Friday, 16 December 2011
Author Spotlight - Excerpt from "Faith in the Shadows"
Thanks you so much for supporting Sophie & Sadie during their spotlight week. Leave a comment on the excerpt post today, Saturday, and Sunday and we'll pick a winner on Monday to received a PDF copy of their story, Faith in the Shadows.
Hawk angrily dashed away the moisture on his cheeks. He had made it through the past year without family, he would do it this Christmas as well. He marched out into the weather and quashed the tempting thoughts of life with those he loved and those he longed to love. He fixed his mind on the future. Regardless of the hardships ahead of him, someday he would come home.
Hawk made it to the far edge of the paddock before he whirled around and trudged back to the barn. What ailed him? To forget his pack only showed the state of his addled brain. He must leave now, before Alice returned. It would be kinder for her this way. She would be hurt, but she would heal. Some day soon, he would walk up to this house, or maybe even ride up on a horse as fine as Thunder. He would take the stairs two at a time, no falling and stumbling ever again. Alice would be waiting in the doorway for him. He'd lift her off her feet and just stare at her face until he got his fill. Then they would walk together in the woods. He'd pick her wildflowers and properly ask her to be his wife.
"Soon," he muttered. "Please, God. Soon." In the dim winter light, he felt around at the foot of the cot for his errant pack. He snagged it with his searching fingers just as footsteps ran lightly into the barn.
"Hawk!" her voice trapped him. "Mama sent me to--" Alice's words halted, but only for an indrawn breath. "Mother said you were to help me cut the Christmas tree before the snow came. Will you?"
She knew. Hawk could tell by the disappointment in her voice. He slowly released his grip on his belongings and turned to face her. "I don't believe you need me to help you choose a Christmas tree," he protested, but he'd already broken her heart. He yearned to gather her close and mend it, but he clenched his fist tighter around his walking stick. "You don't need me," he muttered.
"I believe I do," Alice said. Her voice trilled and Hawk recognized the note of forced gaiety. She had used the same false tone at Pinehurst when extolling Joshua's virtues. The memory rankled and he waited for her to berate him for playing the coward once more. When she spoke again her voice strengthened with each word. "If I don't have help, I usually wander in the woods over into the next county. I'm gone for a fortnight. I love looking at trees. I can't help myself."
The soft confession melted his angry resolve. She took his hand and it trembled in his. He gripped it tightly.
"Come along." She gave him an insistent tug. "You can be back here and resume your business within the hour, if it's so important to you."
Hawk offered no resistance. Surely he could give them both this one memory. They moved as one out of the barn, through the gate, and into the upper pasture. The snow hit his face and melted like tears on his cheeks. He blinked away the moisture and his steps dragged. She slowed their pace but never stopped. "Alice," he finally said.
"Watch your step," she said.
Hawk stood stalk still and resisted her gentle pull. The sheep mobbed them, bumping at their knees. The stink of wet wool and the infernal baaing surrounded them. "Move along, Anna. I don't have a treat for you today, Dolly." Alice's scolding turned to laughter. The press of the woolly bodies squeezed closer; the volume of cries rose and deafened him. "I'm sorry," she apologized. "Dolly knows I always have some crackers or biscuit crumbles in my pocket and she won't let me go until I give them all a little something."
"She sounds spoiled to me." The normalcy of the moment broke through his pain but rubbed his emotions raw.
Alice burst into laughter again. "You're quite right. But just wait until spring lambing and see if you can resist the newborns."
"I don't know," Hawk began, but Alice continued on in a rush.
"Lawrence and I can teach you about lambing," she said. "Every year a few orphaned or weak lambs spend some time in a box by the kitchen stove. Dolly was one of my orphans." Her hand guided his down and a wet questing nose thrust between their hands. "That's Dolly," she said.
His lips curved up as she caressed the pet without letting go of his hand.
"Go on now," she said and clasped his hand tighter. Alice slowly towed him through the press of bodies. "We need to sneak out," she directed. He heard the clack of the latch and followed as they sidled through the north gate. The sheep snuffled and hooves scraped on the frozen ground, then their cries receded and nearly stopped. "We're headed up," Alice said. She tugged on his hand but he balked. "Alice," he said gruffly. "I won't be here for the spring lambing."
"I know," she said softly. "But won't you stay for Christmas?"
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