From a Distance
From a Distance
He wants independence. She longs for safety. Will an orphan girl bring them together?
Beginning a new life, Shanna Becket, secures employment at the Children’s Society Agency. Her first assignment brings her dangerously close to her abusive stepfather. What she didn’t count on is the distraction of a handsome stranger who sends her heart fluttering.
A second son who is second-best, Aidan hopes that his latest venture is his ticket to independence from his overbearing father. His travels bring him in contact with the lovely working-class, red-headed Shanna she steals his heart. His father won’t approve.
When a sick orphan brings them together, Shanna is forced to place her well-being in Aidan’s hands. Finally, a possibility of love for this spinster. But can she trust he is the man he says he is?
If you like heroines who take risks, spinsters, and orphan train stories then you'll love From a Distance, Diana Lesire Brandmeyer's powerful novella. Journey back in time with this love story today!
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Mother woke me with a gentle shake of my arm while shushing me. The room was dark. Not even fingers of moonlight peeked through the tiny window of my room.
“Shanna, hurry,” she whispered. “And be quiet. Get dressed, and don’t ask questions.”
At thirteen, I wanted to know the reasons for anything that was demanded of me. I wanted to know why I had to get up in the middle of the night, why must I get dressed in the dark? Why couldn’t we use a candle? But mother asked me to be quiet, and for once I listened.
She must have known I was confused.
“We are going away tonight. I don’t know where we will go, or what we will do, but I can’t stay here. I can’t let him do this to you again.”
We were leaving because of me. What about her? He hurt her all the time, but tonight was the first time he had knocked me against the wall. I went to bed crying because she wasn’t allowed to comfort me. Mother tossed things into a valise. I wanted to ask if I could take my books along. Fear kept my lips clamped to keep from breaking the silence. Would she even know what was inside when she was done? I started to slide off my nightdress.
She grabbed me by the arm. “Don’t. Just put on your dress on over it. It will fit. Carry your shoes. You can put them on when we get farther from the house.”
She opened the door for me, and the cold wind hit my nose. No, I left something in my room that I had to take with me. My father had given it to me. I turned to go back.
“No, we have to go now. Hurry Shanna, we have to get to the train before he wakes and finds out we’ve left.
The ground was hard, not soft the way it is in the summer, and it stung my feet. I whimpered. Mother urged me on. “Faster. Walk faster.” It was so quiet outside. In the winter, there are no crickets or buzzing June bugs. Just the sound of breath going in and out. Could Mother hear my heart as it beat hard in my chest?
Then hoofbeats broke the silence. He had discovered our absence.
He pulled the horse up next to Mother and reached down and grabbed her by the hair.
Mother cried, “Run Shanna!”
I couldn’t. I couldn’t. Where would I go? And if I ran, what would he do to her?
We couldn’t escape evil. It came behind us in the form of a man.
The scent of clean laundry freshened the kitchen as Shanna Becket folded the last one of her stepfather’s shirts and placed it on top of the others on the kitchen table. The shirts, stiff from the damp fall day, took longer than usual to dry, which meant getting the ironing finished did too. Winter was weeks away, but today brought a taste of what was soon to come. The door creaked open behind her. He was home early. Too early. She backed farther into the shadows of the kitchen.
“I don’t smell anything cookin’. What have you been doing, lazy woman?” His words slurred.
Her heart thumped against her chest as he stumbled toward her. His foot caught the corner of the kitchen chair. It wobbled, then settled.
He banged his fist on the tabletop.
She jumped and hustled to the stove.
“I told you I want food waiting on the table when I walk through that door. There’s not even a pot on the stove. Starting it now won’t get it done before I get here. You’re nothing like your mother. Don’t have her bonnie looks and you don’t listen to my orders.”
“Maybe she shouldn’t have. Then she’d still be alive.” Her breath caught in her throat. Why had she spoken? She grabbed the handle of the cast iron skillet. Potatoes. She’d fry those quick. Get some food into him before he became impossible.
“It’s time for you to pay me for letting you stay here. A man needs a woman in his bed on cold nights, and you’d do fine. After all, I’ve seen to it no one else wants ya.” He snickered, and then yanked her braid.
Eyes stinging from the pain, she whipped around, skillet in hand, and smacked him against the side of his head. His eyes widened, and then he stumbled backward, fell, and hit his head on the edge of the table. He lay there, not moving.
Shanna dropped the skillet. It crashed to the floor and landed next to her stepfather’s unmoving feet. She backed away, clasping her hands together, wringing them the way she’d earlier wrung the water from his shirts. Was he dead? She touched him with the toe of her boot. Nothing. She’d killed him, for sure trading this jail for another. Did they hang murderers or shoot them? She didn’t want to know the answer.
She studied him. His eyes remained closed. Could she risk getting close enough to see if he still breathed? She had to if she didn’t want to be like him. Holding her breath, she stuck her finger under his nose. His wiry mustache jabbed into her skin.
He sucked in air, almost inhaling her finger. Her heart pounded. She fell back, clasping her mouth to keep a scream from escaping. He would wake soon, and when he did, she’d pay for knocking him out. She had to leave and escape this nightmare she’d been trapped in since her mother died. Standing, she spun and looked at the clock. Could she make it to the next town in time to catch a train? Any train would do, as long as it took her far from him. She’d have to move with haste.
In her room, she dropped to her knees next to the bed. She grabbed the broken handle of the valise and pulled it out. It was big enough to hold two outfits and her mother’s Bible. A house full of things that belonged to her parents, and she couldn’t take any of it with her. As she gathered her things, she tried to memorize the small stitches of her grandmother’s quilt and the smooth wood of the bedstead her father had made for her.
What else did she need? Money. Without it, she wouldn’t get far. She took care of the chickens, and he’d taken all the egg money. He called it his pay for letting her stay in her family home. As if she’d had a choice. That he couldn’t count money made it possible for her to sneak several coins out every week in hopes of using it to get away. If he had ever noticed the loss, she would have suffered another beating. She slid out the bottom drawer of the bureau and settled it quietly on the floor. Sliding her hand into the yawning cavity, her fingers searched for the cloth bag and dragged it out. Would there be enough for a ticket out of town?
Outside, Scout, their only horse, stood tied to the fence, still saddled as the scalawag hadn’t unburdened the beast. She mounted the horse and hung the unbroken handle of the valise on the pommel.
She rode hard until she arrived at the crossroads. If she dismounted here, her stepfather wouldn’t be sure which way she would go. She’d walk the rest of the way. She grabbed the valise and slid off the saddle.
“Scout, you run far from here. Don’t go back there, find another home where they’ll love you and treat your right. You’ve been a good friend.” She stroked his nose. “I wish I could take you with me.” She smacked the horse on the rump, sending him in the opposite direction she’d go.