Coming June 2012 the first book in my Shadow Series -- When Shadows Fall.
Matthew's voice was soft, and appealing. Too appealing. Rebekah decided to go in. His closeness, and the warmth radiating from his body, caused her heart to thrum.
Robert had been gone, and thought dead for over a year. How easy it would be to fall into Matthew's arms. Let him comfort her like he'd done when she was a girl. They seemed like such strong arms. But she wasn't a child anymore. She was a married woman with a child and a sick husband who needed her.
Her first love could be nothing more than a precious memory. Her heart grew heavy. She turned and was about to take her leave when Matthew asked about Robert. "If you'd rather not talk about it, I'll understand. I only wanted you to know if you need anything, I'm here for you. I'll help in any way I can."
"That's very kind. Things are okay for now. Besides, I couldn't expect you to help the enemy." She stood still, afraid to face him. Afraid of the concern he'd show.
"Rebekah, if you love him, and he cares for you, he's no enemy of mine," his reply was tender. He caught her shoulders, turned her to face him. "I mean that with all my heart."
Rebekah nodded. He meant it. Her eyes misted. Her tears were building. If she fell into his arm, it was wrong to even think it, but… would he hold her close? Or had time changed everything? Still, she wasn't his to hold anymore. In reality she never had been, though she wanted to be. Did he wish it were different? She wished they could go back, but they couldn't. She had to accept the fact that she would never be his, and be grateful for the chance to see him again.
"I should go. Can I walk you to the house?"
Raising her head, she found his eyes in the moonlight. "You go on. It's such a lovely evening I think I'd like to stay longer. I'll look for you tomorrow."
"Goodnight then." Her heart lurched as she considered him leaving. She wondered when he'd have to say goodbye. Perhaps for forever.
"Goodnight," she whispered as she watched him cross the yard to his horse and swing his tall body effortlessly into the saddle."Goodnight," he called again. She waved, and watched him disappear into the darkness -- melding with the shadows on the road.
The wagon raced down the road. It stopped right on her front step and was soon surrounded by a clamor of people. A chill snaking her skin, Kaitlin hiked her gown and broke into a run.
Kaitlin slipped past the barricades and pushed through the crowds. Heavy smoke made it hard to catch her breath. Nothing could stop her scream when she saw her apartment building engulfed in flames.
She scanned the lines of blackened faces. Her family wasn't there. Her gaze was drawn to the building, to the raging mingling of fire and life. Kaitlin prayed her family would come out. No one exited -- the agony of her thoughts cut her like a well-sharpened saber. Looking up, her thoughts became flesh.
Jean Marc stood in the upstairs window holding a bundle. Kaitlin knew, with another slice to her soul, the bundle was Simone. Jean Marc, so quiet, protective, so uneasily riled, yelled. Tormented wails for help rose along with tears of anguish and fear as angry flames licked out behind him.
The knife in Kaitlin's gut pushed through and slit her spine, filleting with cold precision. Pandemonium reigned around her where men held out their arms, coats, and blankets, and yelled for those Kaitlin loved to jump.
Across the space of the yard, over the din of bells, the cries of man and beast, over the conflagration -- eternity settling between them -- she caught her beloved's eyes. She couldn't read them. Perhaps she could, but couldn't bear to hear the message. Jump, she bade him. He remained at the third floor window, their daughter pressed to his chest. A sparkle of flame in his tear filled eyes, spoke of things to come and time froze. She closed her eyes for a brief moment to dam the tears and looked up to find him gone.
No one had jumped.
Spurred by inner wells of terror, Kaitlin raced for the doors. She groped for the handle, ignoring the pain. The timbers that secured the awning crashed, splinters of flame flickered like fireflies around her head, and fell to her skirts like droplets of orange rain. She stopped momentarily to brush her skirts and continued passed the obstacle. Moving on, ignoring the rush of heat, she screamed for her husband, her child. Her legs ignited with heat, her lungs burned with the smell of seared flesh. She pushed on through the maze of lashing flames, ignoring the screams behind her.
Kaitlin was pulled to an abrupt stop before she could cross the threshold. She fought for release so she could join her family -- in death. She was dragged from the building, thrown to the ground and rolled into the dirt.
Afraid to look at the window and have her fears justified, she closed her eyes against the burning tears. Unaware, as she succumbed to the blackness, whether it was her voice she heard screaming so loudly, so pathetically, or the haunting cries of her husband and child, calling for salvation.
"What did you think of the sermon, Samantha?"
Sam thought she'd choke on her cherry pie right there. And practically did.
"Here now." The reverend laughed as he patted her back. "Did we find a pit or was the sermon that bad?"
Visiting with a reverend was bad enough, but a reverend with humor. Sam started to choke all over again. She waved her hand in front of her face to circulate the air and gulped a deep breath. Then if her teary eyes and choking weren't enough, she had to go and snort on her exhale. Not some delicate little snort either -- no, it was a full-bodied thing. She sounded like her stepfather's grand sow. Her skin warmed. Soon she would even be as pink as the pig.
It was a disaster, unavoidable, but a disaster nonetheless. She'd never get another invite. Groaning softly, Sam put her head in her hands until she could breathe again. It'd be easier if the good reverend would quit patting her back, disrupting her heartbeat. But how did one tell a reverend to stop?
"Are you all right?" Ruth asked.
"Yes, yes." Sam surfaced, her face on fire. Reverend Trent's hand lifted from her back. "It went down the wrong pipe," she replied meekly.
"Are you sure you're all right?" the reverend asked. He handed her his napkin. Sam used it as a shield to compose behind. "It hurts something fierce when it does that," he added sympathetically.
Sam dabbed her watery eyes so she wouldn't have to look at him. 'Cause the preacher man's smile was soft, beguiling.