Catherine Andrews is an English woman living in the 1800’s. Her father has sold her to Blake Von-Clyer to be his wife to pay off his taxes he owed Mr. Von-Clyer. Catherine soon finds out Blake is a cruel and horrible man. On their wedding night to escape his cruelty she throws herself into the river. Christopher King is living in 2014 doing his best to raise his young son Ryan after his wife left him. One night Christopher finds a woman in the river unconscious and barely breathing. She is also wearing old fashioned clothes. Christopher does everything in his power to help the young women. When Catherine regains consciousness, she finds herself in a strange and unbelievable situation. Terrified, she does her best to keep her guard up against Christopher. But as she gets to know him, she can’t help but fall for the man who saved her life. When Catherine’s dangerous past comes back to haunt her, it has Catherine and Christopher fighting for each other and their love. In the darkest hour can time and love truly heal all wounds?
Early December 1860
Ever since her mother died, Catherine’s father could not stand to look at her. She looked so much like her mother, with her long dark hair and brown eyes. Catherine walked past a store window. It had a beautiful Christmas display with candles burning in the middle, giving her two reflections as though she were split into two – two halves of the person she used to be. What was worse, she did not know if those two halves could ever be put back together.
There had been a time when Catherine thought that she was happy. Her mother and father had been married for 26 years, and she was engaged to Ethan Sheldon. They came from two different worlds. She was simply a shopkeeper’s daughter and Ethan was a duke whose family held seats on boards of various corporations and installed policies that served to exclude those they regarded as inferior. Ethan’s family thought Catherine was inferior to them, but Ethan rejected his family’s views. That night at the ball when Ethan walked across the room to ask Catherine to dance, she knew that her life would never be the same. Ethan was kind and smart, everything she thought she should ask for; she would get her fairytale ending, as her parents did.
But when her grandfather died, her father was left with the store and he became obsessed with having a son. Catherine’s mother had such a terrible pregnancy and an even more difficult time giving birth to her, that the doctor told her mother not to have any more children. It would kill her if she did so. But her mother would do anything to make her father happy. On Dec 24, 1851 Catherine’s mother died giving birth to her brother James. On the day of her mother’s funeral her father fled England and went to Charleston, South Carolina to buy a boat from a plantation owner so he could sell cotton all over the world. It was also the day Ethan showed his true colors. She went to his house to find him marrying another woman. When she demanded answers he simply laughed and told her the only reason he’d wanted to marry her was because she had blue blood. Now that he knew that her blood line was so weak that she could not give him sons without dying, he would never have married her. No man would. Ethan had Catherine thrown out of his house. She did her best to push the painful memories away, especially now that her father was coming home. His letter burned her hand like an iron skillet, sending fear throughout the rest of her body. She took in a shaky breath as she looked down at James. He was the image of her father and the man her father used to be before he lost everything, including his soul. She took James’s hand and began walking down the streets of London.
It was so cold that it cut Catherine like a knife. She could see her breath coming out in little puffs. She pulled James closer to her, trying to keep him warm as the mist came off the water. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw her house but as she opened the door she was shocked to see her father had already arrived. She could smell alcohol coming off him from where she was standing. For the first time since her mother had died, her father looked up at her and smiled.
“Catherine, sweetheart, you’re home and you brought me my pride and joy. James, come sit next to me while your sister makes all of us dinner,” her father slurred.
“All of us?” she thought to herself.
Out of the corner of her eye Catherine saw a man move out from the shadows. He had dark hair and dark eyes. She could tell there was something not right about him. She felt a shiver run down her back.
“Catherine, this is Mr. Blake Von-Clyer, the owner of the ship the Elizabeth.”
“Mr. Von-Clyer,” Catherine whispered while curtsying.
He smiled an evil smile at her and turned back to her father.
“Now Catherine, make us some dinner.”
She shook her head no, taking a step towards the door utterly afraid of what was about to happen.
“Catherine, do not make me tell you again,” her father yelled.
With hands shaking Catherine ran over to the fire as James went to the table and sat down next to his father. As she stirred the stew she could feel eyes burning through the back of her head. She turned around and saw Mr. Von-Clyer watching her intently. She quickly turned back around feeling the heat rise to her cheeks. She hated being watched like she was a prize to be won.
“So what do you think Mr. Von-Clyer?” her father whispered.
“You’re right, she is a hard worker, but I don’t know about a white women working in my household. It is just not done in the south. That’s why we have black slaves,” Mr. Von-Clyer replied.
“Yes, that’s true, but didn’t you say that because of the abolitionists that a lot of your slaves have run off.”
“That’s true, but I don’t need a servant. I need a wife.”
Catherine dropped the spoon as her whole body shook. What was her father planning to do? Hard work? A wife? What was going on? She was not her father’s slave to trade as he wished. She was his daughter. Too nervous to turn around, Catherine prayed that she had heard wrong.
“What did you say?” her father asked, shocked.
“You heard me.” Mr. Von-Clyer laughed. “You had no problem selling her to me as a servant Mr. Andrews, but now that I want her for my wife your conscience haunts you. What’s the difference? Either way your debt to me is paid.”
“Catherine, get over here now!” Her father yelled drunkenly.
She slowly walked over to the table and stood in front of her father. Her heart was pounding in her chest as she watched him drink his last bit of wine.
“You will be Mr. Von-Clyer’s wife to pay off my debt.”
“What debt?” Catherine asked angrily.
“Catherine, do not speak unless you are spoken to,” her father snarled.
“What debt?” Catherine yelled.
Her father jumped up from his chair with an angry shout, bumping the table, but James jumped in front of him.
“You cannot treat Catherine like that Father. She is your daughter and my sister, not your slave!” James yelled.
Catherine’s father was having none of that. He lunged for James, but Catherine got in between them before her father could do anything. She knelt down in front of James and wiped his tears. All the while she prayed for strength.
“Thank you, James, but I need you to go to your room.”
“No buts. Go to your room and stay there until I come for you.”
As soon as James was in his room, Catherine’s father grabbed her arms and started shaking her hard.
“Don’t you ever speak to me like that again, Catherine! Do you understand me?”
“Yes sir,” Catherine whispered, scared for her life.
“Good. Now go with Mr. Von-Clyer and pay off your debt.”
“Father, I beg of you. Tell me what my debt is?”
Her father sighed and sat back down at the table, poured more wine, and thew it down his throat.
“I can’t pay the balance of what I owe to Mr. Von-Clyer for the Elizabeth.”
Catherine bent down in front of her father as the tears began to burn her eyes.
“Father, please don’t do this. What about James?”
“The ship Amokura is looking for crew members. He can get a job there.”
“Father, no! Please, there has to be another way!” Catherine cried.
“I’m sorry, Catherine. If only you did not look like your mother, if only you had been a boy, none of this would be happening. Now go, I cannot stand to look at you anymore.”
She felt arms around her as someone pulled her up onto her feet. She turned around and saw Mr. Von-Clyer with his arms around her. She tried to get out of his grip, but he just held her tighter.
“Get your hands off me!” Catherine screamed.
“Now, now. Be a good girl and come with me,” Mr. Von-Clyer whispered in her ear.
“No, please Father, don’t do this please!”
Catherine reached out and grabbed his hand, but he just pushed her away as Mr. Von-Clyer dragged her out of the house.
“Father, please don’t do this!”
Mr. Von-Clyer started walking towards a black carriage waiting outside when James came running out of the house.
“Catherine!” James yelled, running towards them, but their father came out and held James back.
“James… Father… please, he needs me… please!”
Mr. Von-Clyer opened the carriage door and threw Catherine in. Mr. Von-Clyer jumped in and pinned her against the seat as she fought him off.
“Stop fighting me or I’ll take what I want from you,” Mr. Von-Clyer said through his teeth.
“But I won’t because I don’t want you to have a ruined reputation. So we will be married and you will be my wife!”
“I will never marry you!” she hissed, struggling to get away from him. He raised his hand and slapped her hard. It burned, hot and red sharp, like a bee sting.
“If you are going to act like a crazed animal then that’s how you will be treated,” he shouted at her. He gripped her arms tight. The carriage rocked and bumped on the cobblestone streets as it moved, pulled by two black horses. When it stopped, Mr. Von-Clyer dragged her from the carriage to the boat. He threw her in a small room below deck and locked her in.
“When you are over your hysterics I will let you out. We will be on this ship for ten days before we reach Charleston and I expect you to conduct yourself appropriately. You will stay in this room at all times. Your meals will be brought to you. If you wish for some fresh air you may open the porthole window.” Without another word he turned and walked away. Catherine fell into despair. All she thought about was James and she prayed that her father was taking care of him. Suddenly she heard footsteps approaching. The door to her room opened and she was blinded by bright sunlight. After a moment, she saw that it was Mr. Von-Clyer. He walked into the room, towering over her.
“So are you over your hysterics?”
Too afraid to speak she nodded her head.
He led her out of the room and onto the deck. She saw that the boat was pulling into the most beautiful city she had ever seen. The houses were close together and painted in more colors than you could imagine – whites, blues, and pinks. The city looked like it came out of a fairytale, but that was just an illusion because in reality this beautiful city was to be her prison.
Mr. Von-Clyer took hold of Catherine’s arm and led her to the carriage as though he was her prison guard. They traveled for miles as she watched her freedom dwindle. When they reached Rose Hill she felt a sense of danger as though the devil himself resided in the home and the red brick mansion was the gate to hell. Mr. Von-Clyer jumped down and once again took her by the arm leading her into the house and up to a room in the attic. He threw Catherine into the room and she landed on the floor on her stomach, gasping for air.
“You are to stay in this room until we are married and do not even think about trying to escape. There will be a guard outside your door at all times. Do you understand me?” he said angrily.
“Yes.” she whispered.
Mr. Von-Clyer walked out of the room once more, locking the door. She ran over to the bed letting her sobs overtake her. She knew that she would surely die in this place.