Love and Fury: The Coltrane Saga, Book 4

BOOK: Love and Fury: The Coltrane Saga, Book 4
7.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


For Sally and Branch…who were
listening, with love.

Chapter One

New York

April, 1889

The Metropolitan Opera House was ablaze with thousands of glittering lights as the excited throng crowded through the entrance doors, eager for the festivities surrounding the Centennial celebration.

Kitty Wright Coltrane stood apart from the crowd, by herself, lost in reverie. She was oblivious to the admiring stares of elegantly attired gentlemen and envious looks from their female companions.

Time had been kind to Kitty. In maturity, she was even more beautiful than she had been in youth. Golden-red hair reflected the shimmering hues of a brilliant sunrise. There was no fading, no hint of gray. Her skin was as smooth as the richest cream, and her lavender eyes, fringed with long, dusty lashes, still held strange, glowing fires.

She was adorned that evening in a stunning gown of shining emerald satin. Threads of genuine silver were woven through the fabric, and the gown sparkled elegantly in the light. Large diamond earbobs adorned her ears and a diamond-and-emerald necklace circled her long, slender throat. Her red hair fell in cascading curls, caught here and there by silver combs studded with emeralds. High, firm breasts strained provocatively against the décolleté, banishing any notion that her voluptuous body might have withered with time.

The people in that milling crowd who marveled at the woman’s sublime beauty would have found it difficult to believe that she had ever known a day of poverty or misery in her entire life. She was, after all, the wife of one of the richest and most respected men in the state of Nevada, Travis Coltrane. She looked pampered, and she was as beautiful as a goddess.

Travis had inherited a large silver mine twenty years past, the grateful gift of a prospector whose life Travis had saved, and the Coltranes enjoyed a life of luxury.

But it had not always been like that for either of them. Like thousands of other Southerners, Kitty’s heart bore the scars of that terrible, bloody War Between the States. She had tried to erase those times from her memory, and as the years rolled by, she succeeded in embracing the joy of each new day, but she could never wholly dismiss the awful memories.

She drew an impatient breath, letting it out slowly as she directed her gaze once more to the entrance of the magnificent building. Guests were still arriving, but where was Travis? A message from President Harrison, delivered to her hotel suite that morning, had advised that the ship carrying her husband would arrive in mid-afternoon and that he would certainly be at the gala that night. There had been no further word.

A smile touched her lips, and. she felt the familiar, warming rush that happened each time she thought of the man she loved so deeply…so fiercely.

Their love had not been born easily. She recalled with humor the dislike that sparked between them at their first meeting. He, a Union Cavalry officer, had forced her, a Southerner with knowledge of nursing, to minister to Northern troops. He had kept her prisoner.

The four years of that grueling war saw many personal battles between the two lovers, but romance had triumphed…after the birth of their child, their son, John Travis, named after her beloved father and Travis.

Their eventual marriage had not ensured eternal bliss. After miserably attempting to become a farmer and work the North Carolina land Kitty inherited from her father, Travis succumbed to his unquenchable wanderlust. In his absence, Kitty fell prey to an old adversary from the war years, an unscrupulous villain who kidnapped her and forced her to endure horrors which her mind could not accept, forcing her into a state of oblivion. She lost her memory, her identity, for several lost and lonely years.

Her return to reality was met by the discovery that Travis, believing her dead and desperate for solace, had married. The gentle woman died giving birth to his daughter, Dani.

Overcome with pain, Kitty silently admonished herself for opening the old wounds. Now was not the time.
was the time. There was too much love between Travis and her to allow the intrusion of all that hell.

A glance at the entrance doors caused Kitty’s heart to leap with joy, but her joy wasn’t a woman’s love for her husband, but a mother’s pride in her son.

Colt, as John Travis had long ago been nicknamed, strode through the entrance, looking around for her. Tall, well built, Colt had inherited Travis’s dark, French-Creole coloring. His hair was as black as a raven’s wing, his eyes a smoldering silver gray.

His searching gaze found her, and he made his way across the room. For an instant, Kitty could believe she was seeing Travis.

Colt gave her a fond kiss on the cheek, then took her hands, gazing down at her with an apologetic look. “I’m sorry, Mother. There’s still no word.”

Kitty glanced in the direction of President Harrison, who stood talking with guests, and murmured, “And we still have to worry about what his next assignment will be. I’m sure the President won’t let him rest,” she sighed.

Colt grinned. “That’s the price Dad pays for having fought so valiantly in the war, Mother. He earned a lot of respect, and that’s why every time the government has a special assignment, they call on him. Haven’t you learned to live with that yet?”

With mock severity, she said, “I’ve learned to live with a lot more from your father than you would ever dream, John Travis Coltrane. If he lives to be a hundred, he’ll still be looking for adventure and challenge. I’ve never met a man with a wilder spirit.”

“Would you have him any other way?” Colt prodded, grinning.

Her eyes mirrored deep love. “No, I don’t suppose I would, John Travis, but I would like to have him home for a while. He’s been away three months now, and this time was a nightmare, not knowing for weeks whether he was dead or alive.”

Colt nodded with grim understanding. Travis’s latest commission had taken him far from home, to Samoa, in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The islands there had been fighting their own civil war for ten years. When it appeared that Germany was going to become involved, overthrowing King Malietoa, America and England stepped in to back the King. Warships congregated in Apia harbor.

Travis was on board one of those warships, requested by his government to attend the negotiations with Germany. But then a hurricane struck the islands.

Kitty knew depthless terror. What little communications they received said that all but one of the ships had been smashed to bits. For a long, ghastly time, Kitty went nearly insane with worry as she waited and waited for further word.

Then, mercifully, they learned that Travis had been on board the ship that managed to avoid the reefs and sail to the safety of the open sea.

President Harrison sent a personal emissary to Silver Butte, Nevada, to inform Kitty that Travis was too valuable to be subjected to further dangers on behalf of this assignment. He would not be required to attend the negotiations with Germany and was, in fact, en route back to the United States already. The President invited Kitty and Colt to journey to New York to meet Travis and enjoy the Centennial celebration, which coincided with Travis’s arrival.

Kitty regarded the invitation warily. Was the President softening her up in preparation for another assignment for her husband? She had long ago come to terms with Travis’s wanderlust, but she needed to have him to herself sometimes, too.

She blinked, realizing that her son was speaking and she hadn’t heard a word. “I’m sorry, dear. You were saying…?”

“That I’m ready to go home,” he repeated. “You know I’ve never liked fancy parties, and I’m already tired of all this—this
He looked around the room, disgusted.

Kitty followed his gaze, understanding perfectly. A large champagne fountain dominated the center of the main room, and champagne flowed down into a pool, the surface of which was covered with hundreds of floating pink and purple orchids. Guests laughed merrily as they leaned over to hold out their crystal glasses and fill them with the sparkling champagne.

The women wore gowns of every color imaginable, casting a rainbow hue. Fantastic jewels sparkled in the lights. There were string ensembles positioned in every corner, and music wafted over the murmur of conversation and delighted laughter.

The floor was covered by thousands of rose petals, their sweet fragrance rising to vie with the odors of perfumes and cigars.

“This is some celebration,” Kitty commented, then saw that her son was now lost in his own world. She touched his arm gently. “Could your mood have anything to do with Charlene Bowden?”

Colt barely managed to restrain his disgusted grimace. As usual, his mother saw his innermost feelings. He saw no reason not to confide. “Exactly. No one was more surprised than I was when she showed up at the train station with trunks and her aunt Jessica, and announced she was coming with us.”

Kitty had been more than mildly surprised herself, but had carefully refrained from asking questions. Colt was a grown man, and his life his own. She yielded to maternal curiosity only when she thought he wouldn’t feel that she was prying. “Had she asked if she could come along?”

“Yes!” His eyes flashed. “When I told her about our invitation, she said she wanted to come along. I told her no. She wasn’t invited. Well, you saw what happened.” His nostrils flared ever so slightly, a trait inherited from his father, signaling either anger or agitation.

Kitty caressed his cheek with her fingertips and murmured, “You had no choice but to accept her coming along. If you had made a scene, it would have been unpleasant for everyone concerned. You did the only thing you could do.”

He shook his head. “I’ve never met a girl with so much nerve.”

Kitty chose her words carefully. She knew her son had no intention of settling down soon, but Charlene Bowden was the only girl with whom he kept company—the only one Kitty knew of, anyway. If Charlene was destined to become her daughter-in-law, Kitty wanted to say nothing about her that might one day be regretted. “She is a lovely girl,” Kitty said hesitantly, “but Carleton and Juliette have spoiled her terribly. Being an only child, she’s used to getting anything she wants. Right now, you are what she wants.

“You are probably her first real challenge in
Kitty continued, “so don’t be too angry with her, son. She’s obviously in love with you. That makes a woman do things she wouldn’t do otherwise.”

Colt gave her a grateful look. “You always manage to make a situation more tolerable, Mother. You know you were every bit as angry as I was when you saw Charlene at that train station, but you still haven’t said one unkind word about her. And I
she gets under your skin.”

“Only if I let her,” Kitty explained with a smile. “Sometimes I think that’s the real secret of coping with life, John Travis: being wise enough not to let unpleasantness penetrate.”

Colt took to heart every word of criticism or advice his mother ever gave him, for he had the utmost respect for her. During long, intimate conversations with his father, he’d learned much of what his mother had endured in her life. Travis had not only confided his love for Kitty, but had told with burning pride of the way she had survived all the anguish inflicted on her.

For Colt, his mother stood on a pedestal that would never crumble.

“You know,” he said finally, “if I were lucky enough to find a woman like you, maybe I
settle down and get married.”

Kitty laughed and shook her head. “John Travis Coltrane, you know as well as I do that you were born with the same wandering spirit your father has. Heaven help any girl who marries you before you get at least some of it out of your system.”

Colt laughed with her, but joviality quickly faded as he saw Charlene Bowden coming determinedly toward them.

Kitty braced herself. She did not actually dislike Charlene, but sometimes the girl’s snobbery and vanity were too much to endure. Charlene was a younger version of her mother, and Kitty had tried to avoid Juliette Bowden for years. Recently, due to their new station in life, and by virtue of their wealth and Travis’s importance to the government, Travis and Kitty were the recipients of invitations to every social function. And Juliette Bowden, wealthy and the most socially minded woman in Silver Butte, was in charge of functions in that city. Kitty was well acquainted with the difficult Juliette Bowden.

BOOK: Love and Fury: The Coltrane Saga, Book 4
7.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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