Dr. Langston,” she said, gracefully reseating herself, “I am terribly sorry for running into you yesterday. It was not the friendliest of greetings.” She raised her eyes to him. “I do beg your pardon.”

He laughed, and when she joined in, the sincere quality of her laughter struck him. It was not the prim and proper tinkle of practiced amusement he was accustomed to hearing. “Well, Miss McClafferty what do you say to starting over then?” He turned to her, smiling, and cleared his throat. “I am Craig Langston, currently serving as a Captain in the Confederate Army Medical Corp.”

Lovely to meet you, Captain.” Her head tilted slightly as she faced him, allowing her hair to cascade over a shoulder. “I am Marissa McClafferty. I arrived yesterday from Atlanta to stay with my aunt Genie.” She beamed up at him, the gesture friendly and totally genuine.

It was easy to smile back at her, her delightful voice and crisp accent refreshing after the scores of women whose words had been deliberately sweetened for the purpose of husband catching. “You say you’re from Atlanta, but I detect a bit of a northern accent.” Instantly her face clouded, and he feared having erred. She watched him closely before answering, as though searching for malice in his inquiry.

I lived in Michigan as a child,” she replied after a moment. “I moved to the south when I was twelve years old.”

I see,” he said. “And your family? Where are they?”

Craig watched the light drain from her captivating dark eyes, and her shoulders slumped sadly. “I’m afraid that aside from Aunt Genie I am very much alone.”

I’m sorry.” He spoke quietly, silently kicking himself for his lack of tact. No doubt something terrible had happened to her family and that was why she had come to live with her aunt.

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