Freedom’s Path, Book 3 in Deerbourne Inn series by Linda Carroll-Bradd
The story behind the story
Several years ago, I saw a reference in a historical blog about quilts being used as signals for the Underground Railroad. As someone who has quilted in the past, I was interested but didn’t pursue it until I saw the title of Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad. I read that book and a firsthand account of a man who served on the railroad titled The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom.
Learning about the role women played in this moral dilemma brought the heroine to life in my mind. As I researched maps of the actual routes, I crossed my fingers and was thankful a known path cut through Vermont. Figuring out the role of the hero was easy because I cast him as her worst nightmare–a soldier hunting down abolitionist activity in her town. With Colin and Sidonie on opposite sides of the controversial issue in 1855, I had no trouble developing the plot that I hope readers find interesting.
Working as a maid in the Deerbourne Inn gives freedom-fighter Sidonie Demers the perfect cover for helping escaping slaves travel farther along the Underground Railroad. The patterns in her quilts serve as messages directing them to the safest route. The cause is a personal one for octoroon Sidonie whose mother and grandmother escaped bondage years earlier.
Army Corporal Colin Crawford arrives in Willow Springs, in disguise as a salesman, to ferret out abolitionist activity. Raised in a state that forbids slavery, he’s conflicted about upholding the Fugitive Slave Act but believes in laws and fulfilling his duty. The attraction between Colin and Sidonie is evident and irresistible, but what will happen when their true identities are revealed?
As he waited for Kevyn’s footsteps to fade, Colin finished his tart. His mind whirled with a topic that he worried might be too forward. After a swallow of coffee, he angled his head and met her gaze. “I saw how you broke that man’s hold. Smart move.”
Eyes wide, she gasped, rested a hand on the table edge, and crouched next to the end. “Oh, please don’t tell Missus Deerbourne that I stomped on a guest’s foot.” Her dark brows drew together. “I’m not sure she’d view my action in the same way you do.”
Her response rankled. Wasn’t the innkeeper concerned for the safety of her workers? He wished he could offer comfort by covering her hand with his. “Can you not carry a small knife in a pocket to protect yourself?”
A laugh escaped as she shook her head then gripped the band of her hat and pulled it lower on her forehead. “Not an appropriate accessory for someone in my position.”
Colin disliked the idea of her being vulnerable to a man’s mauling. “The foot stomp can take a man by surprise, but often not for long enough to effect an escape. Might I demonstrate another move that guarantees a longer distraction?” He sorted through the various moves involved in his ranger tactical training for the one most effective to someone her size. Leverage was what was needed to counter a larger foe.
“I am eager to learn.” She set the tray on the table. “What do I have to do?”
Bracing both hands on the table, he pushed himself to a stand and took a couple steps away from the bench. “Walk toward me like you’re about to grab my arms.”
A blush rose in her cheeks, and she averted her gaze. “Oh, I couldn’t, Mister Crawford.”
Her modesty produced a chuckle. “Miss Demers, don’t worry. You won’t hurt me. Remember, you’re learning a new skill.”
After a nod, she stepped forward with her arms outstretched and fingers spread wide. “Like this?”
“Keep walking.” He balanced his weight on the balls of his feet. When she came within reach, he grabbed the thumb of her left hand and bent it backward.
“Ow.” She contorted her body, back arching in the opposite direction.
He knew her movements were instinctual, with her body acting on reflex to reduce the pressure. “See how you moved to get away from the pain.” He released his hold with reluctance, because he’d enjoyed the slide of her soft palm in his.
As a young girl, Linda was often found lying on her bed reading about fascinating characters having exciting adventures in places far away and in other time periods. In later years, she read and then started writing romances and achieved her first publication–a confession story. Married with 4 adult children and 2 granddaughters, Linda now writes heartwarming contemporary and historical stories with a touch of humor from her home in the southern California mountains.
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