Authors: Dana Black
by Dana Black
Catherine Rawlings was first prize in a bitter feud between two powerful families - a proud, impetuous woman eagerly sought by two strong-willed men. She would have to choose - Dr. Justin McKay, the charismatic, wealthy newcomer who was her father’s ally, or handsome, impulsive Steven Graybar, her father’s sworn enemy, into whose arms a reckless passion had driven her. Both men would stop at nothing to possess Catherine, and to gain ownership of the mountain estate called Legacy. Yet Legacy was in Catherine’s blood, and she knew she could not rest until the mountain was hers alone.
Set in the Gilded Age of Central Pennsylvania, Legacy is the story of a divided love, a consuming passion, and a dark vow of vengeance.
This edition published 2012 by Wilton Press
Copyright © Dana Black
All rights reserved.
I fell in love with the mountain called Legacy when I was a little girl, just as surely as I fell in love with Steven Graybar the first time I saw him there.
The mountain was my special place. During the days when we owned it, my parents would bring me with them when they rode for picnics to the wide, grassy clearing at the top. Up there the war the grown-ups talked about seemed far away. Legacy was peaceful and grand, especially in that high meadow. There my father would pick me a little bouquet of wildflowers and sometimes tickle my chin, and Mother's, too, with the soft petals of a buttercup. Then he and I would walk through the tall grass, my child's pinafore swishing in the cat-tails and Queen Anne's lace as I tried to keep up with Father in his shiny black high-topped shoes. And when we reached the spot where we could see out over the pine forests to view the whole valley, Father would scoop me up in his arms and hold me so I could see what he saw.
Together we would look down at the tiny buildings of Grampian, spread out like children's blocks along the edge of the blue Susquehanna River far below us, and at the hundreds of tiny logs, some of them floating free, others stacked up on rafts, that were coming downriver with the current to the Grampian lumber mills. We would find Father's mill first, barn-shaped, painted white, way off to the left with the other mills and downstream from our big new house. Then I would point out our old house, which Father now rented, and the other buildings in town that we owned, repeating in my little girl's voice, 'That's ours, and that one . . . '
Sometimes then Father would point out something we owned that I had missed, or point to another place - some land, a house - and ask whether I thought we should get that one, too. And I would always answer yes, and he would give me a brisk hug and a squeeze, the skin of his ample cheeks cool and smelling clean with the fresh air. 'Someday, young lady, you'll have bought the whole of it, eh? And what then?'
A laugh, another squeeze, and we would start back for the shade of an oak tree at the edge of the clearing, where Mother had laid out the picnic lunch from the big wicker hamper we had carefully strapped behind the saddle of Father's horse. I loved those times as much as anything else I can remember in my childhood, especially the moment when Father, having carried me all the way back on his broad shoulders, would stand before Mother and announce, 'It's official, then. We'll buy it. Catherine says we should go ahead!'
But the year of my eleventh birthday the picnics stopped. A man named Graybar was making trouble for Father. I was too young to understand it all then; I only knew that Father had done something called 'over-extending', and that he had to sell some of the buildings he had bought even though he did not want to. A short while later he came home in a very bad temper one night and I learned he had lost yet more buildings. And a few months after that, after remaining withdrawn and silent all through dinner with us, Father grimly announced that as of today we no longer owned Legacy.
I was too big to cry, even though I felt like it. I only said, 'We'll buy it back someday, won't we, Daddy?'
He gave me a little nod, a warm look that said he was glad I had spoken up. And then his voice was hard. We would get Brad Graybar for what he had done. We would see him dragged down from Legacy and ruined. Brad Graybar was not going to hold on to Legacy for even another year.
But Brad Graybar did. Even as Father, working harder than ever, gradually built back his holdings, so, too, Brad grew stronger along with many other lumbermen in Grampian. A year passed, and then another, until it was late August, just before I was to leave for my first year away from home at a school in Boston.
I was fifteen. I had come up to the clearing on Legacy by myself, as I had done whenever I could for the past two years. Partly I wanted to defy Brad Graybar, the man I had never seen who was the hated enemy of our family. Legacy belonged to me; I still felt that, and I still hungered to stand on its summit and look down. I could see the buildings myself now, for I was tall enough. And I would go up there and point to them one by one, in my child's fantasy, those my father owned now, and those we had lost but would get back, and those I would someday, somehow, buy on my own.
But today when I reached the clearing someone else was there ahead of me. I had walked up through the pines and so had he, for there was no horse feeding in the grasses nearby and no one else in sight. He had his back to me, standing with hands on hips, naked to the waist and well-muscled. He stood on my lookout spot at the crest.
The red stripes of a lash showed harshly across his back and shoulders.
He turned and saw me as I approached. His face grew more handsome with every step I took. Dark eyes, large and expressive, studied me as I walked through the open field. A full mouth was set in a well-poised half-smile. Wavy black hair, dampened at the edges with perspiration, framed a fresh, smooth face that showed only slightly the pain he must have been feeling from the red welts on his back. I judged him to be about seventeen.
Mindful of the dangers of meeting a strange man alone, even one so good looking and young, I told him that I was from a farm over in the next valley and that my brothers and I were hunting squirrels here on the south slope of the mountain. He told me that his name was Steven. This was his favorite spot, he said, when he had something troublesome to think about.
'Like those marks on your back?' I asked. 'They must hurt.' A few years earlier Mother had cared for a painful scrape on my knee when I had fallen up here. Now, just as she had done then, I took water from the canteen I had brought along, and with a few strips of cloth from his shirt and a sprig from one of the aloe plants that still grew nearby, I tended to the wounds.
He smiled at me when I was done. 'You're beautiful. Do you know that?'
I gave a matter-of-fact nod, partly because I did know it. They had always told me I was a beautiful child, and now my breasts were beginning to fill out, so that when people made comments now they said I was getting to be a lovely young lady. But when he said the words then, I felt something different, something that by instinct I thought I should not let show.
He would not talk about who had whipped him or even who he was; he just said that he lived in Grampian and liked to come up here. We watched the view together, the river and the mountains beyond. His speech was as well educated as his manner was authoritative, and he was knowledgeable about the lumber yards and the mills and the rafts. He spoke as if he knew the men who owned the vast array of stock and equipment that lay before us, mentioning names of Gibson and Rawlings and Sprague with a carelessness that indicated he held little esteem for any of their dealings, or for the whole of the lumber industry, for that matter. As I watched him, I wondered who he was. He seemed the very image of the dreams we girls at school whispered about during unguarded moments.
I felt an urge to tease him, to get through that air of casual bravado and see what lay beneath. 'Well, I think I should be going,' I said with a smile. 'Maybe you should, too. Will they beat you again if you're late? I wouldn't want them to do that on my account.'
His face darkened for only a moment. Then he arched his eyebrows in mock surprise. 'So soon? A busy young lady. When can you come back? I'll be here tomorrow.'
He was talking down to me as if I were just another silly little fifteen-year-old! 'Well, I won't,' I said. 'I won't be back until. . . until next Christmas.' I was not sure of my school vacation calendar, but I could not imagine them keeping us away from home during the Christmas holiday. 'Do you think you'll still be in town then?'
'I might. I might even stop over at your . . . ah . . . farmhouse in the meantime to say hello, if you're so sure you won't be over this way for that long.'
He was watching me closely, as if he did not believe my story any longer and wanted to see how I reacted.
'You needn't bother. I'm leaving for school tomorrow. Christmas is the first time I'll be back.'
'Oh, really? I had no idea farmers around here believed so strongly in education for their daughters.' He was smiling now, sure that he had caught me.
'My father does,' I said, my voice firm. 'If you want to see me again, you'll have to wait until Christmas. Now, I do have to go.'
He put out a hand, lightly, touching my arm. 'Ah, now, just one moment. What time at Christmas? You don't expect me to wait up here in the snow for a week, do you?'
'Well, perhaps I could send you a note, when I . . . when I have more of my plans decided. Just tell me your name and where to send it.'
He laughed. 'You're clever, aren't you? I like that. No, I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll send you the note. Then perhaps we'll meet somewhere else, somewhere not quite so hard to get to in the winter.'
'But I haven't told you . . .'
He held up his hand. 'You're clever. Perhaps you'll be able to think how I'll do it. But since it's to be such a long time, and since I may not even be able to manage it and never see you again, I think it would be appropriate just to have one quick kiss . . . '
He pulled me into his arms then, with such an easy, swift movement that I scarcely realized what had happened. As I began to say ‘No,
he covered my lips with his, warm and demanding, and though I struggled, he held me too strongly for me to break away. No one had kissed me on the mouth before. I had never felt such a heady, dizzying warmth as the feeling that swept through me then. But then he released me and smiled, pleased with himself, though I felt dazed and strangely excited, I pulled myself up and slapped him suddenly across the face.
Then I turned and ran, his laughter from behind me ringing in my ears.
But all that fall I wondered who 'Steven' had been. And as the time for vacation in December approached, I wondered more often whether when I got home there would be a note from him waiting for me.