5-Star Crowned Heart Featured Review – InD’Tale Magazine, Sept. 2013
CHAPTER ONE, Scene One
Chicago; August 1871
Jessie hiked up her skirts and stepped into the cool water off Lake Michigan, wading out until the gentle waves lapped at her knees. It felt wonderful on her sweaty skin. She wished she could immerse her whole body but didn’t relish walking home in sopping wet clothes.
“Jess, you’d best be careful,” her brother Tye called from a few feet away. “There could be a drop-off.”
“I know. I’ll not go any farther out. And take your own advice, brother dear.” She glanced at him enviously. Having stripped away his shirt and rolled up his pant legs, he was splashing water on his chest, not the least bit concerned about getting his trousers wet.
“Aye, I will, although I’m a fair swimmer, unlike you.” He grinned at her mischievously. “In case ye haven’t noticed, I’m not burdened by a skirt and petticoats either.”
“Humph! Go ahead and get your trousers soaked. Doubtless you’ll enjoy being ogled by every woman we pass on our way home, ye wicked devil.”
He laughed and sliced the water with the edge of his hand, sending a small geyser her way. It caught her in the face, causing her to shriek and duck away as droplets dampened the bodice of her worn gray gown.
“Don’t do that!” she scolded. “I don’t want to get all wet.” Wiping water from her eyes, she blinked several times to clear them. Once she was able to keep them open, she happened to glance into the distance across the lake . . . and froze.
The lake disappeared before her eyes, replaced by a burst of fire that soared high overhead, wringing a strangled cry from her lips. The fire turned into a hellish scene of flames leaping from building to building along a familiar street, a street filled with people running for their lives before the monstrous fire. It licked at the wooden paving block underfoot and at the walkways lining the thoroughfare.
Her view of the event shifted abruptly. Now she saw her family’s cottage going up in flames behind her as she was being whisked away.
“Nay, not our home!” she wailed without realizing she’d spoken. Then the scene changed again. Now she was looking toward the city from far across the lake, and what she saw made her scream in horror. The spell was broken. As suddenly as the vision had taken hold of her, it released her. Dizzy with shock, she lost her footing on the sandy lake bottom and tumbled face-first into the chilly water. The shock caused her to suck in water.
Choking, Jessie struggled desperately to push to her feet, but the skirts tangled around her legs held her trapped. Panic set in; her heart thundered in her chest. She was about to drown when a hand grasped her under one arm and hauled her upward. She broke the water’s surface coughing and fighting for breath.
“Thank God! Ye scared the bejaysus out of me, sis,” Tye said in a shaky voice as he held her steady, hands locked around her waist.
“I thought I was going to die,” she croaked when she could breathe again, clinging to his arms for support. “I would have if ye hadn’t pulled me up.”
“Aye, well, what are big brothers for?” He laughed, but she noticed his voice still shook. “Now tell me why I felt such a terrible burst of fear from ye just before ye screamed and toppled over.”
“Oh, Tye, I had the most horrible vision!” she said, not surprised by his comment. Her brother was a sensitive. He could feel what others were feeling, especially those close to him. She licked her quivering lips and stared into his eyes. “I saw the city burning.”