Worlds in progress. Coming soon to an agent near you.

My hair was pinned up neatly off my neck as might befit a woman bound for execution. I wasn’t. Bankers can’t kill me. They can only steal my property, though for a woman of the land, that would be as good as death.

I inhaled deeply, breathing in the scent of new leather and a bit of peace.

“I picked this growler out for you special,” Darcy said when he helped me into the carriage. “They’re newly reupholstered seats and I know how you like that smell.”

He knew this because I’d planted my nose to a side of new leather in the stables yesterday. I sucked up every morsel of scent like most women draw in a heady bouquet of roses. A horsewoman appreciates the simple things in life: fresh hay, horse sweat, leather.

Horsewoman. But for how long?

Papa died in October leaving me with two massively indebted properties. The Richmond bankers worked with me. The South Carolina bankers hadn’t been so obliging, and it was their obstinance that drew me to Charleston’s chaos. They wanted the very successful, if indebted, horse farm and didn’t care that I helped build it. I was a woman. Worse, I was young. Worst of all, I was single.

They knew almost before I did when my manager quit to join the newly formed Confederate army. It had taken everything my lawyers in Richmond could do to convince them to grant me the upcoming appointment. I exhaled heavily thinking about it. Had I been a dragon, I’m sure it would have been pure fire.

Now Lorena, don’t get your Irish up, my father’s voice echoed in my mind. That admonition had normally been followed by him getting his Irish up to do my battles. He wasn’t here, though, and this battle was mine. Clutching my crucifix with the one-armed Jesus, I bowed my head to pray yet again. Was God tired of hearing from me?

If God was speaking to me, I couldn’t hear Him. There was simply a hollow clop clop clop of steady hoof beats mingled with the jingling harness, carriage squeaks, and the signature growling of the steel-rimmed wheels on the cobblestone streets, drowning out anything else. I gave up trying to pray and asked for a word of wisdom from Papa.

In my name shall they cast out devils.           

I sighed. Really, Papa? That’s the best you can do?

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