A Moment in the Moonlight (Secrets of Savannah Book 2)

By: Belle Calhoune

Prologue


If stealing was a sin, then by all rights Hunter Rawlings was a sinner. But at least he’d go to purgatory with a full belly, he reassured himself as he jimmied open the window and propelled himself out of the opening. Hunter crouched into a kneeling position as he landed on the ground with a thud, his contraband still nestled safely in his arms.

Hunter held the stolen ham in his hand, cradling it like a football as his belly made loud noises from hunger. He licked his lips as the aroma of savory ham mixed with brown sugar wafted in the air. A pang of guilt sliced through him as the realization hit him that he was now a thief. How many times had Mama drummed into his head that stealing was for people who hadn’t accepted God into their lives? How many times had Pastor McAllister preached about the virtues of living a sin free life?

For Hunter, the choice between fire and brimstone and feeding his family was easy. He could no longer bear to see his mother’s rail thin body or the dark circles that shadowed her eyes. He couldn’t stand the cries of his brothers and sisters as they went to bed hungry every evening. Ever since his father had passed on, food had been a scarce commodity around the Rawlings household. Although Sam Rawlings had never been much of a provider, he had managed to keep a roof over the family’s head and keep their bellies full by doing odd jobs and occasional carpentry work around Savannah. He had once worked for Renault Industries, but he’d been fired under troubling circumstances. Ever since that moment, their household had been in financial trouble.

Although Mama had worked as a maid for some of the more prosperous families in town, her illness had taken such a toll on her health that it was no longer an option. He didn’t know exact what lupus was, but he knew that it made Mama very sick. And medicine cost lots and lots of money when you didn’t have insurance. At least that’s what he had overheard Mama telling one of her friends on the phone the other day. Yes, indeed. The Rawlings family had fallen on hard times and there was no hint of brighter days to come. Stealing a Virginia ham from the Renault’s house was a simple matter of necessity, availability and opportunity.

The Renaults were Savannah’s wealthiest and most respected family. Jack Renault was the owner of one of the largest factories in Savannah, as well as being the owner of several restaurants, hotels and car dealerships. The Renaults were so rich that they had even named their estate – Riverbend. There was no end to Jack Renault’s empire and his influence in Savannah. If anyone could do without a Virgina ham, it was the Renaults. And his company had gotten rid of his father like an old shoe, so Hunter shouldn’t have to feel bad about stealing something from a fat cat like Jack Renault.

Hunter took a moment to admire the sweet smelling ham, then began the business of making his getaway. In his haste to get as far away as possible from the scene of the crime he stumbled over a tree stump, landing flat on his belly on the ground. With the agile movements of a cat, Hunter had managed to salvage the ham by holding it aloft in one hand as his body hit the dirt.

“Sweet!” Hunter mumbled to himself as he managed to save the ham from ruin.

He raised himself from the ground and continued to make his getaway, his eyes focused on the woods in the distance. Too late he heard the sound of a large twig snapping underneath his weight as he crept alongside the Renault’s home.

“Who’s there?” a deep voice boomed out of the darkness.

Hunter’s heart beat a wild rhythm inside him as his body froze. Who had just called out? He had been certain that the entire Renault household would have been in attendance at the Harvest Fest, one of Savannah’s biggest fund raisers and celebrations. When he had arrived at the Renault’s mansion it was swathed in darkness, as if no one was home. It was a man! A security guard perhaps? He’d never even considered that notion.

Outrun him! a voice inside his head urged him as he made a wild dash towards the barn. Hunter figured that he had a pretty good shot at getting away since he was the fastest boy in the seventh grade.

“Stop or I’ll shoot,” the same voice called out as he dashed towards safety.

Hunter stopped in his tracks as he heard the cocking of a rifle. Please Lord, don’t let him shoot me! He was only twelve years old. Way too young to die, he thought miserably. Without warning, Hunter found himself being bathed in a circle of light. He held his arm up to shade his eyes from the blinding glare.

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