In the spirit of my newfound love of Wattpad, I figured I would also post a Crimson River preview here on my blog! Four different sections make up Chapter 1, “The River White,” broken apart by point-of-view.
The below is the first section, which follows a young girl named Jeannie Morrell. Enjoy!
Chapter 1 – The River White (Pt. 1 of 4)
Jeannie Morrell stumbled through the thicket that morning more than she ever had previously. Though her thirteenth birthday had only come and gone about a month before, she was far more familiar with the forests of the Riverlands than most. Still, whether out of fear or fatigue, her short, lean legs continued to fail her. With each misstep, she felt the men drawing closer in their pursuit.
Weaving meticulously left and right through the towering, snow-covered trees, she pressed on. She could hear the hounds just behind her; they crashed through the forest, chasing her as the men at their backs cheered them on, yelling obscenities with a drunken furor. The group was so loud and vile that it was nearly impossible for her to tell the men apart from the barking dogs. With each wide trunk she passed, she considered stopping to try and hide, but she knew there would be no hiding.
Her pale, frostbitten cheeks stung with the same fiery bite of the flames that had engulfed her home earlier that morning. The scent of the smoke remained with her. As painful as those reminders were, she promised herself that they would stay with her and fuel her revenge.
As the voices began to grow clearer, she suddenly burst through the tree line and emerged upon the banks of the River White. Though she had never crossed the river at this time of year, she plunged ahead, willing to do anything to escape the men behind her. Her first step into the freezing water was slow and excruciating, but she knew the consequences would be far worse otherwise. With the white caps of the current crashing upon her, Jeannie furiously swam her way across the river.
Once she exited the water, the winter air produced a chill she could no longer ignore. She swiped at her short, brown hair, which was plastered to her wet face, and gathered the skirt of her soaked, baggy dress, ready to launch into another sprint.
“There’s only one way this ends child,” a man shouted across the river.
They were upon her.
Jeannie whipped around, her dress throwing droplets of water around her in the process. She quickly counted eight men and four hounds staring at her across the bank. The group was standing behind a tall, thin man who was clearly the leader. The men continued to holler at her, the dogs echoing them by barking viciously in her direction. While those behind the leader appeared to be nothing more than filthy farmers, the leader was dressed quite elegantly. There was, however, no disguising that underneath that thin veneer of wealth he was one of them—the ugliness of his face and his lack of hygiene matched that of his men.
Jeannie stood frozen as her mind gathered all these details, ready to continue running but too horrified to make the first move. The leader silenced his eleven beasts, a dark grin on his face.
“You don’t have to meet the same fate as the rest of your Morrell horde, my dear,” he continued through tobacco-stained teeth. “You see, my family shows graciousness to those who surrender without too much trouble; crossing this here stream though? Now that’s something I’d consider to be far too much trouble. Why don’t you come back on over here and we can discuss said graciousness?”
Smoke rose in the distance above the trees from where the Morrell home once stood. Shivering, teeth chattering, Jeannie tried to ignore the tears that began to fill her eyes.
“There was no graciousness shown to my family, and I know there will be none shown to me,” she cried. “Why should I trust any member of the Keagan Gang after what you monsters have done?”
The leader took a step forward and looked down at the bloodstained double barrel that he cradled like a child in his arms.
“My dear, sweet, little bird!” he shouted back. “I’m not entirely sure you know who you’re speaking to. I’m not just a member of the Keagan Gang. I’m Keagan blood. My name is Walter Keagan, first cousin of the William Keagan, and if there is any fish big enough in our humble little pond that might keep his word it is I. That mess back there at your home, it was just a misunderstanding. But you better believe that I would not intentionally harm a precious little lady like yourself.”
“Well, Mr. Walter Keagan, my name is Jeannie Morrell, daughter of Adonis Morrell, and you’ll have to carry me kicking and screaming back across this river if William Keagan ever wants to see me!” she declared, surprising herself.
She never knew she had such courage in her until that moment, but she didn’t have time to think on it as she turned and ran.
As she darted into the trees on the other side, she heard Walter Keagan’s parting shot: “Can’t say I’m completely upset with that response, little bird! Now, boys, let’s hunt!