A Love Brighter than Light (Preview)

Chapter One

The light breeze tickled Carrie’s face and lifted the hair off her neck. She stood on the back porch, looking over the land that belonged to her father. Well, technically, it belonged to both of them, but Carrie felt no connection to this place.

Carrie grabbed the hair that floated free and tucked it behind her ear, taking a deep breath of the country air. Sometimes, it smelled green and fresh, but other times—like today—it smelled like sweaty animals.

In the distance, Carrie could hear men shouting back and forth to each other as they cultivated one of the fields. It was harvest time, her father had told her, which meant that there was no time for rest. They worked sunup to sundown and had extra field hands come to the farm just for the season.

Carrie settled into the rocking chair and began to rock back and forth, the back of the chair tapping on the house with each rock backward. She hated living here. Tap. She didn’t have any friends. Tap. And the tutor in no way compared to her mother. Tap. There was nothing to do in the country. Tap.

The woman her father had hired to cook and clean in place of her mother peered out the doorway.

“Is that you making that noise? Stop it! You’re going to damage the house.”

Carrie set both feet firmly on the ground to keep the rocker from continuing its course. She wasn’t even allowed to rock in the rocking chair without getting in trouble. She sighed and stood up, walking the length of the porch and back again as she stared out over the fields, searching the tiny figures for her father. She didn’t recognize any of them as being him from this distance.

Carrie looked down at the shoes she wore. They were one of the last pairs she had brought with her that still fit. The others were all too small, but Carrie was determined to keep wearing these simple, black ones. She had a specific memory of purchasing them with her mother.

She and her mother had been going on an errand to buy some decorative piece for the house—Carrie forgot now the intention of their errand. As they had passed the cobbler’s, Carrie had noticed a pair of shoes in the window. They were extravagant, a bright shade of red, and something entirely unlike anything Carrie had worn before.

“Mother, can we please stop at the cobbler? Did you see that pair of shoes? They are beautiful!”

Mother had ordered the carriage back around to the cobbler, and they had gone inside to take a look. Carrie had tried on the shoes, and though they had been close to her size, she hadn’t liked the way they looked after all. However, she had been too embarrassed to tell her mother that she had stopped the carriage for a pair of shoes that she didn’t like as much as she thought she would. So, she had stood in front of the looking glass for a long time, trying to convince herself that the shoes were beautiful.

“Carrie,” her mother had called softly from the other side of the shop. “Take those shoes off and try on these.”

Carrie had obediently taken off the shoes and taken the pair her mother offered. On her feet, they were simple, plain even, the type of shoe that wouldn’t draw attention away from a dress.

Carrie had smiled and nodded at her mother, determined to purchase the shoes. They had bought them right then and there and gone on with their errand, but Carrie would always remember the gentle squeeze of her mother’s hand on her shoulder and her knowing smile behind her in the looking glass.

Carrie looked down at the shoes and bit her bottom lip to keep the tears back. She missed her mother so much, and it seemed impossible to continue living in this hot state of Texas with all these people she didn’t really know. It was too hard.

“Carrie,” the tutor said, hovering in the doorway between the house and the porch. “Let’s finish your afternoon lessons.”

“Please, may I have five more minutes?” Carrie asked, scrubbing at her eyes with her fingers.

“Five more minutes, then please come inside. We have a lot of work to do.”

Carrie enjoyed learning, and she had always been in the top of her class back when they had lived in New York. Now, she had no class, and her mother was gone. It was hard to find the desire to continue working so hard.

Carrie took a few deep breaths, though they were tinged with the scent of hay, and headed back into the house.

“I’m ready,” she said, taking the chair by the front window as she always did. Her tutor placed the book on her lap and picked up the skirt she was sewing.

“Let’s start with some reading today. Read the next ten pages.”

Carrie picked up the book and began reading. The story was about a little girl who had no family and was trying to find a place to live in the city. Normally, Carrie felt quite sympathetic for her plight, but today, she wanted to finish her assignments and lie down. Her very heart ached.

Half an hour later, Carrie set down the book and began completing the math problems her tutor asked her. Her mind wandered between problems.

“Carrie, Carrie,” her tutor called. “You can finish more quickly if you pay attention. What’s on your mind today?”

Carrie pressed her lips together and shrugged. Her tutor was nice enough, but Carrie had only known her for a month. No one could ever replace her mother, and her tutor was too old to feel like one of her friends.

“Well, if you don’t want to talk about it, then focus on the math problems. You’ve gotten the last three wrong.”

Carrie took a deep breath and nodded. She could focus on math. She was almost done, and as soon as she was, she would get out of there. She had to get out of there. She felt trapped.

Finally, her tutor released her, and Carrie bounded out to the front porch, staring over the land that stretched in front of the house. She could see the dirt road that left town and passed by their farm as well as several others. Yet, all of the farms were so big that she couldn’t see any of the other farmhouses. Carrie had wondered since she first arrived who might live in each one. Were there any girls her age?

Carrie glanced back inside, then down at her beautiful, yet simple shoes. She didn’t want to mess them up. If they were soiled or ruined, she would never forgive herself, so she took them off carefully and placed them side by side next to the porch swing. Then, barefoot, Carrie descended the front porch stairs and felt the grass under her feet. It tickled, making Carrie smile automatically.

She took a few more steps, feeling the blades of grass bend beneath her. They brushed her ankles, like tiny insects kissing her. Carrie closed her eyes and took a couple more steps. With each one, she felt a little of the stress and worry dissolve until she felt free again.

Carrie closed her eyes and spoke in a soft whisper. “Mother, I don’t know if you can hear me, but I miss you so much.” Those words overwhelmed Carrie, and she choked back the sobs. “I wish that you could see Texas and the farm, and Father has done exactly what he promised. He’s built a grand empire of a farm, and the harvest is going well.” Carrie took a deep shuddering breath, searching the stringy, white clouds for answers. She took another few steps, trying to feel an answer from her mother in her heart.

All of a sudden, she stepped in something wet and mushy that was definitely not grass. Carrie screamed and jumped back, realizing that she had stepped directly into a large cow pie or horse droppings or something. She didn’t care what animal it came from; it was disgusting.

Carrie made a sick noise and hop-stepped back to the house.

“I need something to clean my foot!” she called. “I need a cloth, a towel, some water.”

The cook came bustling out immediately. “Are you alright?”

“I’ve stepped in something dirty. Please, oh, please help me!” Carrie said, keeping her dress away from the mess on her foot.

The cook laughed but came back quickly with a wet towel. Carrie extended her foot, but the towel fell with a plop on the porch next to her. The cook was already back inside by the time Carrie opened her eyes.

“But I can’t . . .” she started to say before realizing that no one was around to hear her. She would have to do it herself. Carrie scrubbed at her foot, retching a couple of times at the putrid smell. Finally, it was clean. Carrie left the dirty towel in a pile at the bottom of the porch steps and approached her shoes, the one thing she had left from her mother. She couldn’t put them on yet, not with images of the animal poop still between her toes. Carrie sighed and brought the shoes inside. Living in Texas was not the glorious affair her father had promised.

Chapter Two

Mijo, please don’t get into trouble today,” Finley’s mother begged of him as she finished getting dressed in the semi-darkness. Finley was still lying in the bed and didn’t want to get up. He nodded.

“No, mijo, I need you to promise me you won’t.”

“I won’t,” Finley promised. He was fourteen and past the age of getting in trouble, but he supposed his mother would never get over the shenanigans he had pulled when he was younger. His mother finished readying herself, and both of his parents left for a long day in the fields. Finley knew this was his last harvest of lazy days. When he was fifteen, he would join his parents in the fields and harvest crops along with them.

Finley stretched as he stared at the wooden ceiling above him. There was no way he would go to sleep again, not in this place. This farm was so much larger than the one where his parents had worked the year before. Finley still had not ridden from one side to the other in a day. Whenever he tried to accomplish the feat, he was intercepted by something interesting and had to give up the goal.

Today, he was determined to do it. There were four horses in the barn that were designated for fieldhand use. Finley dressed and headed there, determined to snag his favorite one before someone else took her.

“Good morning!” Finley greeted one of the men who worked with the cows. The man raised a hand then went right back to milking. Finley glanced down the row of stalls and saw that his favorite horse was still in place. He had time to stop and talk.

“She’s still producing milk?” Finley asked, patting the cow’s hindquarters. The milk cow flicked her tail at him, like he was an annoying fly.

“She’s got another year in her,” the man said, expertly squirting stream after stream of milk into the bucket. “Then, we’ll let her have another calf.”

Finley listened to the musical sound of the milk hitting the sides of the metal bucket.

“Will we ever eat her?” Finley asked.

The man shook his head. “No, no, milk cows and meat cows are different. If you wait until she’s done producing milk, then her meat will be too tough. You want the cows nice and young if they’re going to be sold for meat.”

“Hear that?” Finley asked the cow, patting it again. “I just saved you from being dinner.” The cow continued chewing its cud, staring at the wall in front of it as it was milked.

“Well, talk to you later,” Finley said, hurrying down the hay-strewn passageway to the horse stalls at the end of the long barn. He patted the chestnut on her nose, sliding his hand away from her mouth as she searched for treats.

“Why do you always want food?” Finley asked. “I thought we had a real friendship here, but it seems like you only put up with me for what I can give you.”

Buttercup neighed, and Finley gave her another pat.

“Alright, are you ready for some serious riding today?” he asked, rubbing his hands together in excitement. Buttercup craned her neck out of the stall and looked past Finley to the other animals still in their stalls.

“Don’t worry about them. It’s just you and me.” Finley grabbed a halter and threw it over Buttercup’s nose, fastening the straps in under a minute.

“Let’s go,” he said, leading her out of the stall.

Buttercup trotted eagerly after him, sniffing the morning air experimentally. “You already had a full trough of hay, so don’t go complaining that you’re hungry,” Finley told her as she pulled him toward the grassy field.

“We’re going somewhere today.” Finley used the hitching post to give himself a step up, half-jumping onto Buttercup’s back. She turned her head and looked at him ruefully.

“You don’t get a say when we go places,” Finley told her, running a hand over her warm neck. “We’re going, and you don’t get to be lazy today. Get over it.”

He dug his heels into her sides, slapping the reins gently against her neck, as she started forward. He steered her right, away from the fields close to the owner’s house and toward where trees began sprouting in small semblances of forests. There was never a real forest in this part of Texas, but Finley would take what he could get. He led Buttercup in a weaving pattern, dodging trees until they reached another open area. He pulled up on the reins, staring at something on the ground. It looked like a frog, but it wasn’t quite real.

“What is that?” He turned his head in another direction to see it a bit better. “Buttercup, do you see it?”

Buttercup snorted, searching the ground for grass. She came close to the thing—the animal, if that’s what it was—but she didn’t seem bothered by it. The animal didn’t start, and Finley concluded that he must have been mistaken. No real animal could stay so still for so long. Still, he was determined to figure out exactly what it was. He leaped off Buttercup and let her reins rest on her back. She wasn’t one to try to escape, another reason why he often picked her for his outings.

Finley bent over the thing and slowly extended his hand until he scooped it up. It was cold and firm under the pressure of his fingers, and as Finley turned it to face him, he realized that it was most definitely not real. However, it had a look of life about it. This was no normal stump; someone had carved it to look like a frog.

Finley ran his fingers along the grooves where a knife had cut away at the wood. Now that he was close to it, he saw that it clearly wasn’t a real frog. The eyes were dead, and the back legs were all wrong. Still, it had been good enough to fool him, and he was filled with a desire to replicate the object. Finley searched the ground for a piece of wood that would do the trick. He had his pocket knife, so he could start carving right away. Finley wondered who had made the frog.

He found a stick. Cut in half, it would provide a good piece of wood to use for his frog replica.

“Buttercup,” he called to the horse, but she ignored him and kept chewing excitedly on the dew-damped grass. “Okay, I suppose I can work here as well as anywhere,” Finley said. “You enjoy your grass. I’m going to make a frog.”

He took out his knife and began chipping away at the wood. His knife seemed too small and inadequate as he worked, barely able to form the semblance of a frog head and eyes before his stomach rumbled for lunch.

“I suppose I’m not meant to be a wood carver,” Finley concluded, holding up the original frog next to his own. His wasn’t quite finished, but it would still be difficult to recognize as a frog.

“Well, I tried my best, and that’s what my mama always says.” Buttercup swatted her tail at a fly, and Finley stood. He was ready to eat, and his parents would wonder where he was if he didn’t return for the midday meal. All of the field workers took a break at the same time, and the field workers who were close enough often came back to the sleeping quarters to eat as a family.

Finley tried to gauge the time by the sun, but he couldn’t be sure what time it was. It had been so much easier when the schoolhouse let out for lunch at eleven-thirty, but the schoolhouse wasn’t exactly in functioning order anymore. It hadn’t been for over a year, and Finley didn’t exactly mind. He never would have learned how to carve a frog in school.

“Buttercup, we’re really going now,” he told her.

Buttercup didn’t respond, but she didn’t protest either when Finley climbed on her back. He stuffed the two frogs into his pockets and hoped it didn’t count as stealing even though he had found the frog. Still, maybe it would be better if he kept his carving activities to himself. He didn’t want to lose his model.

“Time for supper for me,” Finley told the horse. “You get some water.” The two of them hurried back to the farm, Finley thinking of all the other things he could learn to make if he could just finish his wooden frog.

Chapter Three

Carrie finished her reading for the day with a loud snap of the book. She was ready for a break from studying. The tutor only came four days a week, but sometimes, the days were so long.

“Let’s work on your sewing now,” her tutor said.

Carrie had been putting off working on sewing with her tutor, and her tutor insisted that she learn.

“You’re such a well-rounded young lady, and you have so much knowledge, but there are practical skills that you need to learn as well,” she said. “Have you ever put in a stitch before?”

Her tutor placed the cloth on her legs as well as a needle and thread. Carrie didn’t answer as she was dragged back into the past. When she had lived in New York, her mother had given her biweekly sewing classes. She and her mother had planned and sewed many things once Carrie got past the basic stitches. She had even sewed a few of her own dresses, with her mother’s careful guidance. Carrie remembered her mother’s sewing basket with all the needles in perfect order—different sized needles available so she would always have exactly what she needed. The yarn had been organized by color, and the thread was on one side of the box.

“Let’s learn how to thread a needle,” her tutor instructed. She held up a needle and the thread, wetting it between her lips so that it would go through more easily. “This takes a bit of an eye, but it’s not hard once you get the hang of it.”

Carrie stared forward lifelessly as her tutor blabbered on about how easy and fun sewing could be. Carrie wanted to shout at her tutor, but she couldn’t. Her father had told her she must be polite, and she had promised that she would. She couldn’t break her promise to her father, not after everything they were going through.

Carrie’s whole body shuddered, and she stood, letting the needle roll to the floor and the material bunch up in a pile by her feet.

“Now, Carrie, I don’t understand why—”

Carrie didn’t wait to hear what her tutor didn’t understand. She pounded out of the house and down the pathway. She had never strayed more than a few feet from the house before, but she had to get away from her tutor’s voice. She was shouting now, standing on the back porch and hollering for Carrie to come back and clean up after herself, but Carrie didn’t want to listen. She couldn’t bear to touch the needle and the thread. Instead, she picked up her skirt, hitching it to her knees and running down the path toward where the workers lived. She saw one of the worker’s children, a young girl, coming out of the building. She couldn’t make a spectacle of herself, so she turned away from the buildings and headed toward a copse on the edge of a larger wood.

The tutor had finally stopped protesting, and only the sound of her feet pounding the ground filled her ears. Finally, the air burned like fire in her lungs, and Carrie stopped, heaving in deep breaths of fresh air. She closed her eyes and let her dress drop from where she had bunched it. Her heart still pounded through her chest. Thirteen was too old to try to physically run away from your problems, but she had never learned how to deal with such strong pain, especially a pain that never left her alone.

“Are you okay?” a voice asked, making Carrie jump.

She stumbled backward and took in the boy sitting on a fallen log. His skin was darker than most, and he had long, brown hair that swept past his ears. His brown eyes looked kind, but Carrie turned away from him. She didn’t want to share her pain with anyone. She wanted to run away from it.

She took a few more deep breaths as she tried to rid herself of the stabbing pain in her chest. She didn’t want to try to explain how much she missed her mother to anyone. All she wanted to do was talk to her mother about it, but that was no longer an option. So, she swallowed and turned to face the boy once more.

He was clearly older than her. In fact, he looked old enough to be working in the fields, but she wasn’t going to judge him if he was hiding out from his duty.

“I’m fine,” she said. “My name is Carrie. What’s yours?”

“Finley,” the boy responded. Carrie’s eyes fell on the thing in his hands, and he curled up his fingers to hide it.

“What are you making?” she asked as she saw the wood shavings at his feet.

“I’m not sure yet,” he responded. “It was supposed to be a frog, but I think it looks more like a cow or something. The nose is all wrong.”

“Can I see?”

Finley opened his hand and showed her the piece more closely. Carrie’s eyes widened. She had never seen something so intricately done with wood before.

“Are you a carpenter or something?” she asked.

“I wish,” he responded. “I’m just teaching myself a few of the basics.” He looked around, but no one was nearby. “I’ll show you something if you promise not to tell.”

“I promise,” Carrie said, inching closer to the boy until she was right next to him. He shuffled around in his pocket and pulled out something lumpy. He dumped the stiff package into her hands, and she realized it was another woodcarving, but this one was done well.

“This one’s a frog. Wow! You’re really good.”

“I didn’t make that one,” Finley admitted. “I found it. I’ve been trying to copy it ever since, but I can’t figure out how to get the nose right.”

Carrie examined the piece more closely, her eyes flitting back and forth between the two. It was obvious which one had been created with more skill. She ran her hand along the frog’s smooth back.

“Who do you suppose made it?” she asked, looking back at the house. Her tutor was standing on the porch talking with the cook, but Carrie didn’t care what negative things were being said about her. She stepped behind a larger bush and sat down next to Finley so that she couldn’t be as easily spotted.

“That’s what I don’t know,” Finley admitted. “I found it yesterday, and I started looking for clues, little piles of shavings like I have here or anyone who seems handy with a knife.”

“You haven’t discovered who it is?”

“No, but I’ll continue to look. If I find them, I’d like to learn how to carve.” Finley grinned at her, and Carrie smiled back, feeling friendship blossoming within her.

“How old are you?” she asked.

“I’m fourteen. What about you?”

“Thirteen,” Carrie admitted. She smoothed the edge of her dress. “Do you live here…on the farm?”

“Of course! It’s not like I travel from one of the other farms around to this little wood to do my carving.”

“But I’ve never seen you before,” Carrie protested. She stood up and peered in the direction of the field hand’s housing. She had never gone back there. Her father had actually told her to stay away, that there was no reason for her to be mixing with those people. And technically, she wasn’t disobeying him now.

“I’m normally deeper in the woods,” Finley answered. “But today, someone took all the horses for the field hands. I don’t know who it was or what they’re doing, but they were up before me.”

“Don’t you have to go to school?” Carrie asked.

“No school to go to. Don’t you know? The school was burned down last year.”

Carrie’s eyebrows rose. Perhaps that was the reason her father had insisted on hiring a tutor—there was no alternative. Carrie had wanted to go to school to make friends, but now, it sank in that she would be stuck with her tutor for a long time yet.

“Well, how do you learn if there’s no schoolhouse?” Carrie asked.

“For a while, the teacher was having us meet outside the old schoolhouse, but then, one of the kids walked on the ashes and got a piece of glass in his foot. Idiot.”

“He stepped on glass? What did the teacher do?”

“She sent someone for help. The boy’s foot bled an awful lot, and after that, everyone agreed that they shouldn’t have classes until the schoolhouse was repaired.”

“Well, couldn’t they just tell the children not to walk on the remains of the schoolhouse?”

“That’s what they tried, but many children simply don’t listen,” Finley said.

Carrie pursed her lips. All of her friends in New York had been her same age. She had never really been around younger children, except the younger sister of one of her friends.

“It seems as though they didn’t try hard enough to come up with a solution,” she said.

Finley shrugged. “Perhaps, everyone wanted their children home so they could work the fields anyway. I kind of missed it at first, but it’s not so bad now. I get to do whatever I want every day—at least until I have to start working the fields next year.”

“You’ll work in the fields?” Carrie was appalled at the idea of pulling weeds or whatever the field hands did.

“Of course! My parents constantly remind me that I eat more than I bring in, and I’m able to work. But…” Finley glanced at her then turned his attention back to his project. “I suppose I enjoy having my time to myself. I always start cooking dinner and make sure our house is clean, but that’s about it.”

“Wow!” Carrie pressed her hand into the fallen log until the pattern of bark imprinted on her hand. “I can understand wanting to enjoy yourself. I have a tutor who comes four days a week, and . . .” Carrie glanced in the direction of the house, but the bushes limited her view. “She’s fine, but I can’t say that I’m learning very much.”

“What sorts of things does she teach?” Finley asked, gazing at her curiously.

“Girl things,” Carrie said. “She wants me to learn to sew and cook. I already know how to sew, and why should I ever want to learn how to cook?”

“I suppose once you leave your parents’ house, you’ll want to be able to cook for a family.”

Carrie shook her head stubbornly. “I’m not any good at it. I’ve tried it before. I prefer to have someone come cook for me. I’m sure my family would appreciate excellent meals every evening, rather than me struggling to make rice that’s not too hard and not too soft.”

“The rice isn’t too hard as long as you have a cup,” Finley said. “You just fill the cup with rice, then fill it twice with water. That’s just the right amount.”

Carrie turned her nose up in the air just a little. She didn’t need a boy telling her how to cook.

“I don’t need to worry about it,” she emphasized, looking in the opposite direction. “The cook will make whatever we like.”

It was silent for a few minutes, and Carrie eventually turned her head back to see what the boy was doing. He wasn’t looking at her at all but focusing on the carving of the frog. He chipped away at the wood with quick swipes, making an uneven back. Carrie watched him work, wishing she could say thank you for the tip about the rice even if she would never use it. He had only been trying to help, after all.

“It looks quite nice,” Carrie said after a few moments.

“My frog?” Finley asked in disbelief. “I need to sand the wood to make it smoother. Without that, he’ll look like some sort of poisonous plant.”

Carrie laughed. “I could bring you something to sand it with. I’m sure my father has something.” She didn’t know what it would look like, but someone would help her find it. She could say that she was working on a project.

“You would do that for me?” Finley asked.

“Well, I’m curious to see how your frog turns out, and it will only be a successful project if you have the right tools. Of course I can get you what you need.” Carrie nodded her head to back up her offer to help. She desperately wanted a friend, and this boy seemed the only one available for the position. She would do what she could to make him happy.

“A Love Brighter than Light” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Carrie Parvin enjoys her comfortable life in the East until her father decides they should move to Texas, throwing everything she believed was secure into tatters. Another tragedy awaits her when an illness leads to the sudden death of her mother. Carrie now has to live not only with this immense loss, but also in a wild, new place where nothing is familiar. Surprisingly, Finley, one of her father’s workers, gives her solace in her darkest hours, even though she feels like a tree uprooted by a violent storm…

Could she find a glimmer of love in his eyes?

Finley Cofield has worked hard since he was a child, to support his parents after all their sacrifices. When Carrie enters his life, they unexpectedly become loyal friends despite their different social statuses. As his feelings for her blossom into something much deeper than a simple friendship, he incurs the wrath of Carrie’s father, who is determined to stop his daughter from getting attached to a lowly field-hand. Is he condemned to lose his last ray of hope?
In order to protect his love, he will have to fight his hardest…

Carrie and Finley come closer than they could ever imagine, until a treacherous plot manages to pull them apart. Can they keep the spark alive beneath the ashes of the past, hoping they will soon meet again?

“A Love Brighter than Light” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!

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