up the walls, and a faint swirling pattern of cream-colored flowers ran rampant on the walls to the ceiling. "It takes my breath away -- itís very beautiful."
And familiar, but she didnít say that. They were going to think she was off her rocker if she told them everything looked like memories from an old dream. She was even starting to creep herself out a bit.
The bed was huge, old, upraised on a matching oak dais, a centerpiece for the entire room.
"If youíd like to get out of those damp clothes and take a hot bath, the bathroom with small dressing room is through that door." Mrs. Cummins indicated a second door. "There is a warming rack and a thermostat control on the wall and you will find towels, soaps and toiletries in the closet. Pierce had a nice selection of vegan soaps brought in, specifically lemongrass and lavender."
Isabeau didn't hide her astonishment. "I -- I love lemongrass."
"Yes Miss." Mrs. Cummins smiled.
"But how would he know?" She laughed and shook her head. "Silly question, he must do that for each of his guests. I'm sure there is a selection for any taste."
Nevertheless, Isabeau was touched by Pierce's thoughtful gesture. She found the room an absolute delight.
The older woman turned. "Mr. Ericsson Ė"
"Please call me Leif." His easy grin encompassed the older woman and Isabeau.
Mrs. Cummins nodded. "Leif, your room is down the hall."
Leif gave Isabeau a quick nod. "Iíll catch up with you later."
The shutters outside Isabeauís window banged as a fresh gust of wind hit the house. The storm outside seemed to be whipping into a real fury.
As Leif went with Mrs. Cummins Isabeau closed the door and moved across the room to the one large window that looked out over the yard below. Getting her bearings, she knew it must face the renowned back gardens that in turn led to the river. However, with the lash of the rain across the glass, it was impossible to see much outside.
She turned back to the room, lifting her arms to push the hair off her forehead. Heaving a contented sigh, she explored the room which was assigned to her for the next week or so. Someone had taken great care in creating a comfortable haven. Cherished antiques were polished to a high gloss, and the bric-a-brac figure of a man and a woman on the oak bureau also spoke of an earlier time.
Fresh cut purple Irises were arranged in a blue stenciled vase, residing on a small table with a rocking chair on one side and a low chaise on the other. Delicately embroidered pillows filled the seats, their colors in blue and gold.
On the wall above the bed she admired a beautifully done painting of a flowering garden with the river beyond. She could only wonder if it was Hawks Den gardens. She moved closer to the painting and could see the initials PM had been signed in the corner. Could it be that Pierce Morgan had painted the lovely scene? Was he a talented artist as well as a much sought after attorney?
When Isabeau and Leif entered the library following dinner they gravitated toward the fireplace which crackled and threw out a welcoming heat. Mrs. Cummins had suggested they move to the library for dessert and coffee.
Leif drew Isabeauís attention upwards. "Did you look at the scrolled, white plastered ceiling?"
"I know. Itís a marvel in artistry. I canít wait to start photographing this place."
She marveled at the charming collection of richly upholstered chairs and couches strategically placed around the room.
"This assignment could really put us on the map," he mused.
Isabeau laughed. "Come on, you're already on the map. How else do you think we got this assignment?"
"There's lots of good photographers out there, but I'm not questioning it," he said with a laugh.
Carved wood paneled walls held a multitude of bookshelves. Despite the dark wood, the room had a warm, comfortable feeling. The pale yellow and orange Victorian lamps with their deep fringe emitted a mellow glow.
"I could almost think we've stepped back in time," Isabeau mused.
"Yeah," Leif agreed, "it does look picture perfect, doesn't it? Some of this furniture is irreplaceable. I'm really excited to get started, to tell you the truth. If it wasn't so late --"
Isabeau laughed. "Tomorrow. We start tomorrow." She ran a hand lightly over the indigo blue upholstered loveseat with its gold embossed threads. "I wonder if Pierce spends a lot of time in this room?" she mused. "It has a well lived-in air." A large desk stood against one wall to the right of the fireplace. Several comfortable chairs, a couch and a matching love seat had been placed to form a cozy half circle in the center of the room. The massive fireplace had a deep cherry colored wood mantle. The love seat was piled with pillows and looked very inviting, as if someone had just moved from its newly reupholstered seat. With a sigh, she settled herself among the cushions.
"What a great place to entertain."
Leif, an open book in his hand, moved to sit on the loveseat across from her.
Isabeau yawned, then gave a short laugh. "Sorry. That long drive is catching up with me."
"You're due for a break," Leif said. "You've been going non-stop since Christmas. When we get back, Iím giving you some time off."
She laughed. "Maybe you should do all the pre shot work for this job yourself and Iíll just go sightsee," she joked. "Really, you know me I love to work." She leaned toward him."Whatís that book youíre looking at?"
"One of the family albums Pierce left out. There's a bunch of them over there on the table. Isn't this him -- Pierce -- though I'd say it was a while ago?"
Isabeau leaned forward to grasp the heavy cloth-covered album. Several pictures had been placed under protective plastic. The one that caught her attention showed a young man, perhaps in his late teens, astride a dark horse. He had swathe of unruly dark brown hair almost covering his left eye, a thin straight nose and dark, serious eyes. Dark blue eyes.
"Hmm, very handsome." She frowned, running her finger over the picture. His mouth appeared compressed, the lips in a straight line."Though he kind of looks angry."
Isabeau turned several pages but that seemed to be the only picture of the young man, although there were numerous shots of a woman who bore a resemblance to the young man. Perhaps his mother? She turned the pages, but the rest of the pictures appeared to be much older.
"No doubt the ancestors," she murmured. "It almost feels like weíre snooping." She snapped the album shut.
"No, they were left out for us, and there's some others with old newspaper clippings inside."
The library door opened. Isabeau lost her grip on the heavy album and it landed on the floor with a thud. Mrs. Cummins entered the room with a tray and Leif moved forward to take it from her, placing it on the coffee table next to the love seat.
Isabeau felt embarrassed by her clumsiness, and placed the heavy album on the end table. Several pieces of paper slipped from the book and fluttered to the floor.
She reached for them and saw they were newspaper clippings. Curiously, she picked up the largest yellowed paper. Once again the young man looked out at her, expression serious, eyes dark and somehow vulnerable. Isabeau cleared her throat and turned the paper to Mrs. Cummins. She had to know. "Is this Pierce when he was younger?"
Mrs. Cummins gathered up the remainder of the clippings and slipped them back in the album. "Yes, that's Pierce. He was in his late teens then." The housekeeper sighed. "A troubling time with his father dying and the Missus, Pierce's mother, remarrying." The older woman lowered her voice. "For a time it was touch and go. The Missus was worried about that one. So wild, so angry, but he straightened himself out."
"So I guess youíve known the family some time?"
"Iíve been with Mrs. Morgan since she was young, then I took care of her two boys."
"Well, everything must have come out fine," Leif said. "He went on to achieve all this. Pierce Morgan is a self-made man, from everything Iíve heard."
"Pierce has a one-track mind when he sets it to something." The housekeeper paused by the door. "It's done him well to get him where he is today." She looked at Leif. "He called a little while ago to remind me there's also some antique cameras in the roll top desk. Pierce thought you might find them of interest."
"Thank you, Mrs. Cummins," Leif exclaimed happily. "It's like a treasure trove here."
The older woman smiled."Well, Pierce thought you might like to use some of these items in your photographs. If you need anything else, just let me know."
"Thank you," Isabeau said. "You've really done enough, and dinner was wonderful."
"No trouble Isabeau."
The housekeeper left. Isabeau looked once more at the paper clipping, then almost reluctantly slid it back in the album.
"Look at this." Leif reached over the tray to pick up another large volume, but managed to sideswipe a coffee cup, tipping it. The dark liquid streamed across the tray, splattering the book.
"Leif!" He quickly pulled his hand back and she grabbed several napkins from the tray, carefully blotting the leather cover. "Did you get burned?" she asked.
"No. Just clumsy." He grimaced.
"I think it should be okay," she ran her fingers along its worn, gilt-edged binding. "It looks pretty old." Unable to resist, she opened the heavy tome.
"I'm intrigued by what's in the desk," Leif confessed. The large roll top desk sat at an angle from them.
Isabeau stared at the book she held. The name "Morgan" was boldly inscribed in raised letters on the first page. The pages crackled as she carefully brushed her fingertips across the yellowed surface, her eyes scanning the crisp paper.
"Itís the Morgan family bible." The ink had faded to a dark brown. "This is really old," she said reverently. The storm seemed to escalate outside. With a shiver, Isabeau took the book and settled once more into the loveseat pillows.
Leif busied himself looking through the items in the desk. "Look at this."
Isabeau glanced up to see him holding two gleaming silver objects which were decoratively engraved with vines and leaves.
He laughed, turning the pieces over. "I'm not quite sure what they are. Almost looks like a mini dust pan. I'll have to find out from Mrs. Cummins."
"It's an antique crumber and blade," she said absently, staring at the items. "It's for cleaning up the crumbs on the table between dinner courses." At his incredulous look, she laughed. "You know my mom is obsessed with collecting antiques. We have a gold plated one."
He laughed. "I knew there was a good reason I hired you." He held up a black box, carefully opening it to reveal the camera inside. "This is turn of the century."
"The original point and shoot camera." She looked back at the book in her lap. "This family Bible is intriguing." She traced down the names with a fingertip. "Marriages, 1858. Catharine Hawk to Brendon Morgan. Issue of Marriage, Hawk Morgan, born 1863. Who would name their child Hawk?"
Isabeau experienced a sharp jag of pain in her arm, then an unaccustomed weakness gripped her right hand. Almost feverishly, she turned the pages. Her finger moved down the parchment. "Deaths. Hawk Morgan, May 19, 1894."
Thunder boomed outside, making her jump. Isabeau looked up at Leif as he joined her.
"That storm is getting closer." He leaned in to read over her shoulder. Rain pelted the windows fiercely. Suddenly, a loud knocking erupted from the front entrance. "Sounds like somebody's out in the storm." Leif stood. The knocking continued.
"I wonder where Mrs. Cummins is?" He walked toward the library door. "Iíll be right back."
Isabeau nodded absently, her focus on the bookís entries. "Hawk Morgan." She felt lightheaded, almost nauseous. Standing, she put the book down, then leaned against the side of the seat as weakness pervaded her body. Not feeling well at all, she grabbed the edge of the loveseat.
A crystal paperweight carved in the shape of a ship winked with light on the small side table at her elbow, wavering in and out of her focus. Vaguely, Isabeau heard footsteps.
Rushing winds echoed around and around her head incredibly loud and it hurt her ears. She put her hands over her ears but it didnít stop. The volume of cascading rain became deafening as she swayed.
Isabeau felt frozen, dizzy, filled with the sensation of floating . . . a cushioned embryo in the womb. She was in a nothingness, yet strangely there was no fear. Vaguely she was aware of chanting, one voice and then more, soft and then louder.
"Power from light, power from heaven, power from thine own self, power of thine own worth. Bring the one who will cast chaos aside. Bring the one who will stay the turmoil. It is done. It is done, it is done."
Something guided her through the rushing of air all around her and moved her into a deep, calming light.