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Cards & Caravans by Cindy Spencer Pape - Romance>Sci-Fi
Book five of The Gaslight Chronicles
Belinda Danvers isn't a witch. But that won't stop them burning her at the stake...
Connor McKay can tell at a glance that Belinda's magickal powers are minimal at best. She can't be guilty of murdering village children. There's something suspicious about her arrest and lightning-quick sentence. Unfortunately, telling anyone how he knows would mean revealing his own powers. He's been sent by the Order of the Round Table to help and he can't just let her die.
Escaping from jail and running from vindictive villagers in her grandfather's steam-powered caravan is more excitement than Belinda's had in years. And despite the danger--or maybe because of it--she loves the time spent with her sexy rescuer. But there's more to his magick than he's letting on...
There's something going on that's bigger than the two of them. It's time for good to make a stand.
Reader Rating: 4.0 (2 Ratings)
Scottish Lowlands, September 1859
"Guilty as charged on both counts—witchcraft and murder."
Belinda Danvers gasped as the sheriff pronounced the verdict. Her knees tried to buckle, but she refused to swoon in front of these lunatics, even if they hadn't given her anything to eat since breakfast the day before. Crying out her denial was equally pointless. She'd already protested her innocence until her throat was raw. The village elders had decided she was a witch. They'd convinced the sheriff and there was nothing more to be done about it. She listened to the sentencing with nausea roiling through her empty stomach.
"The murder charge will be sent to the High Court of the Justiciary to decide. As witchcraft is a local matter, our judgment on that will take precedence." The sheriff banged his gavel. "The murder charge will be dealt with posthumously. The witch is to be burned at the stake, tomorrow at dawn, in the center of the village green. May God have mercy on her soul."
Don't cower to these jackals. Her head held high, she glared across at Squire MacLellan, the magistrate, who stared back with a snide grin. Alderman Douglas, beside him, radiated nothing but venomous fury. On the alderman's far side, his cousin Mr. Engle looked on with a beatific smile. Here was the man at the root of all this. No one had called her witch in the ten years she'd lived in Shadwick—not until he came. If she had possessed the power to curse a man, he'd have been the one, along with his lecherous cousin and maybe even the pompous squire. She'd have never taken her anger out on innocent townsfolk—especially children. She blinked back a tear at the thought of those three young lives lost during the last month to cholera.
The sheriff, who'd come from Dumfries just to try her, banged his gavel on the wooden table that served as a makeshift bench at the front of the village hall. There was something not quite right about his robes and wig—they were shabbier than she'd have expected and didn't fit properly, which didn't make sense as the sheriff should be a wealthy man. The wig kept slipping down over his left eyebrow. Was he truly the sheriff? And if this was a trial, why hadn't she been given a chance to hire a barrister? Not that there was one in Shadwick, or that anyone here would have represented her anyway.
As the bailiffs—otherwise known as Squire MacLellan's two stoutest footmen—hauled her back to the tiny gaol, the chains around her ankles clanked and weighed her down. She looked out over the sea of faces, people she'd considered friends. People she'd helped with her cough tinctures and burn salves. She'd trusted them, considered herself a part of this community for over a decade.
Now they all looked away. Here in the Scottish borderlands, old beliefs still ran strong. They lived in an era where a telephone could allow a person to speak with someone in London, or a dirigible could take one to Paris in mere hours. But let one minor cholera epidemic sweep the area, and everyone was all too ready to blame the village witch.
As they marched her toward the gaol, she stole a glance at the clock on the village hall. Half past two. Almost teatime. Sunrise would be neither early nor late this close to the autumn equinox. Even giving them some time to bumble about, and a little while for the fire to take her, in less than twenty hours, she'd be dead.
Cards & CaravansBy: Cindy Spencer Pape