Hark the Harried Angels

Excerpt from Hark the Harried Angels by Lynna Banning....

Oregon, 1900

     Irina trudged from the railway station down the lane and across the bridge toward town. Heartsick and so alone the ache inside felt like an ax slicing into her belly, she listened to the water gurgling beneath the stone arch. Her footsteps slowed, her boots crunching in the snow. Her reddened nose dripped. Her toes had no feeling.

     She had lost everything, her husband, her mother-country, her hopes and dreams of a new life in America. Yuri had died of fever on the ship from Odessa.

     When she saw the house, and the lights, she stopped. Snow blanketed the roof, drooped over the windows like eyebrows. Columns of smoke puffed from the chimney and vanished into the branches of a chestnut.

     The windows glowed with light, and in each one hung a wreath, as if a green eye peered out from the panes. Even the door had a circle of evergreens, with a swirl of ribbon splashed in the center like a smile.

     Beside the house, lights glittered from the branches of a cedar, and at the top a star winked. In the quiet she could hear her own breath rasp in and out. She took a step, listening. Another. The snow whispered as if she walked on velvet.

     Her heart cried out to those who dwelt in that place of warmth and silence. Please. Oh, please. Let me belong.

Chapter One

Partridge, Oregon

     The man's body moved with the slow certainty that comes from too many years spent alone. If someone--the woman who lived next door--had been watching, she would notice his wash-worn wool shirt, the sun-faded jeans, the disinterested, almost aimless pacing around the bare back yard in black boots cracked with age.

     Everything about him seemed a bit loose, slipshod, as if he had dressed with his eyes closed. As if he wore the same garments every day and he no longer cared what he looked like. Only his hands were taut, clenched at his sides or jammed deep into his front pockets to keep them warm. On this bitter December morning he wore no hat. No jacket.

     His name was Adam Garnett. The townspeople called him the Vinegar Man.