Tara sat staring out the window of her carriage as it bounced along the lush green countryside. She sighed heavily as she looked down at the letter in her hands and reread it, almost as if she were trying to will it to not be true. Her father's death had brought a new and uncertain future for her into play at the hands of one Ira Rosenberg. While she had never been fond of her father, she simply couldn't bring herself to wish him dead. With his death, he had demanded that she be sent to Kentucky under the care of one of his oldest friends, Ira. Tara had never met the man but she was certain that if her father had liked him, she wouldn't. Her father's taste in friends was less than savory and they often were like him, mean-spirited and unruly. She dreaded the new surroundings and unfamiliar faces. She knew next to nothing about Mr. Rosenberg, except that he owned a small plantation in the country. She was to live with him until she found a suitor, someone Ira deemed worthy of her hand in marriage. Someone else to take her away and imprison her. She sighed again and returned her eyes to the foliage. Soon the bouncing of the carriage and the gentle trotting sounds of the horse's hooves lulled her to sleep.
Several hours later, she didn't know how many, the carriage jolted to a stop. Tara jerked awake and looked around. The pleasant sounds of the countryside had been replaced by the hammering and clinking noises of a rock quarry. Dirty faced men hollered to each other and pounded on rocks, breaking them up with sledgehammers and pickaxes. A few ventured in and out of a large cavern at one end of the quarry, carting rocks out with crudely constructed wheelbarrows. All of the men were muscular and rough looking, none of which Tara wanted to get to know up close and personal. She hoped Ira wasn't like these men. The carriage driver opened the door for her and extended his hand to help her out. She carefully climbed down from the cab and immediately was visually molested by several men. She had catcalls and whistles directed towards her before a very large man strode up in front of her.
"Get back to work you dogs!" He shouted and the men returned to their tasks immediately. The burly man turned back to Tara and grimaced slightly. "What can I do for you ma'am?" He asked loudly.
"I'm here looking for a Mr. Ira Rosenberg." Tara said in her quiet and timid voice. A loud blast from the cavern drowned out the words Mr. and Ira, so all the big man heard was the name Rosenberg.
"You're looking for Rosenberg?" He inquired, his deep voice heightened to almost a yell. Tara winced at the shear volume as his voice rang in her ears a bit too loudly. She reasoned that the continual blasts were beginning to affect his hearing. She nodded politely. He motioned her to follow him and turned away. Tara picked up the edge of her simple white cotton dress and followed his huge strides. She stopped when he stopped and looked around. She saw several big men and expected her guide to point to one of them, but instead he pointed to a lone worker. Long red hair was tied at the base of the worker's neck with a thin strip of leather, and long breeches donned muscular legs. A thin cotton shirt that had once been white covered a well-developed back, the sleeves rolled up to reveal muscular biceps.
"The redhead?" Tara inquired of her hulking companion. The man simply nodded and tipped his cap. He turned and left Tara to meet this mysterious stranger by herself. Tara timidly approached the sweating figure, raising her voice to overcome the tumultuous din all around.
"Ira Rosenberg? I-I'm T-Tara Maclay, R-Robert's daughter."