THE GODSEND by Sable Hunter: Guest Post
Hello, this is Sable Hunter. Writer of romance. I have 60+ books published, both contemporary and historical. Today, I am hailing you from Austin, Texas where I’m sheltered in place and working on a new book called RENO’S JOURNEY, a western that takes place in the past and in the present. I spent yesterday on a research trip to the setting of the book – Enchanted Rock near Fredericksburg, TX. I went to absorb some atmosphere and to check out a few wildflowers.
I took my mask and I didn’t get out anywhere. I saw very few people. Sometimes, I felt like I was alone in the world.
Isn’t this surreal? What we’re going through? I am no spring chicken, but I know there has been no comparison in my lifetime. The fear. The dying. The sharp financial downturn.
Not that it was unheard of. Things like this have happened before.
I was born late in my parent’s lives as were my parents. So, history seems like yesterday to me. My grandparents were young during the great depression, but I remember hearing the stories of how they and their families made do with little. My pop said, as a teenager, he worked all day for a bushel of sweet potatoes. He also told me how he hid at the corner of a building and watched the bank president load all the money from the vault into the trunk of his car. As one of eight children – and the oldest – he quit school in the third grade to go to work hauling pulpwood. My mother’s family didn’t have it as difficult; her father’s job was secure as a railroad man. Her mother did take in laundry to make ends meet.
They both shared remembrances with me from their grandparents who lived through the 1918 Flu Epidemic when 50 million people died worldwide and around 675,000 lost their lives in the US. Cities were gripped in fear, schools canceled, theaters and churches were closed. Sound familiar? In one month alone, 195,000 US citizens perished. Now, we haven’t reached those numbers yet – and I pray that we don’t. But…it seems to me like we could’ve seen this coming. The possibility. I mean, it is ingrained in us as a society to expect the best and prepare for the worst. That’s why we have insurance – health insurance, home insurance, liability insurance, and LIFE insurance. So – – how could we be so unprepared? Not enough PPE. Not enough ventilators. No plan. So strange to me.
Of course, I’m a weird one. Raised on the Gulf Coast, hurricanes were a part of our life. We knew it wasn’t a matter of IF a storm would come, it was a matter of when. So…we prepared on an annual basis with canned goods, water, generator, boards to cover windows – and an evacuation plan. Heck, when Y2K was purported as a threat, I prepared. I worked for a utility company and I knew how vulnerable things were to computers. I prepared to such an extent that I got a little teed off when it didn’t happen.
But this…this pandemic caught us as a nation and as a world woefully unprepared.
Maybe, this will teach us a lesson and next time we’ll be ready.
Some quotes come to mind:
George Santayana – – Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.
Sydney J. Harris – – History repeats itself, but in such cunning disguise that we never detect the resemblance until the damage is done.
And my favorite from George Bernard Shaw… If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.
This week is set aside as SAFETY AT WORK WEEK. Wow. That got me thinking. I have several family members who are ‘essential’ workers. They have been in contact with people this whole time as store clerks and health workers. I have done my best to keep them safe with my meager and possibly fruitless efforts of: prayer, candle lighting, homemade masks, gloves, and antiviral oils for them to inhale – – yea, I know – unproven. But they can’t hurt when you don’t have anything else to fall back on.
I hope we’re thankful for this frontline of people who have braved contagion to keep the world going even at its lowest ebb. Especially the doctors and nurses who work tirelessly, sometimes with little protection- and even pay cuts. Unimaginable.
Talking about history repeating itself – and getting around to linking this tirade with one of my books, our nation has faced hells like this several times. Small pox. Cholera. Yellow fever. Scarlet Fever. Typhoid Fever.
Yet, we have been a resilient people. There are always those better angels who will step up and face the devil. Taking care of the sick and the dying with little fear for their own safety. Heroes and heroines.
I wrote about one of those heroines in my book THE GODSEND.
Jolie Dumas has been torn from the only home she has ever known. The beloved daughter of a plantation owner and his quadroon mistress, she is horrified to be sold into slavery after the death of her parents. Bought and paid for, she is chained and walked from New Orleans to Texas. Before she can be delivered to her new master, the slave trader is killed and Jolie escapes. Alone and vulnerable, she seeks a safe place to hide, not knowing the sanctuary she finds may end up being the one place she truly belongs. The haven Jolie finds is with a kind-hearted man, Austin McCoy. He has carved a home out of the wilderness of Texas where his nearest neighbor is more than two days’ journey through Indian territory alive with bear, cougar and wolves. When Austin opens his heart and home to the beautiful woman, he has no idea of her past or the future she faces.
This couple have many adventures in their journey to love, but one of the things they face is an epidemic. Jolie is uniquely equipped to deal with this horror because she was raised by a woman who taught her how to draw aid from the earth’s bounty. Herbs. Roots. And a touch of magic…
Here’s an excerpt – not a hot, romantic spot, but something that is a bit timely. It’s a little long, but I post it in honor of the doctors and nurses who are putting their lives on the line to help others.
“Are you the doctor?” one woman asked, running alongside the buckboard.
“I have come to help,” Jolie assured, reaching out to touch her hand.
Austin was glad to see Father Miguel coming toward them. He had no desire to meet up with Father de Leon anytime soon.
“Thank you for coming,” Father Miguel said. “When I learned the woman that the Indians described to me was the one you had told us about, I could see the hand of God in all of this.”
“I hope so, Padre,” Austin muttered as he slowed the wagon down and moved to an area where he could make camp.
“More have died. We are ready to do whatever this gracious woman tells us to do.” Father Miguel assisted Jolie from the wagon.
Austin helped unload the things Jolie had brought to work with. “She’ll do what she can, Father. Please don’t hang all your hopes on her, this disease is a plague that seems to come and go at will.”
“We are praying to God that Jolie can help. In my village, back in Mexico, my mother used herbs. Even the doctor spoke of this, he was willing to try anything.” Father Miguel filled his arms with Jolie’s supplies, leading them through the mission yard toward the chapel.
“What does the town doctor think of all this?” Austin asked, concerned. “Is he up and about yet?”
Father Miguel shook his head sorrowfully. “He died yesterday.”
The priest’s news set a solemn tone. Jolie didn’t hesitate. She directed Austin and the others to bring plenty of fresh water. The fever stripped the body of liquids, and while some found it hard to keep anything down, she’d been taught by her grandmere how important getting as much water as possible into the patient could be.
The pews in the chapel were pushed against the wall and row after row of pallets were laid out on the floor. Family members hovered near some of the patients, unwilling to leave their loved ones despite the danger. Jolie understood. “Hello,” she spoke to a few of them. “I am ready to start passing out medicine.” Several rose to assist her. They didn’t stop to exchange pleasantries or learn one another’s names. Those things would come later.
As she worked, Jolie was conscious of the whispers around her. A blush rose in her cheeks. She ignored it and them. From one patient to another she moved, bathing their faces, giving them herbs mixed with water, saying her prayers and begging the gods for healing.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Austin whispered, hunkering down next to her while she tended a small child who was burning up with fever.
“Neither have I,” Jolie agreed. “I would feel better if you kept your distance. I worry about you.”
“And you think I don’t worry about you?” Austin argued. “If I had my way, someone else would be doing what you’re doing and I’d have you home safe and sound.”
She smiled sadly. “There is no one else to help.”
Austin knew she was right, but it didn’t change how he felt.
A few days later, they had settled into some semblance of a routine. Austin stood outside, taking a break from chopping wood for the eternal fires needed to heat water and provide food. He looked around, amazed at the variety of people who came together in one place – some sick, some helping, some grieving. There were Mexicans, Spaniards, Anglos, and Indians. The community was rallying. Those who hadn’t been exposed, stayed some distance away, but they still came, hauling supplies or bringing those who had newly come down with the fever.
A familiar voice made him jerk around. “Antonio!”
Seeing his friend riding up on his favorite black stallion made him smile.
“Word reached me that you and your lady are playing angels of mercy to the fallen and downtrodden.”
“Yes, fortunately or unfortunately, however you’re a mind to look at it.” Austin couldn’t help but notice Antonio wasn’t alone. Sitting behind him on the saddle was a very comely Indian woman. “You’re well?” he asked with concern.
“Yes.” He reached behind him and helped the girl swing down. “My friend, Austin McCoy, this is Ama. She tells me she knows your Jolie.”
Austin almost asked how, when it hit him that she was one of the ones who’d come to Jolie initially for help. “Ma’am.” He took off his hat and nodded his head. “It’s good to know you. My wife speaks highly of you.”
“Mr. McCoy.” She gave him a demure smile. “Word of Jolie’s gift has traveled.”
“Yes, much faster than I would’ve thought possible.”
He led Antonio to where his own wagon and horse were located. “I’ll be glad to offer you coffee or some water after your ride.”
“Gracias.” The Mexican removed his black hat, the silver coins decorating the headband shone in the winter sun. “I am weary. Have you heard the talk?”
Austin shook his head. Before he could answer, Ama whispered to Antonio and he nodded, gesturing toward the Mission. “Go ahead. I’ll be here.” The Indian maiden hurried off. “She wants to see Jolie.”
“You’ll find her inside the chapel.” He pointed Ama in the right direction. “Antonio, the talk around here is mostly about this damn plague. What do you mean?” He poured two tin cups of coffee and handed one to his friend.
“I heard when Stephen F. Austin was asked for help by Edwards and Palmer, his words were, ‘You are deluding yourselves and this delusion will ruin you.’”
“That’s a pretty pointed answer.”
“I also hear Ellis is still negotiating with Chief Fields. They are promising the Indians a land grant if they follow proper procedures.”
“I hope they’re telling them the truth.” Austin kept his eye on the chapel door. Every time a new person arrived, he held his breath in case the person had come to drag her away from him. “What else have you heard?”
“I hear the Mexicans are preparing to retaliate.”
Austin motioned toward the Stone Fort. “There’s not really anything going on. I hate to see war break out now.”
“I think they’re trying to prevent something from happening. My sources tell me Lt. Colonel Mateo Ahumada is marching here with over a hundred infantry. A friend was in the presence of Mr. Stephen Austin when Ahumada stopped to evaluate the loyalty of his settlers. They tell me Stephen announced to his followers that ‘an infatuated madman in Nacogdoches has declared independence’. Many of his colony joined Ahumada, volunteering to assist him in quelling this rebellion.”
“So, how many are coming and when will they get here?” Austin intended to have Jolie safely out of Nacogdoches if it was in his power to do so.
“Two hundred fifty more have joined the Mexicans.”
“Damn. This isn’t looking good.” Austin worried, wiping sweat from his brow even though a frigid wind was blowing. “We can only fight two battles at a time and the plague has to have priority.”
“I agree.” Antonio drained his cup and held it out for a refill.
“Will you fight?”
“Yes, I will fight against the Fredonians. I have much to lose. I must travel home to return Ama to her tribe, but I shall return.”
Austin understood. He had much to lose too – and what he valued most had nothing to do with land.
Inside the chapel, Jolie arranged linens on the floor for yet another patient. She’d just been informed a woman and her two children were being brought in.
Jolie instantly recognized the voice. Standing, she scanned the crowd with a seeking gaze. “Ama!” She ran to greet her new-found friend. “You are well!”
“I am.” They hugged. “Tsula survived also. We lost several, but the medicine you gave me and the prayers we offered staved off many deaths.”
“What are you doing here?” She glanced around. “Did you bring someone who needs help?”
“No. I am here with a friend of your husband’s. Antonio de Chireno. He is my friend also.”
Jolie didn’t question the implications; she was too glad to find out the tribe’s good fortune. “Word of our efforts reached the Padre’s ears. That’s why I am here.”
“Inola spoke of you to anyone who would listen, so I am not surprised. Even the elders know of you. Inola wants to learn more from you.”
“I’d like that,” Jolie sighed. “I’m so worried,” she confided to Ama. “Austin is here with me and we have left his farm unattended. The animals are loose and I’m afraid he’ll have no home to go back to.”
Ama listened. “I will tell Antonio.”
Jolie shook her head. “No, I’m not asking for help,” she sighed. “I’m just fretting.” Spreading her hands, she indicated all of those around her. “There is so much to do. I feel at a loss sometimes.”
“Well, I am here now. Until it is time for me to go, let me help.”
Despite Jolie’s efforts, some died. They were too far gone by the time she arrived for her efforts to have any effect. Austin hated when Jolie was blamed. The people were clinging to any hope they could find and most had pinned their hopes on her. Talk of who she was or might be, where she had come from and any powers she might possess snaked through the crowd like a slithering serpent.
Austin feared for her. People were known to turn on what they didn’t understand.
But none turned away her aid. Desperation tore away hesitation.
One week bled into two. Father Miguel held Masses to pray. The mood was somber, but no one wanted to ignore the opportunity to appeal to their God.
All the time, Austin stood nearby. Watching. Guarding. Ready to intervene if needed. When he would go to rest, Austin slept fitfully. How could he slumber peacefully when the woman he loved slept not at all? He’d begged her to stop and sleep, to allow him to care of her, but she’d refused to leave her patients, pressing on in spite of her weariness. Reserves of strength rose within her; from where, Austin didn’t know. He’d loved her before, but now that love was enhanced by awe at her strength and compassion. She’d left slavery behind, yet here she was serving others without hesitation or qualm. It was probably wrong to be selfish at times like this, but he was far more worried about Jolie than he was the people she was working so hard to save. If anything happened to her he’d have no reason to go on living.
As the hours wore on, thankfully, some of the sick seemed to improve. This blessing altered not only the atmosphere of the room but the attitude of everyone involved. Their tenuous grasp on hope changed everything.
Inside the Mission’s sanctuary, Jolie held a bowl of broth to Celeste Pierce’s mouth. “Just one more sip, Mrs. Pierce. You’re doing so much better.”
The woman complied. “Thank you, Jolie. Have you seen my husband?”
Jolie smiled, thankful that the woman was going to make it. “Yes, he’s right outside. Would you like me to fetch him for you?”
She nodded. “Yes, I am worried about my cat. I want him to go check on her.”
“I’ll do it,” she said with a smile. For some, the worst was over. Unfortunately, more sick people arrived every day.
“You are an angel.” Father Miguel spoke behind her as she stood at the door, looking for Mr. Pierce. “I am truly thankful to God that he brought you to us.”
Jolie smiled weakly. “You are very welcome.” Seeing Mr. Pierce, she relayed his wife’s message. Taking a moment, she held a hand to her eyes, gazing in the distance, trying to catch a glimpse of Austin.
Jolie was drained. Also, her suspicions had been confirmed. She was with child. Fear for her baby had dampened her joy. She was thankful for the improvement she saw, but the worry of contracting the illness herself and the cost the days of toiling without sufficient rest was taking on her body – these were a high price to pay. “I am glad to have been of service. I hope we’ll be able to go home soon.”
“The people are falling in love with you,” the priest assured her. “There is no greater calling than to be willing to lay down your life for your friends.”
Jolie knew there’d been a risk to her and their child. Still, she held onto her grandmere’s words with both hands, having faith that the sickness did not seem to find a grip on her people. Of course, she could not reveal this. To her neighbors, she appeared to be white, like them. For Austin’s safety, as well as her own, she could not afford to do anything that would make them think otherwise.
“I think the worst is over,” Jolie said, turning back into the chapel. “We’re seeing fewer new illnesses and the rate of death has dropped dramatically. I’m hoping the plague is playing itself out.”
“I pray you are right, Senorita.” Father Miguel clasped her arm. “There is no doubt of one thing, God has used you in a mighty way. I’m just sorry you and Mr. McCoy were told you could not marry in the church. I felt so helpless when Father de Leon told him and even more so now that I have had a chance to get to know you.”
The priest’s confession stunned Jolie. “Austin asked Father de Leon to perform a wedding ceremony?”
“Yes, I am so sorry he said no.” Father Miguel spread his hands. “The law and the church makes no allowance for marriage between…”
“Hey! Is this you?”
Both Jolie and the priest wheeled around to find a man waving a piece of paper.
Austin, who’d just come into the sanctuary to see if he could entice Jolie to come eat some soup saw what was going on and almost went to his knees in anguish. The man held the wanted poster in his hand.
Jolie shook her head. “I’m not sure what you’re saying.”
Austin moved across the room toward them. He’d kept this information to himself, not speaking of it to Jolie at all. With the Yellow Fever epidemic raging, he’d hoped talk would die down about the missing slaves. The thought had even crossed his mind to go through town and tear down those hated wanted posters. Now, he wished he had. To see a man standing in front of her flaunting something that was going to steal her peace of mind made him furious. “Jolie!” he shouted, letting her know he was coming.
Father Miguel tried to intervene. “Sir, this is a place of healing. You need to leave.”
“No!” The man pushed closer to Jolie. “I’ve heard talk. You showed up at the home of that Tennessean’s house about the time these slaves went missing. They found one of them dead and a bear killed the trader…but they never discovered what happened to the other two.” He stared at the sketch. “This could be you.” He stared at her. “You don’t look much like a darkie, but I’ve heard tell Louisiana is full of half-breeds and mulattos.” The bewhiskered man with two teeth and a rank body odor smiled triumphantly. “A man representing Mr. Thomas Garrett is in town. I think I’m going to let him know where you are and earn myself a little reward.”
Jolie felt her world crumbling around her. She would’ve fallen backwards if Austin hadn’t reached her and placed a supporting arm around her waist.
“Take your stupid poster and get out of here! Back off and leave her alone!”
The man held up his hands. “Oh, I’m not going to touch the slave. I don’t want to get my hands dirty.”
Austin released Jolie and lunged at the man. Father Miguel stepped between them. “This is a house of God!”
With a sneer, the interloper backed away. “Don’t worry. I’ll be back. And I won’t be coming alone.”
Jolie sank to her knees, bowing her head. “It’s over. Everything’s over.” She wrapped her arms around herself, hugging tightly. There was nothing anyone could do. No law in the world would protect her and she didn’t want Austin losing his life to stand between her and a force neither could resist.
“Hell, no. This isn’t over.” Coming to her, he lifted her up. “You do not belong on your knees. Hold up your head, you have nothing to be ashamed of.” Glancing around the room at the people Jolie had helped, Austin felt desperate. There was no one here to stand with him. “We’ll go. We’ll just leave.” He took her by the hand, ready to guide her out and make a run for it.
“Where would we go?” Jolie demanded. “We can’t just go on the run.”
Releasing her hand, Austin stalked back and forth, tearing his hat from his head and pulling on his own hair. “Father, what can we do?”
Father Miguel beheld this couple who’d faithfully served their fellow man. “We pray…and we stand up for what is right.”
Austin nodded, pulling Jolie against him. “Don’t you worry one second. I won’t let anyone harm one hair on your head.” He had no idea whether or not he could keep his promise, but he did know he’d die trying.
In the next hour, Jolie tried to ignore what was happening. She tended to her patients, conscious that Austin and the Padre had gone into the village, trying to find those who would aid him in standing up to whoever was coming for her. To her, this was a futile act. The law was not on their side and she would never wish anyone to die to save her.
When Austin came to check on her, Jolie was almost too embarrassed to look at him. “Did you know about the wanted posters?” It had taken her a while to settle down and realize Austin hadn’t acted surprised, only angry.
“Yes.” Austin answered evenly. “I saw them on my trip here.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” She bit back a cry, dashing tears from her face. “I could have…”
“What? Left me?” Austin grabbed her arms to make her look at him.
“I didn’t want it to be this way. I could have…” She shook her head in sorrow.
“Stayed away? I know you, Jolie Dumas. You would’ve come to help these people no matter the cost to yourself.”
“It’s all over now, anyway. They’ll be here soon.”
“Let them come.” Austin proclaimed. “We’re ready for them.”
“We?” Jolie didn’t understand.
“You’ve stood up for these people, now it’s their turn to stand up for you.” He led her to the double door of the sanctuary, pointing out into the yard of the mission. To Jolie’s shock, a line of armed men stood ready and waiting.
To fight for her.
Thank you for reading. To anyone who has not read my work and would like to try it, please tell me in a comment below and I’ll see about sending you a gift.
Stay safe and well.
GODSEND at Amazon
Sable Hunter is a New York Times, USA Today bestselling author of nearly 60 books in 9 series. She writes sexy contemporary stories full of emotion and suspense. Her focus is mainly cowboy and novels set in Louisiana with a hint of the supernatural. Her aim is to write a story that will make you laugh, cry and swoon. If she can wring those emotions from a reader, she has done her job. Welcome to her world of magic, alpha heroes, sexy cowboys and hot, steamy to-die-for sex. Step into the shoes of her heroines and escape to places where right prevails, love conquers all and holding out for a hero is not an impossible dream.
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Godsend is one of my favorites of your books. I just love it. ❤️
Thank you, Christine – I enjoyed writing it. I visited the Old Stone Fort in Nacogdoches and the library at the University there to read many old documents. I felt connected to the characters in a way I usually don’t.