Thursday, July 2, 2009

Excerpt - A Treasure for Sara by Allison Knight

August 1895

Sara McGuiness leaned against the wet railing of the ship and stared through the misty overcast sky at the approaching shoreline of the Yukon Territory. She hugged her father’s last letter close to her bodice, its words printed indelibly in her mind. Do not let your aunt force you into a marriage she wants. There is no need. Come to me, for I have found a treasure.
She tucked her precious letter into her bag, while the sailors dropped anchor and scanned the gathering crowd. From this distance, no one looked familiar.

Where was her father? She would not go back to Philadelphia to a forced marriage, even if the groom were a preacher. She wanted to wed a man she loved and there would be no love in that union. All he wanted was a housekeeper, someone to legally bed and be a stepmother for his miserable boys. Why, Matthew and John had already been in trouble with the constable. She would never return. Her place was here with her father, even if she never married.

With building tension, she slipped into the waiting tender, and eased onto a bench, waiting for other passengers to fill the vessel. At last, they crept toward the village of Dyea, if it you could call it a village at all. She was aghast at what she saw.

The tender ground to a halt against the soggy gray mud. She grabbed the wet skirt of her burgundy traveling costume, sighing in disgust. This wasn’t what she expected from the land her father claimed had to be the closest thing to heaven. She shook her head, preparing to step from the ship.

“Give me your hand!”

A deep voice rumbled through her, and she glanced at the extended arm.

“I can manage,” she murmured, her eyes traveling from his wide belt, to his chest and finally, to his face. She gasped. She’d never seen anyone this big.

“However, I thank you for the offer.” It certainly wouldn’t do to make this man angry.

“Your hand.” He sounded impatient.

“No, really. But, thank you,” she repeated, lifted her foot, and stepped onto the gray mucky flats. Her boot disappeared into the slime. She pitched forward. Closing her eyes, she squealed and grabbed at thin air.

Someone grasped her around the waist and yanked. A slurping sound followed as her boot left the mud.

Filled with fear, she opened her eyes and stared at the man who held her suspended in mid-air. The giant!

“Let me go,” she demanded.

He carried her several steps and set her on a boardwalk. She blinked. At least he saved her from a mud bath. She could credit him with that at least.

“Thank you,” she mumbled, and realized she’d thanked him three different times now.

She glanced at the men milling around the new arrivals but she couldn’t see her father. Where was Papa?

“You Sara Margaret McGuiness?” The giant’s voice boomed at her.

“What did you say, s-sir?” She stumbled over the word. This man had the biggest chest she had ever seen as she tracked the buttons of a flannel shirt upward—and a voice to match. She couldn’t help but stare at his face. A beard of curly hair, so dark it resembled the coal dust in her aunt’s bin, covered the lower half of his face and a darker mustache obliterated his mouth. She couldn’t tell whether he was frowning or smiling. However, his steel gray eyes caught her attention. For a second, she wondered if they could see into her soul.

“Your pa Patrick McGuiness?” he asked.

She nodded.

“Come on,” he said and grabbed her arm.

“Whatcha got, Bear?” someone shouted.

Bear? They called this man Bear? Well, no wonder. That name surely fit.

“I beg your pardon,” she tugged against him, trying to dislodge her arm. From nowhere, a rush of chilled air touched her and she shivered. Bewildered, she looked around, and wondered what caused such a reaction.

“Come on.” He snatched her by the wrist. Again, when he touched the skin between her long sleeve and the edge of her short kid glove, she tingled. What was happening to her?

“Let go of me!” She hadn’t rushed away from Philadelphia and the problems there to be dragged away by some titan of a man.

Once again, she glanced at the growing crowd and looked for her father. He wasn’t there.
“Time to go. Haven’t got all day,” the giant said.

Go with him? Oh, good heavens! He couldn’t be serious.

“No. Not in a million years,” she hissed, struggling against his hold. Her attempt to break free had about the same effect as an ant trying to move one of these huge fur trees she’d seen while marching up the mountain slopes.

People always said her father was tall, but this man would tower over Patrick McGuiness by several inches. Not only was this the tallest man she had ever seen, but this Mr. Bear resembled a barbarian. His curly, dark hair was pulled back and tied with a leather strip so that it hung down his back. A wicked-looking knife hung from a loop on his belt, and he grasped a rifle in the hand not detaining her. Before she could free herself, he started to move.

And he took her with him.

“No! What are you doing?” She jerked against him. He wasn’t going to drag her away from her father and her dreams.

“You must stop!”

He stopped. She yanked her arm out of his hold and to her side, raised her chin and straightened her shoulders, standing as tall as she could. She didn’t even come to his shoulders.

“Sir, I don’t know you. I know nothing about you. And I am certainly not going anywhere with you.”

“You’re Sara, right? Sara McGuiness?” His deep, husky voice coiled around her and created all kinds of strange sensations. Another tingle, followed by another chill. Fear, she decided.

“I don’t know how you know my name, but yes, I’m Sara McGuiness.”

“Your pa’s at my place.”

“At your place? Why isn’t he here?”

“He’ll tell you,” the giant said. “Oh! Best get a few of your things.” He pointed to the boxes and trunks unloaded onto the boardwalk.

“One minute. I have no intention of gathering some of my things! Besides, how do I know my father is at your house? Why, I don’t even know your name.” She glared at him and placed her clenched fists on her hips. There was no way she would go with this man.

“Just tell me where you live and I’ll find my own way,” she said, trying to put more confidence into her voice.

He threw his head back and laughed. Obviously, he was nothing but a…a savage. Like one of the villains in the penny novels she loved.

She opened her mouth to tell him what she thought of his attitude when he sobered.

“Best get some of your things.”

“I’m not taking a step until you tell me why my father didn’t come himself.”

“I said, he’s at my place.”

“Why? I don’t understand. What happened to his house? Why is he with you?”

“Cabin burned down.”

“Cabin? A cabin? I don’t believe you.” Sara squared her shoulders, stiffened her spine and tried to stare him down. It didn’t work.

She wilted. What could she do now? She’d endured Aunt Anna’s censure and her promise of doom to travel miles to be with her father. Now, he wasn’t here. The temptation to scream raced through her and she bit her lip, hard. She had to think.

~ * ~

Bear gritted his teeth and moved closer. Patrick hadn’t mentioned her stubbornness. He leaned toward her.

“He’s ill. Can’t come,” he whispered. Wouldn’t do to let others know about Patrick. Not yet.
He frowned. If Patrick wasn’t his friend, his only friend... He should have told the old man he couldn’t make this trip. Why had he agreed? ‘Cause there was no one else. Besides, he owed Patrick. He hadn’t thought it through, though. He knew that now. Nope, he hadn’t considered all the possibilities.

Silently, he swore. He shouldn’t have promised to meet Patrick’s daughter. What had he been thinking? Had he been thinking at all? Obviously not!

He sighed. Well, she couldn’t stay in town, and she couldn’t stay here in the Yukon. She had to leave. Go back to Philadelphia.

Once more, he looked her over. Those muddy boots of hers wouldn’t last a week. And, her clothing. It was wet through. When night came and the temperature dropped, she’d chill. First, she’d have to get out of her things, but not here. Somewhere on the trail. Damn! They’d have to make camp sooner than he wanted.

He didn’t need this, and he sure didn’t need another sick person at his cabin.

“Ill?” She interrupted his thoughts.

He nodded.

“He’s at your place?”

Bear nodded.

“Where is your home?”

“There,” he pointed toward the mountains.

“I don’t see anything.”

“In the mountains.” Where did she think trappers lived? Hadn’t Patrick told her anything? Obviously not. Now, he’d have the responsibility of another woman. And the weather here destroyed people faster than any place he knew.

He shook his head, furious with himself. This was crazy. He should never have let Patrick talk him into this.

“How far into the mountains?” she interrupted his thoughts again.

“Three days.”

“Three days?” she gasped. “Oh, but that’s impossible.

I have to travel with you for three days? Oh, no, I can’t do that.”

He grinned. He figured that’d shock her.

“You wanna see your pa?”

“Well, of course. That’s why I came all this way. But how do I know you will take me to my father? I’m not leaving here until I have some proof of what you say.”

“Here.” He shoved Patrick’s note at her. Probably should have given it to her first. Another silent curse raced through his mind.


  1. Oh, I'm gonna love this story. Great excerpt!


  2. I loved that excerpt! I want my own giant now! :)