Last week I blogged about writing in an obscure sub-genre. Because it’s difficult to label—and therefore difficult to get people to try it—I’ve decided to let you meet Gabriel de la Vega, the hero of my book, Return of the Fox. This is a prologue I almost used, then deleted. So it’s no longer part of the book, but serves as a great introduction to the hero. I hope you like it.
“Willamette Valley, Oregon Territory, May, 1847
His enemy was dead.
Gabriel de la Vega slapped the table as he squinted at the letter, hating the fact he had not been around to vanquish the snake with his own hands.
He smoothed the wrinkled paper and brought the candle closer. The fine handwriting of his niece, Sorina Braithwaite, gave him no details, but the next sentence twisted his heart. “You must return now. Grandfather knows you were innocent. He is ill. He needs you.”
He’d dreamed of going home. He missed the sound of the waves breaking on the shore and the smell of brine in the air on fog-shrouded mornings. Rancho de los Lagos was on the Alta California coast twenty miles north of Mission San Juan Capistrano.
He was much farther, in Oregon, wrangling cattle by day, studying the finer points of American law by night with a man who had come from Tennessee and was now a judge. He figured he’d need that knowledge if he ever returned home.
Sprawled on a cot in the tiny room he rented, he’d often awaken at dawn, thinking he heard the squeals of seagulls outside his window. Cockroaches of the sea. That’s what Father called them. Jose de la Vega was a smart, no-nonsense, hard-working hidalgo, a member of the Mexican ruling class in Alta California. Gabriel couldn’t imagine him ill.
He could visualize the disgust on his father’s face the last time he saw him and the words carved into his heart. “You are not my son.”
Sorina said Father now knew the truth and was remorseful. He wanted to see his son. To tell him he was sorry.
The evidence planted by his enemy had been convincing, and Gabriel had been a rebel growing up, defying his father at every turn. It was no wonder Father had believed Antoine Santoro, pillar of society, over the protestations of his own wayward son.
No, he would not dwell on the past, he would look forward to the future. There was much lost time—six years?
He filled his lungs with a deep, calming breath and his shoulders loosened for the first time in years. He was so happy he wanted to weep.
What would he find when he returned home? Was the family’s forty-thousand-acre rancho running smoothly? Was Sorina shouldering the burden while Father was indisposed? Were the American conquerors treating the populace kindly? Had Isabella married again?
Isabella. The woman he left behind.
His life since his escape from a Mexican jail and his exile in the north had not been bad. The ship that took him from San Pedro on that fateful night went all the way to Santa Barbara. But instead of remaining in seclusion there, he’d joined a cattle drive heading north to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Experienced vaqueros were needed and his skills, both in being handy with cattle and speaking two languages, gave him an immediate job. He pretended to be English, mimicking the accent of his dead sister’s English husband. He was lucky. No one suspected him of being a fugitive.
He was content, but his law studies had given him insights that made him itch to return to his family.
A philosophy called manifest destiny drove the Americans relentlessly westward. Indian uprisings, harsh weather, limited food, debilitating sickness—nothing stopped them. Land was the glittering jewel at the end of the journey.
They would push until they reached the sea.
It would spell doom to the landed gentry in Alta California, a class of society that survived on the cattle trade and gentlemen’s agreements, a group that had endure political squabbles among appointed Mexican governors, who had embraced only a few foreigners who had entered their ranks through marriage.
They had no champions.
He—Gabriel de la Vega—vowed to become one, and to find the only woman he’d ever loved and beg her for forgiveness.”
Return of the Fox is available for preorder and goes live May 27. It’s available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0866RJMLW/