Join me in welcoming our guest author — Nicole McCaffrey
When I was little, one of my favorite summer activities was helping my grandmother tend the family graves. We’d plant flowers, pull weeds and talk about who it was we were looking after—her mother, her grandmother, her great grandmother, and share what stories she remembered about them. While my grandmother fussed over bulbs and pulled trespassing dandelions, I’d wander around, marveling at the grand monuments and reading names and dates as far back as the 1700s. Even at a very young age I recall being conscious of the fact that these weren’t just “dead people” (my sister’s words, she usually preferred to stay in the car since the cemetery gave her the willies) they were lives that had been lived, stories that had come to an end. It was sad to see the suffering families had endured, the losses they’d suffered, yet peaceful to realize they were all reunited forever.
Today tending to the graves of loved ones is a lost art, something few people bother with. But I believe my love for history and desire to tell stories set in the past began right there in that little family plot. Once or twice a year I force my two boys (a teen and a tween) to set down the Xbox controllers and go walking through the past with me. I tell them the same stories my grandma shared with me and we wander around and look at all the old stones and challenge one another to find the one with the oldest date.
Now that you know about my interest in old things and history it will probably come as no surprise that on my regular weekly drive to critique group meetings, I’d slow down as I drove past an old abandoned Greek revival style house. Sometimes I’d pull in the driveway just for a few minutes and wonder at the stories those walls would tell if they could. As any writer knows, the moment you do that, the “what if’s” start whispering through your brain.
Before long, those what if’s were turning into a story that wouldn’t leave me alone. What if someone from this century was remodeling an old house and found themselves coming face to face with another time? Who would they meet? The ghost of someone who lived there—or would they meet the actual resident in the flesh?
But I didn’t want to write a ‘run of the mill’ time travel, like so many I’ve read, where the heroine gets hit on the head and wakes up in another century. No, I wanted my hero to be the one to go back, and take all his 21st century attitude and gadgets with him. And despite “my” house being here in the north, I confess to a yearning for the gentle, lazy days of the old south that led me to set the story there instead.
So now I had a setting and a hero, but who would he find when he traveled back in time? Part of my reasoning in setting the story in the south was my interest in Civil War spies. I’m fascinated by the stories of Rose O’Neal Greenhow and Belle Boyd and the lengths they went to for their country—all at a time when the men in charge assumed a silly li’l ol woman could never do something so crafty. So I decided my heroine should be a spy—and just to keep things interesting, I borrowed from Rose O’Neal Greenhow’s life and had my heroine under house arrest, spying right under the nose of a Union general.
And so This Moment in Time was born—with one special twist. Instead of traveling back in time and staying put, my hero is able to go back and forth– only he doesn’t know how it happens and each time it does, he has no idea if it will be the last time. Meanwhile, he’s done some research on the lady spy who lived in his house and knows she will soon be discovered and executed for her crimes. He’s desperate to save her, but she’s only interested in saving the Confederacy.
Because my publisher was specifically requesting short stories, This Moment in Time is only 20k words and as one who usually writes full length stories, that was a real challenge! But Jamie and Josette, my characters, basically took over the story and told it their way. I hope, if this is something outside your normal reading comfort zone, you’ll give their story a chance.
If I get five or more comments today, I’ll be giving away a code for a free Audible download of This Moment in Time and if I get ten or more comments, I’ll also give away a PDF. So here is a challenge question for you to answer in your comments:
Some might find it weird that I walk around old cemeteries and read old stones, jotting down names I like or that speak to me. What’s something weird that you do in the name of research?
The blurb, links for This Moment in Time are below as well as one of my favorite scenes from the book. I’ve also included a little sneak peek of my upcoming release Northern Temptress.
Not even captivity can sway Southern widow Josette Beaumont from spying for the Confederacy. Under the nose of the Union army, she willingly risks her life to pass information to her sources. Until a stranger appears in her bedroom one day with a cryptic message: stop spying or you’ll die. She has no reason to believe his warnings about the future, but his company is the only solace in her long days of imprisonment and his friendship quickly comes to mean so much more. If only she could make the sacrifice he asks of her…
To hell with history, real estate mogul Jamie D’Alessandro has no intention of saving the historic mansion he’s purchased, even if it is the home of a famous Confederate spy. But when he steps into an upstairs bedroom of the old house, time suddenly shifts, bringing him face to face with a very beautiful and irate Southern lady. Against his will he’s drawn into her cause–to save the Confederacy. But Jamie has a cause of his own. According to his research the lady spy has only days to live. Should he change history to save the woman he loves–or sacrifice life in his own century to be with her for This Moment in Time?
By the dim glow of propane lanterns, Jamie unrolled the sleeping bag and spread it on the floor. His flight had arrived late, and he’d gotten lost on the way to the house. It was dusk by the time he arrived. He’d have to wait until morning to fully explore Beaumont House and the grounds around it.
He rubbed his arms against the chill of the spring night. Fortunately, he’d never minded roughing it. In fact, sitting here in this abandoned house, with only the sound of his own breathing for company, he was more content than he’d ever been in his multi-level New York penthouse. No servants tiptoeing about, no cell phone buzzing, no financial advisors dropping by for hours-long discussions.
Maybe he’d have a look around before night fully took over the house. He hadn’t actually stepped foot inside before, had merely relied on the findings of his reconstruction team. But now, flashlight in hand, the narrow beam of light lit upon yellowed paint, peeling wallpaper and architectural detail the likes of which were rarely seen these days. He stepped closer, studying the intricate molding on the fireplace and ran his fingers along the smooth, cold surface. It would need more than stripping and refinishing to restore it, but the wood felt solid beneath his fingertips.
Stepping back, he drew the light up to reveal the crown molding along the ceiling. He’d need a ladder and full daylight to get a good look at it, but the idea of working with his hands again—getting them dirty, as Len said—filled him with an excitement that renewed his spirit in a way it hadn’t been in a long time.
The light glinted off the top of a framed painting. He lowered the beam, illuminating the portrait. A woman with dark hair and smoldering dark eyes. A modest hint—downright puritan by today’s standards—of pale bosom peeked over the ruffled bodice of a white dress. Somehow that hint of creamy flesh seemed more forbidden—sexier — than any modern woman he’d ever seen. There was something prim and ladylike about her that made it feel wrong to stare at her like that. Was this the famous spy? Her name escaped him, but he made a mental note to learn more about her.
A loud thump from the second floor caught his attention. His heart leaped to his throat, and for a moment, he felt like a scared kid in a haunted house. He shook his head, chuckling at himself. The house had been locked up tight since the renovation team had come through to inspect it, there was no one around. Probably a rodent or critter had gotten inside. Still, he had no intention of spending the night listening to the scratching and thumping of a wild animal.
He shone the flashlight ahead of him until he found the winding, elegant staircase that led to the second floor. Common sense
warned him not to trust the stairs; the old house was full of wood rot. But curiosity got the better of him and he tested the first step before putting his full weight on it, and the next, and the next. Fully expecting to go through the boards and land on his ass, he continued the same tenuous journey until he reached the second floor.
Amazed he’d actually made it, he gave a quick glance behind him, then began to move around the second story. Shining the light upward, he saw the staircase continued to a third floor, but wasn’t about to push his luck any further.
He paused, waiting until he heard the scratching again. With the beam of light at his feet to illuminate the floor, he took slow, cautious steps, following the sound. As he drew closer to the sound he paused, wondering if he should have brought something for protection. What if the creature was rabid?
Stepping fully into the room where he’d heard the noises, he paused to appreciate the huge windows that overlooked the valley. They didn’t make houses like this anymore, and while he had nothing but the utmost appreciation for the trappings of modern society, he had to admit, there was something about the way they built things a couple of centuries ago. They didn’t need high tech gadgets and expensive fabrics to scream wealth and elegance. It was right here in the architecture.
Forgetting himself for a moment, he stepped across the room. The loud groan of a floorboard caused him to freeze, wondering if the floor could support him. The banging now came from behind him. Heart suddenly pounding, he whirled. A door—to a closet, perhaps?— rattled insistently. He swallowed. He’d never believed in ghosts, had laughed off any notion that they existed. So what the hell was this?
As he stood there, a cold draft of air swirled about his feet. Wasn’t it supposed to get really cold when a ghost appeared? No, no, he wouldn’t allow his imagination to take him there. Dammit, he was James D’Alessandro III; he’d never allowed anyone or anything to intimidate him. It would take more than an abandoned old house to spook him.
On silent feet, he crossed the room to the door, mentally counting—one, two… three. He yanked it open. His breath left him in a relieved exhale. Nothing stood behind it. The cold breeze continued, whistling through a broken window. The branch of a tree had long since grown inside and as the wind blew, it scratched against the wall. A gust must have blown the door shut; that was probably the bang he’d heard from downstairs.
He took another deep breath to help slow his heart rate. While he was out gathering tools tomorrow, he’d have to get something to put over the window. He’d never get any rest with that door thumping all night long, and the air blowing inside would only make the house colder.
Chuckling at his own ridiculous fear, he started to turn. A voice—not the howling of the wind this time— and the sudden sensation of warmth at his back stilled him.
“Honestly, Sebastian, he can’t keep me locked up here much longer. I’ll go mad.”
A woman? She sounded calm, perhaps a little angry.
“Drat it, now I’ve lost count.” A heavy sigh followed. “The last I remember was twenty strokes, I’ll have to start over from there.”
Heart back in his throat, he turned just enough to glance over his shoulder. The first thing to greet him were the windows—the very same windows he’d admired moments ago. Only they were now adorned with white lace. To the left, a warm fire crackled in the fireplace, casting a golden glow across the gleaming hardwood floor. And directly in front of him, a dark gray cat lay sprawled across an ornate four poster bed, calmly grooming itself. It paused, tongue in mid stroke and stared up at him with curious green eyes.
“Twenty one. Twenty two. Twenty…”
Swallowing, he forced his gaze from the cat to the source of the voice. A woman sat at a vanity, tugging a brush through long, dark hair. In the mirror, he watched as her gaze moved from her reflection. To him. She let out a gasp. The brush fell from her hand. She whirled on her seat to face him.
“Wh—who are you?”
She could see him!
When the Civil War arrives on her door step, Gettysburg doctor Alexandra Winters uses her knowledge of medicine to help the wounded. When an uncommonly handsome rebel officer finds her tending the wounded in his battlefield, he takes her for a spy until she confesses her darkest secret; her brother fights for the south. He vows to find her brother and insists on escorting her home. But Alexa already has enough gossip attached to her name thanks to a scandalous divorce; she doesn’t need to be seen keeping company with the enemy at a late hour.
Major Caleb McKenna, CSA, has grown weary of war and bloodshed. Dreams of glory and valor are long gone, as is the memory of his beloved fiancee back home in Georgia. Try as he might, he can’t recall her face. Instead, it’s the bewitching image of Alexa Winters that haunts his every thought. Her stubborn refusal to show weakness is put to the test when he brings news of her missing brother. His attempt to comfort the stoic beauty quickly engulfs them in a firestorm of passion, leaving Caleb torn between a promise made to the gentle belle awaiting his return – and an emerald-eyed, jet-haired Northern temptress.
When the major is gravely wounded, Alexa comes to his aide. Hiding a Confederate officer in a house filled with recuperating Union soldiers is risky… and fighting their growing passion is a battle they can’t afford to lose.
He stroked a thumb over the moisture on her cheeks. “Alexa,” he sighed. “Don’t cry.”
Her hot tears spilled over his thumb.
“He was so calm, so much braver than I’d have been.”
Edwards had been like a brother to him, he’d felt every damn bit as helpless when his friend had been hit. “I shouldn’t have put you through it.”
“There was nothing I could do for him.” Her voice was raw with pain and exhaustion.
He pulled her into his arms, needing to comfort her and needing comfort himself.
She held herself rigid for several moments before settling her head on his shoulder. “I’m sorry. I don’t usually give in to such feminine displays.”
“I won’t tell a soul.”
He gently stroked her back, keenly aware that only a thin cotton barrier stood between her flesh and his palms. A tangle of emotion tore through him, and like her, he fought against the need to give in to the grief gnawing at him.
“It was my fault. I ordered the men forward.”
“You were following orders.” She relaxed against him a bit more. “It’s no one’s fault.”
He nuzzled her hair, breathed in the lingering aroma of lilacs. For the rest of his days, he’d associate that heavenly smell with Alexa Winters. “I hate this damn war.”
She raised her head from his shoulder, and though shadowy leaves dappled her face, making it impossible to clearly see her, he could feel her gaze on him.
Without a thought, he brushed his lips against her forehead, intending only to comfort her as he would his sisters. The teasing smell of those damn lilacs and a scent that was uniquely Alexa filled his nostrils. Tormented by the soft curves pressed against him, his manhood roared to fully erect. A dizzying sensation enveloped him, urging him to move closer, hold her tighter. He forced aside the thoughts even as he struggled against the demands of his body.
“Alexa,” he whispered against her ear. “I came here tonight with honorable intentions.”
She turned toward him, the movement bringing her face into close contact with his lips. “A-and now?”
He stroked her cheek with the back of his fingers. “God help me, right now all I can think about is kissing you.”
Northern Temptress will be available this summer as part of TWRP’s KDP select program.
If it’s possible to be born a writer, then I most likely was. I’d probably have started sooner if there had been pen and paper available in the womb! But for as long as I can remember, I have heard voices in my head. Fortunately for me, they’re all characters—begging me to tell their stories.
I’ve been married to Peter, my best friend, for fifteen years, and am a work-at-home mom with two busy boys ages thirteen and ten. When I’m not working, writing, or buried nose-deep in a research book, chances are I’m baking, gardening, or just kicking back and hanging with my guys.
Please visit my website for or news on my latest releases, reviews and excerpts of my published work and sneak peeks at upcoming releases.
Thanks Nicole for joining us today and sharing about your two great stories. We look forward to hearing more about your books.