Mandy Foster regrets her past. If anyone discovers her secret, tradition dictates she will be shunned. She’s determined to guard her heart, even if it means a lifetime alone.
Breaking from the Land’s tradition, carpenter Levi Colburn is building his house outside the village—across the road from Mandy Foster to be exact. Though he hopes to marry Mandy someday, she rejected him once and has been unattainable to every man in the village ever since. When rebels tear through Good Springs and abduct Mandy, it’s up to Levi to find her. But will she accept the tender care of the one man who truly loves her?
Book Two in the ground-breaking Uncharted series, Uncharted Redemption weaves dramatic new layers into life in the Land.
Uncharted Redemption is available now in paperback, ebook, and audiobook
Levi Colburn hammered a nail into the frame of a house that would end seven generations of family tradition. He straightened his back and surveyed the four completed wall frames—all of which lay flat on the ground, begging to be raised. Ready to see the frame of his house upright, he tied a rope to the top of each wall. Wiping the sweat from his forehead, he glanced at the angle of the morning sun and then at the road through the clearing at the front of his property. Everett was late.
Levi dropped his hammer onto the building site’s leveled ground and stared at the road. He needed Everett’s help to raise the frame but loathed the thought of waiting any longer. As he paced the subfloor, he calculated the logistics of completing the task by himself. If he could get the frame up and the roof on, he could be sleeping in the small house in a matter of days.
He walked across his cleared property to the road to look for Everett. Stagnant air left the usually rustling gray leaf trees still. Without a steady ocean breeze, he found the gray leaf’s pleasant but medicinal aroma potent. He intended to complete his house before the end of the austral summer, so he had to continue the job with or without help—or a breeze. After a quick glance toward the Fosters’ sheep farm, he decided Everett was either too busy or had simply forgotten his promise to help lift the heavy frames. Either way, Levi could not wait another day.
The Fosters’ dog scampered down from its place on the front steps of their farmhouse and bounded to Levi with its tail wagging. He ignored the dog’s giddy greeting and looked down the road toward the village of Good Springs. After confirming his solitude, he turned and walked back to the wall frames on his property.
He surveyed the pieces that would soon form the skeleton of his long-awaited home. Then he looked at the muddy dog licking his boots. “Well, Shep, if I’m meant to live here alone, I can raise the frame alone.” The dog stopped following him and whimpered. He took it as a challenge and marched toward the wall frames. Determined to see his house built, he snatched his hammer from the dust and slipped it through his belt loop. He drew two long planks from a high stack of lumber and carried the wood to the first wall. With a row of nails trapped between his lips, he bent to the grounded frame and hammered the support boards into place.
Confident in his bodily strength, he slid his hands into a pair of leather work gloves and gathered the ropes attached to the top of the wall’s frame. He wrapped the left rope around his left hand and the right rope around his right hand. Gripping the ropes, he walked backward in incremental steps and pulled with steady force until the wall was upright. He moved quickly to the center of the skeletal wall and drove nails through the frame and into the subfloor below. Then he reinforced the wall from the other side.
His pride at conquering the first wall added a slight swagger to his gait as he walked to the lumber stack. He repeated the process on the opposite wall of his new home. While raising the second wall, the muscles in his shoulders burned in protest of such a great demand. He stopped his work after securely bolstering the second wall and stretched his neck deep to one side and then to the other.
As he caught his breath through parted lips, he studied the long wall that would be the back of his house. He mentally gauged its weight while he drew a handkerchief from his trouser pocket. Wiping his face, he looked at the road again and hoped to see Everett Foster.
Still alone—and still determined—Levi secured four pieces of support lumber to the long wall. With his back to the road, he wrapped the ropes around his gloved hands. He imagined the house’s frame complete and conjured every ounce of strength he could to lift the wall from the ground. His muscles strained and trembled as the wall inched away from the dirt. The ropes squeezed tighter around his hands. The wall barely climbed halfway to an upright position when the rope in his right hand snapped. The skewed weight on the other rope jerked it from his hand, pulling the glove off and ripping a chunk of his palm along with it.
He clutched his torn hand to his chest and blew out a growl of pain. The wall frame bounced once when it hit the ground and sent dirt flying into the air. Blood flowed from his hand and dripped between his fingers. He pulled his shirt over his head and wrapped it around his bloody hand. The cloth of the shirt immediately absorbed the warm sticky blood. He stepped off the subfloor and moved toward the road; his stiff breath was stunted by the shock of searing pain.
As he approached the clearing, he saw Mandy Foster standing on the road in front of his property. Shep raced to her, but she did not look at the dog. Her mouth gaped and her green eyes protruded as she stared at his blood-soaked bandage. “Levi!”
Mandy was the last person Levi wanted to see in his current condition. He groaned and wondered if she had witnessed the actions that led to the injury, but he was too preoccupied with physical pain to feel embarrassment. No doubt the barbed blanket of humiliation would be waiting to cover him when the pain subsided.
Mandy ran and met him before he reached the road. “What happened to you?”
He ignored her question, wanting her to go away as much as he wanted her to come closer. He stopped walking and peeled the fabric back from his hand to wrap it tighter. She touched his arm as she looked at his wounded palm. “You have to go to Lydia.”
“It’s just the skin.”
“No, your flesh is torn. You need stitches.”
She was right, but he would not admit it aloud. He struggled with the shirt he was using as a bandage and moaned at the thought of going to his sister for help, even if she were the village’s only doctor. Though the pain’s grip was beginning to lessen, the intense throb of his torn hand made his pulse ring in his ears. He sucked in a breath to speak. “No. If my father sees me wounded from working on the house alone, I will never hear the end of it.”
“Lydia is probably in her cottage. Your father may not see you go to her.” She reached for the bloodied shirt then rewrapped his hand with enough pressure to slow the trickle of blood. He wondered if the blood bothered her and watched her face. She glanced at his bare chest then up at his eyes. Her finely arched brows pulled together. “How did this happen? You weren’t raising the walls alone, were you?”
He was not sure which was worse: ripping his hand open or being questioned by the coquette who once rejected him. He snapped his wounded hand away from her and trudged down the road toward the village. When she caught up and walked beside him, he sighed audibly. “I don’t need a chaperone.”
Her long red curls bounced as she sauntered down the gravel road beside him. “If you lose any more blood, you will need a stretcher.”
He wanted to divert her attention away from his wounded state. He noticed the flecks of wood shavings that clung to the ends of her hair. “What brought you out of your workshop?”
She pointed her proud chin toward the village. “I heard the groans of a pitifully wounded carpenter and decided to escort him to the doctor.” She smiled and assumed a mock cuteness that made him want to pull her hair and run away like he did when they were children. He did not know how to tell her he loved her then, and would not dare tell her now. Not again.
He glanced at his throbbing hand. “Where was your brother this morning? He was supposed to help me raise the walls.”
“Actually, I came to find you on Everett’s behalf.” Her smile faded. “Another lamb went missing last night and Everett left the house before breakfast this morning. He searched until dark when a lamb disappeared three days ago, and I assumed he would do the same today. I knew you expected him to help with your house, so I came to tell you.”
Levi regretted his accusatory tone. He looked across the wide green pasture to his left. The Fosters’ land stretched to the west as far as the horizon. “Your father has a couple hundred sheep. Why is Everett so concerned with a lamb or two?”
“The lambs are precious to Everett. He names them and knows every one of them as if they were his children.” She shook her head. “The disappearance of two lambs in less than a week is troubling. He and my father are both quite mystified.”
Though he heard her full and smooth voice, he was too engrossed in his injured hand to respond. He held up his arm, and a stream of blood dripped from his elbow. He would get the stitches, but he would not suspend the work on his house.
Mandy continued her chatter as they walked across the Colburn property to Lydia’s medical cottage. Levi hoped his father would not be outside and was relieved to make it past the main house and to the cottage without being noticed.
Mandy did not bother knocking on the cottage door. She opened it and immediately sang out, “Doctor Bradshaw, you have a patient.” Levi rolled his eyes.
Lydia was not inside the entry-level medical office. Levi walked to the staircase and looked up to the door of Lydia and Connor’s bedroom. Though his sister had been married for over a year, he still could not take the thought of her upstairs alone with her husband. He considered sending Mandy up to get Lydia when the door opened.
Lydia descended the stairs. “Good Morning, Levi.” She smiled at him, but then shock replaced her gracious welcome as her eyes landed on his bloody hand. “What have you done?” She hurried him to the patient cot then unwrapped the ruined shirt from his hand and examined the damage. She turned to the cabinets on the wall near the cot. He caught her rapid movements in his peripheral vision, but he did not look at her. Medicine bottles clanked, followed by the sound of liquid pouring.
Lydia returned to the cot with a shallow pan half-filled with tepid water. She washed his wound and wiped it with a rag dipped in oil from the gray leaf tree. The oil’s pungent fumes made him blink. Lydia grinned. “It’s strong, I know. This is a new method I have developed. The gray leaf penetrates the injury more rapidly.”
“Are you going to experiment on me while I bleed to—” His question dissipated as the power of the gray leaf tree seeped into his hand and engaged his system. His nerves settled and heat flowed into his body where the blood had drained out. His breath steadied and euphoric warmth slowed his pulse. Something tingled deep in his hand as the gray leaf’s strength overpowered his pain. Then the sensation was gone and so was the pain.
He gazed up at Mandy, who stood near the cot pulling a curl of hair through her fingers. With the gray leaf medicine coursing through his veins, his heart did not ache when he looked at her. Her fingertips swirled the cord of red hair around and around until the curl was as taut as a spring. Her mouth moved as she spoke to Lydia with that fluid voice. He liked the sound of it until he realized Mandy was talking about him.
“He nearly ripped his hand off trying to raise his house by himself. He didn’t want to come to you at all, but I forced him. I’m not sure what he would have done if I hadn’t arrived when I did. He bled the entire mile walk here.”
“I can speak for myself, Amanda.” Levi straightened his posture in an effort to retain some of his dignity. He felt childish sitting there on the patient cot with two women fussing over him, though the humiliation was a faint echo of what it would be if his father walked in. The relief brought by the gray leaf had also given him a slight sense of apathy, which he found unusual and comforting.
Lydia prepared a suture, then she sat on the cot beside him. She pulled his hand onto her lap and began stitching to close the wound. He looked away and noticed Mandy’s face as she watched the needle. Her fingers halted their curl twirling and her nostrils flared. Though her queasiness gave him a twinge of satisfaction, he wanted her to leave. “Thank you for your valiant effort in seeing me to the doctor, Mandy. You’re free to go now.”
Mandy turned her back to them and faced the window for a moment. “Yes, perhaps I will be going.” She had her hand over her stomach, and he almost felt pity for her.
“Thank you for helping my brother, Mandy.” Lydia’s eyes focused on her stitching. She did not look up as Mandy left the cottage.
Levi stared at his hand, surprised that watching the needle and thread pass in and out of his flesh did not bother him. The numbness from the gray leaf oil made his arm feel as if it were detached from his body. He doubted he would ever understand the wonders of medicine as Lydia did, but he was grateful nonetheless.
Lydia tied a knot and cut the silk thread. “I assume Mandy spoke the truth—you did this working alone.” He gave no reply. Lydia glanced at him before she stood and stepped over to the countertop next to the patient cot. “The village needs your carpentry skills, but you won’t be able to work if you get your hands ripped off. And you are a grown man, so I should not scold you.”
“Father will do it for you.”
“No, I don’t think he will.” She took a small jar of gray leaf salve from the cabinet and returned to the cot. Then she covered his stitched palm with a thick layer of the ointment and began to wrap his hand in a clean gauzy bandage. “Father has granted you the freedom you desired and the land to build your own house. Perhaps he took longer to come to that decision than your patience afforded. Regardless, he has yet to present the hostility you seem to expect from him.”
From where he sat on the patient cot, Levi could see out the front window of Lydia’s office. Between the thin curtains he had a clear view of the back door to the home he was born in. The imposing structure cast a shadow over her cottage, just as it had over his life. “Things may have changed some because of Connor’s arrival, but I don’t feel this great sense of acceptance from Father like you do.”
Lydia finished bandaging his hand and he examined it. The gray leaf medicine kept it numb. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” She piled the bloody rags in a ceramic bowl and lifted a corner of his once-beige shirt, which was now drenched in red. “I believe this is ruined.” She released the garment and wiped her hands, then pointed at his arm. “Move your fingers.”
He wiggled his fingertips under the gauzy material to demonstrate their dexterity. “Much better.” He stood to leave, believing the ordeal was over.
“You haven’t been released from my care.” She lifted an eyebrow and smiled as she stepped to her desk. “Lie back for a few minutes. I’ll tell you when you can go, but you won’t be returning to work today. Your injury will heal quickly and completely, but you must rest.”
The medicine left him lightheaded—or perhaps it was the loss of blood—but he would never confess it. He sighed and obeyed the doctor, even though she was his sister. Stretching his legs out on the cot, he laid his bandaged hand across his bare chest. No matter how he tried to center his thoughts on his building plans—even the pleasure of being sated by the smell of freshly hewn lumber—his mind continually returned to the fantasy of one day sharing his house with Mandy.
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Uncharted Redemption is available now in paperback, ebook, and audiobook