The Davenports: Meet Olivia!
We’re counting down to the stunning historical romance from Krystal Marquis, The Davenports! Get ready to meet Olivia, the eldest Davenport daughter. Headstrong and compassionate, Olivia is fiercely loyal to her friends and family.
Learn more about The Davenports here and scroll down to read a sneak peek about Olivia!
“You look a bit lost,” a voice said behind her.
Olivia’s hand tightened around the purse and gloves clutched to her chest. “I am not lost.” She peered at the stranger under the brim of her hat, still fastened to her head. The young man lifted his chin to see over the crowd.
“Oh,” he said. “You’re meeting someone.” He hooked his thumbs on the lapels of his jacket. His gray-striped suit was perfectly tailored, but showed some signs of wear. They were of a similar height, with her in her heeled boots, making it difficult for her to avert her gaze. His strong jaw tilted back to her, and Olivia was struck by the light honeyed color of his eyes, high cheekbones, and bright white teeth revealed by a disarming smile.
“No,” she began, then stopped. He was a stranger. She didn’t need to tell him anything.
“So, you are lost.” He nodded as he examined her carefully planned outfit. “Fine dress. Polished boots. Those hands look like they’ve never done a hard day’s work.” He laughed at Olivia’s open mouth and the shock written across her face. His laugh was smooth, and so full of joy, it spilled over. She almost forgot he was laughing at her expense.
Just because my clothes are nice—”
“Nice? Miss, open your eyes.”
Olivia followed his gaze. The people gathered in their secondhand shoes and ill-fitting suits knew hardships she couldn’t imagine. She assumed some, like her, were one generation beyond enslavement. Mr. Davenport never really talked about his family, of the life he left behind, or what it took him to get North. It was as if his life began in Chicago when he met Emmeline Smith while working in a carriage repair shop.
Now Olivia’s hands drifted to the large gold buttons of her blouse. The realization that each one could probably feed someone for a week made heat prick her cheeks. The crowd pressed closer.
She felt trapped between the man beside her and an older woman to her right, who left Olivia in a cloud of powder and shea butter when their shoulders collided.
“Mrs. Woodard.” Olivia recognized her as a close friend of Reverend Andrews. Both were strong supporters of the community center.
The middle-aged woman gave Olivia a firm handshake before folding her arms over her chest. Her double-breasted coat was the same shade of cream as her skirt. A pearl barrette kept her voluminous coils away from her face. “Will you be joining the women’s gathering?”
Olivia glanced around the room. There were indeed as many women in the crowded room as men. When her attention returned to Mrs. Woodard, the older woman’s sharp gaze made Olivia’s throat dry up. If I recognize her, then—
“We’re pushing for the vote, you know,” said a young woman on the other side of Mrs. Woodard. She wore a dress that looked like a uniform, deep blue, with white stockings and shoes. She pushed her chin forward. “We deserve a say,” she said, her eyes on the men in front of them. “Just as much as they do.” Soon Olivia found herself surrounded by women discussing their work and politics. They possessed a confidence and directness she immediately liked. They were like Helen, self-assured and determined. Olivia was painfully aware of the rudely opinionated young man next to her, watching her every move from the corner of his eye.
“And what are your reasons for visiting the old Samson House?” he asked. The tenor of his voice was a startling contrast to the ladies’ higher ones.
“I don’t know why I’m here,” she confessed. “I followed a group from the community center.” She gestured to the teenagers crowded at the front of the room.
He nodded. “They’re here to see a Mr. DeWight.”
Olivia waited for more information. “And he is?” Her frustration was mounting. First, he implied she did not belong there. Now he was being deliberately obtuse.
“A lawyer from Alabama.”
The crowd around them continued to swell and the temperature in the room increased. This was all for a lawyer?
The young stranger went on. “His articles in The Defender got people talking ’bout their rights and Jim Crow.”
“Jim Crow?” She looked away, trying to remember the snippets she heard about of the restrictions on Black people in the Southern states. She chewed her lip, embarrassed at how little she recalled.
The beginning of a smirk tugged at his mouth. Olivia had a feeling he knew just how to play those high cheekbones. “It’s worse than I feared,” he said. The desire to set him straight raised
her temperature, but he continued before she could respond. “It is a good thing you’re here,” he said, his chin pointing behind her, where Reverend Andrews appeared, brushing past them to walk onstage and step onto an overturned crate. He faced the crowd. A hush fell over the room, like the quiet that falls over a congregation before the organ bellows the opening hymn. But this was not a service Olivia was used to.
The reverend cleared his throat. “Thank you all for coming here today. I know these are trying times, dangerous times. It may seem as if a force greater than ourselves means to pull us back after each stride toward equality.” Women nodded into their fans and men’s jaws hardened. A few offered mumbled prayers through barely parted lips.
“But we must not lose faith.” The people around Olivia responded to his words with a chorus of Amen. “Without further delay, Mr. Washington DeWight.”
“Excuse me,” said the mysterious young man, the one who had interrogated her. She watched him gently part the masses on his way to the stage.
It took her a moment to understand.
He is Mr. DeWight?
He skipped over the crate to the spot where the reverend just stood. He found Olivia in the crowd and winked at her, setting her pulse raging in her ears. She wished she could disappear, run back up the stairs. But she didn’t want him to know how much he’d rattled her. She forced her feet to stay rooted to the floor and to not turn from his gaze, which seemed locked on her.