Against the Odds
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by Gwyneth Atlee
Category: Romance/Historical Fiction
Description: In the aftermath of the Civil War, a shattered America begins to heal. Three Union soldiers--once prisoners of war--head home aboard the steamboat Sultana. For these brothers-in-arms, the war may be over--but the fight for the women they cherish has just begun. Returning to his Ohio home, Gabe Davis is haunted by the guilt of a shattering secret. Though he feels unworthy of love, he cannot deny his attraction to Yvette Augeron, the New Orleans beauty who has blustered her way onto the Sultana. But just as passion draws the unlikely pair together, the fateful explosion of the Sultana tears Yvette from his arms. Gabe doesn't know if she's dead or alive, until she risks her own safety to find him. Yet this brave act of sacrifice will plunge her into mortal danger, for Yvette has a murderous enemy. Now Gabe will battle against the odds to save the woman destined to be his wife.
eBook Publisher: E-Reads, 2004
eBookwise Release Date: March 2004
4 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [361 KB]
Reading time: 229-321 min.
April 28, 1865
As he rested on the narrow hospital cot, Gabe could hear the whispered speculation about the impending investigation into who was to blame. But he barely listened, for he had little interest in the rumors of a Confederate bomb planted near the boilers or in the whispers about bribes passed between Union army officials and the Sultana's captain.
Some part of him realized that perhaps he ought to care whether the steamboat had carried too much weight or had been pushed to an excessive speed, whether the destruction was intentional or the result of gross stupidity. But that part of his mind felt separated, as if it had been walled off behind something lead-gray and impenetrable. None of it really mattered now.
Only the people mattered: the soldiers catapulted from their sleep into the flooded Mississippi, the panicked passengers clutching and then overwhelming the same sinking wooden plank, a woman shrieking frantically as five crewmen?her own husband among them?abandoned her in a small boat used to sound the channels.
Yes, the people mattered, and certain people mattered to him even more. One woman and three men. A tiny fraction of the hundreds, perhaps even thousands, aboard the overcrowded vessel. But so was a heartbeat a tiny portion of what made up a man. Tiny but so crucial, something that he couldn't live without.
He covered his eyes with bandaged hands, as if that action might blot out the pain of all that he had seen. But darkness afforded him no mercy, for memory is made up of far more than a man sees. As he lay beneath a crisp white hospital sheet, his body trembled with the smells of what had happened, the acrid odors of burning wood and coal, the sickly, meatlike stench of roasting flesh. And even more insufferable were the sounds that rose up like specters from a thousand moonlit graves: the muttered prayers and curses, the wrenching pleas and screams?all nearly drowned out by the almost deafening explosion, by the thunder on the river, in the waning days of war.