Book II of the Kismet Series by Katherine Brandon, Kismet’s Revenge, is now available in paperback from The Wild Rose Press.
The blurb: Marisa Alvarez looks forward to a day she’ll remember the rest of her life. Instead of the marriage proposal and happily ever after she expects, however, she becomes one of only a handful of survivors of one of the bloodiest Indian uprisings in American history, the attack on Fort Mims.
Lucien St. Clair has been sent to Pensacola to learn the identity of a clever saboteur who calls himself “La Venganza.” As he pursues the enigmatic figure, he is inexplicably drawn to Marisa, a treacherous woman whose beautiful face may hide deadly secrets.
But when acts of revenge escalate to kidnapping, Lucien will have to find a way to gain Marisa’s trust, not only to save her life, but to win her heart!
“Pandemonium, the high capital of Satan and his peers.” – John Milton (Paradise Lost)
Fort Mims, Mississippi Territory
August 30, 1813
Marisa Álvarez would remember this day the rest of her life. The day the man she loved asked her to be his wife. Last evening, he confessed he had something of great importance to discuss with her. What else could he mean but a marriage proposal?
Excitement danced in her veins, and she forced her feet to root in the dirt floor while she chopped vegetables for this evening’s chicken burgoo. Still her mind serenaded her with songs of a golden future. She and Tomás would have a wonderful life together. They’d already chosen the plot of land where they’d build their home, El Castillo de Cielo, the Castle of Heaven. An idyllic place, with plenty of pasture for the horses they’d raise.
The daydream mesmerized her so completely she flinched when a broad arm snaked her waist. The knife fell with a clatter on the cutting board. She whirled.
Her brother’s amused face leaned over hers. “There’s a strange look to you today, Montesita. Do you think, perhaps, Tomás is finally ready to ask for your hand?”
Happiness burst from her in sparks. “I hope so, ‘Lando.”
“‘Tis long past time.” He squeezed her middle tighter than an overlaced corset. “You’ve been walking out for more than a year now.”
“Bah!” her father grumbled from his place at the head of the long dining table. “There’ll be no marriage until this cursed war is ended.”
Struggling from her brother’s embrace, Marisa stamped a foot. “But Papa–”
Papa’s glower cut off her argument more cleanly than her knife cut the turnips. “I won’t have my daughter a widow before she’s scarcely a wife. If Tomás intends to wed you, he must agree to wait until there is peace in this land again.”
Resentment bubbled, and she chopped the vegetables with renewed vigor. “Then I’ll never marry. Tomás will tire of waiting and wed another.”
Mama, stirring the large black pot on the open hearth, clucked her tongue. “Tomás will wait, mi hija. In the meantime, you must practice patience.”
“Patience.” Orlando snorted. “Asking our montesita to practice patience is akin to asking the Red Sticks to practice forgiveness.”
Laughter erupted from the family, and Marisa’s face burned. “Fine for you to say, ‘Lando. You didn’t have to wait to wed Juanita.” Waving the knife, she gestured at her heavily pregnant sister-in-law who sat near the crackling fire, embroidering yellow flowers on a tiny white gown.
Her mother strode to her side, shooing ‘Lando while his finger poised over a carrot slice. “Surely you don’t wish to wed in this makeshift fort, querida, when you might have a much grander affair at home with all your friends and family in attendance.”
“No,” she admitted, eyes downcast. “But it is so hard to wait.”
“Well.” Mama kissed her head. “Since Tomás has not asked you yet, I fear you must continue to wait a bit longer.”
A rhythmic knock on their cabin door sent her heart into spasms.
“I believe her waiting has come to an end,” Orlando quipped and pulled the apron over her head. “Go. Capture your suitor’s heart. Juanita and I will help Mama finish the meal.”
Suddenly breathless, Marisa stole a glance at Juanita and caught her nod. “Of course we will. Go. And return to us a betrothed lady.”
Her delight erupting in a squeal, she hugged her brother, and then raced to open the door. As she expected, Tomás Marquez stood on the other side, looking resplendent in his military uniform. Her heart fluttered. Oh, he was so handsome!
“Buenos días, Marisa.” He stooped to duck his head inside the low doorway and greeted the other occupants.
“Why, Tomás,” Juanita said with a sly grin. “What a surprise to see you today.”
Ruddy color filled the sharp angles of his cheeks. “I thought Marisa would like to walk with me before the noon meal.”
Marisa turned pleading eyes to her father. Don Carlos waved his hand. “Go, but don’t tarry. There’s work to be done.”
Stifling another squeal, she ran to her father’s side and kissed his roughly whiskered cheek. “Gracias, Papa.”
“De nada, Montesita.” He placed a gentle kiss behind her lobe. “May God grant you happiness.”
Hand-in-hand with Tomás, she stepped outside the dark house and waited for her eyes to adjust to the bright sunshine. Around her, a normal day at Fort Mims unfolded. Laughing children skirted cabins near fields that once grew tall stalks of golden corn. Their mamas, hanging wet laundry on ropes strung from wall to wall, kept watch.
Tomás led her through the opened gate into the woods. In perfect silence, they walked along the edge of Tensaw Lake. Senses heightened to record every moment of today’s events, she drank in the heat of a summer afternoon, the tinge of chimney smoke stinging her nostrils. Songbirds scampered over the branches, chirping love calls to their mates. Through the leafy canopy, sunlight dappled the water. The same sparkle glistened in her veins, and a smile rode high on her face as they strode over mossy ground. Tomás’s hand, large and strong, fit so perfectly around her smaller dainty fingers.
At last, he stopped and, bowing, he indicated she sit on a large, flat rock at the lake’s edge.
Eyes intense with liquid fire, he knelt, clasping her fingers in his. Pulses jumped through her, and she tensed in excitement. “Montesita, you know I adore you. I’m not a wealthy man, but if you’d be my wife, I’d be richer than all the kings in this world. Will you be mine, querida?”
Marisa opened her mouth but a warning drum roll boomed over her answer. She had no time to speak again. Hundreds of savages streamed from the woods, brandishing red-painted clubs and whooping. Red Stick Indians!