[vc_row padding_size=”no-padding”][vc_column text_align=”center” padding_size=”no-padding” width=”2/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”Among the Pages
(Sneak Peek Scene)” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:center” google_fonts=”font_family:ABeeZee%3Aregular%2Citalic|font_style:400%20regular%3A400%3Anormal”][wyde_icon_block icon=”flora-icon-arrow-4″ size=”medium” style=”none”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]
November 15, 1915
Whatever possessed Henry to come with me, I will never know. He is stubborn in his own way. And protective of his friends when he thinks he needs to be. But I cannot deny I am quite relieved he was there…
Margaret nodded as Carrie Lane Chapman Catt made strong statements and courageous assertions. So eloquent and direct, Mrs. Catt drew a large crowd. Everything she said made such sense; no one could deny the logic behind her argument.
Men and women were created with the same rights. Women should be freed from those that oppress them and be given a voice in the government that oversees their lives and makes laws concerning their wellbeing.
So caught up in the passion of Mrs. Catt’s speech, Margaret almost forgot Henry stood beside her. But she remembered as he shifted, maneuvering his weight from one foot to the other. What was he thinking? One glance in his direction gave her the impression that he, too, listened well. But did he truly hear her?
Turning back, she realized she had missed part of the speech. Something important. Whatever Mrs. Catt just said made the crowd rather excitable. The people around her moved, pressing forward. Trying to hold her ground, she pushed back, but it wasn’t possible.
She stuck her arm out, feeling for Henry’s hand. They best not be separated.
His arm hit hers. Was he, too, reaching for her?
She leaned toward him, stretching for his hand, but something slammed her from behind, knocking her off-balance and onto the ground.
Stunned for the moment, she worked to think. Had she been injured? Where? To what extent?
People around her continued to move and push forward. Would she be trampled? She covered her head with one hand and pushed the other on the ground, attempting to gain her feet.
The mob of bodies in motion, pressing against her on all sides, made it difficult to gain any semblance of balance.
Something large and solid tripped over her.
Pain shot through her leg.
Pulling her limbs close, she made herself as small as she could.
Her body shook and her heart raced. She wanted to cry, but she couldn’t catch her breath. Would she suffocate?
Strong arms surrounded her waist and pulled her to her feet.
He had come.
Keeping one arm around her midsection, and pulling her tight against his chest, he pushed through the horde.
She closed her eyes as moisture slipped out and clung to him.
In moments they were free of the clutter of limbs and bodies.
And she could breathe again.
He released her and took a step back. Did he think she needed the space?
Instead, she sagged against him, no longer able to stand. Nor could she hold back her sobs.
His arms came around her once more. The press of his embrace did not frighten, though perhaps it should have. It felt safe. Right.
“It’s over. I’ve got you.”
She nodded into his shoulder.
He let her spill out her emotions for several moments before he drew back.
Then his eyes were on hers. “Are you injured?”
The depth of his eyes was unfathomable. Their heat could have melted anyone. But the concern there pulled her back to the moment, to his question.
“Only my leg.” She reached down as if to touch the shin that would be bruised tomorrow. “But it will be all right.”
He studied her features, as if gauging the veracity of her statement.
“I assure you, I am well enough. Nothing more than a bump.” Putting weight on the leg to prove she was well, she fought the urge to cry out.
He seemed doubtful, but when he opened his mouth, he didn’t speak of taking her to see a doctor. “We are not safe here. I must get you home.”
She bobbed her head. As much as she wanted to hear more of Mrs. Catt’s speech, she was in no condition to do so.
His larger hand encircled her arm, supporting her elbow.
And as he looked back at the crowd, she could not tear her eyes away from him.
At length, he turned and directed her farther away and back in the direction they had come, toward the boarding house. But even as the distance between herself and the danger increased and she calmed, she couldn’t find sufficient reason to pull her arm free. Though she did force her eyes from his.
“Thank you.” She kept her gaze on the horizon.
He let out a ragged breath. “I’m glad I was there.”
“As am I.” She stole a glance in his direction.
Where had that come from? How was this dangerous? Henry was her friend. Her closest friend. What could be wrong with her gratitude?
His jaw was set, and his features stern.
Was he angry? At her? Still, she had to know…
“What did you think? Of the speech.”
“I think you shouldn’t have been there.” His tone was decided and abrupt. Because of the mob’s reaction? Or because she had been exposed to Mrs. Catt’s ideas?
“I beg your pardon?” It was her turn to be a little harsh. “I had every right to be at that assembly and hear that display of free speech.”
He stopped, and she with him. Though he maintained a firm hold on her arm, his fingers relaxed. “That’s not what I meant.”
She wanted to kick herself. Of course he referred to the crazed mob. But she had to know his thoughts about Mrs. Catt’s words. It seemed so important. Despite what happened.
“What did you think… of the speech?” Her voice was timid, almost small, but she met his gaze and held it.
He turned away and let out a long breath. “Why must you push the issue?”
“Because I want to know. I need to know. Do you believe that men and women are equal?”
There. She had said it.
And now the question hung between them, the air thick with tension.
His gaze shifted to meet hers. There was something more in his eyes. Something she couldn’t quite identify.
Silence befell them.
He wasn’t going to answer.
She opened her mouth, but his voice broke through the emptiness.
A simple answer. And he spoke in a soft, gentle tone.
“What?” She jerked her arm free of his grasp. What was he saying?
“Margaret, hear me out. Men and women are not the same. That, itself, is rather evident. They have different strengths and weaknesses. But does that change the need for equal rights? I don’t think so.”
Her heartbeat thundered in her ears. Did he just say what she thought? Had she imagined it? They may not agree on everything, but it seemed they might on this.
“Did you just say…?”
“Yes.” In a rather bold move, he took one of her hands in his. “You heard me.”
Moisture gathered in her eyes. Would it once again break free?
This was a big step for him. For them. But what did it mean?
He was all but engaged to Abigail.
This was dangerous. For her heart.
She couldn’t hope where none existed. Even if his eyes now drew her in.
They flickered to her lips.
Was he going to kiss her?
She couldn’t bear that.
Pulling away, she shook her head. Her thoughts had taken her on a path she dared not travel. She couldn’t. Henry was her friend, nothing more.
“Here.” He offered his arm. “Let me walk you home.”
She chanced a glance at him.
His gaze no longer held the intensity it had. There remained only the platonic concern she had always known.
Placing her hand in the crook of his elbow, she let him lead her along the sidewalk toward the safety of her home.
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