Drowned History – Excerpt

img_7014Their footsteps were loud against the stone and the sound of water had become further away again, but the air had turned cool and damp. Water dripped from the unseen ceiling and pattered onto the ground. The echoing sound of the droplets and their steps made her think of the time she had gone into a cave behind a waterfall with her friends as a girl. Alice’s mind was taken over by the sounds of water and the sight of George holding a gun, so when her foot slipped on one of the steps she didn’t notice until she pitched forward with a cry of surprise.

“Alice!” Phillip reached forward and caught the back of her shirt as she fell, and Alice heard the fabric tear.

I just bought this shirt, she thought, realizing as she did how ridiculous it was. It didn’t stop her falling, though, and George turned toward the sound of Phillip’s voice to see Alice coming directly at him. He dropped the lantern and caught her in his arms, an action that pushed him off the edge of his own step. The lantern crashed on the stone floor beneath them and burst in a splintering of glass and metal, giving off one bright burst of light before being swallowed by the darkness. Alice hoped that when they hit the ground he wouldn’t land on the mess. The last thing she wanted was for him to get hurt again because she wasn’t paying attention.

George was under her, so when they hit the floor together he broke her fall. Alice lay in his arms for a moment, trying to decide if they were really all right before she got up. The worst thing that had happened to her was her ruined shirt but George was coughing and trying to catch his breath.

“Are you all right?” She sat up and got off him but didn’t stand, waiting instead to make sure he was going to be okay. George pressed a hand to his chest and nodded.

“Just got the wind knocked out of me,” he said.

“Thank you,” Alice said quietly, not wanting the others to hear what she was saying. She wanted to keep as much between her and George as possible. “You could have just let me fall.”

“I could’ve,” George said looking up at Phillip and Nadir, who were coming down as fast as caution would allow. “But I won’t.” The light of Nadir’s lantern reached them, throwing shadows onto George’s face and he smiled. “As you can see, I didn’t even lose my glasses.”

“Are you okay?” Phillip knelt down beside Alice and she nodded. “Thank God. I’m sorry about tearing your shirt, I thought I would be able to catch you.”

“It’s all right,” Alice said. “Thank you for trying, though. I can forgive the loss of one shirt.”

“I’ll buy you a new one when we get back to the States,” Phillip said. “Whatever kind you like.” His words touched Alice but she knew she couldn’t let him do it. She had felt his feelings for her growing the longer they spent together, and he was a sweet boy, but that was all he was to her. Before she could reply, George started to get up.

“Let me help you,” Alice said, shooting up from her place on the floor and offering George both of her hands the way she used to. He gave her a dubious look and for a moment she thought he was going to tell her not to be ridiculous and stand up himself. Instead he took her hands and let her put on the old charade. Alice didn’t know if he could see it but she was smiling hard enough that it hurt. “You’ve definitely put on weight.”

“Age will do that to a man,” George said, standing up as she took a step backward to pull him. “Happens to the best of us.”

“I should say so,” Alice said. “I know I—” Her words were cut off before she’d really gotten a chance to say them as the stones beneath the heel of her shoe crumbled away under her slight pressure. When she realized she was falling again, Alice immediately let go of George’s hands so she wouldn’t pull him down with her.

“Alice!” This time it was all three of the men shouting at her as she fell backward and the fact that their voices were echoing made her realize that they must have come into an open chamber. She couldn’t sense the floor or more steps coming up at her and it dawned on Alice that she was most likely falling to her death.

She could hear her companions shouting again and this time they seemed much further away. It was getting darker and cooler by the second as she fell away from their warmth and what little light was left to them with the one lantern. It looked like one of the fireflies she’d seen while she was playing outside in summer.

This is it, Alice thought. I’m really going to die. Rather than try to look into the darkness, Alice closed her eyes and stretched her arms out to her sides like wings. I wonder if it will hurt?

Thoughts warred and spun through her head; images of her parents and her friends, the work she did for the translation company, her mother’s noisy little dog. Mostly she thought about George and how happy she was that she’d gotten the chance to tell him that she loved him. She hoped he would be able to forget everything that had happened since they met again in Nadir’s office and remember the time they’d spent together in Surat, only this time he’d know how she felt.

I’m sorry, George, she thought as she finally felt something rushing up at her. For everything.

Alice clenched her teeth and braced herself as best she could for the impact, hoping that she would die right away and not suffer. She didn’t know how far she had fallen so it was impossible to tell, but she knew that it wasn’t a question of whether or not she would die, more of how painfully she would do so.

Then, to her surprise, Alice plunged into water so icy cold that it sent a shock through her body. It wasn’t at all what she expected and she opened her mouth to cry out but nothing came out. A moment later her heart stopped and everything was black.



Drowned History

Now on sale for $0.99 on Kindle, or free with Kindle Unlimited!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07B9SDHKP

Paperbacks coming soon!

 

Advertisements

Only a Rogue Knows -Excerpt 

The thick curtains that covered the window in Cordelia Whittemore’s bedroom made it almost
impossible for any light to get through, and that suited her just fine. She didn’t want anyone to see her crying, especially a passing servant. She looked up, clutching her handkerchief, and the image of what she’d just seen came back into her head and started a fresh wave of tears.  

She’d trusted him, and he’d gone and done something like this. They’d hardly been married a month and now she had no idea what was she supposed to do with the rest of her life. Cordelia put her face in her hands. It felt as if she’d never stop crying. 

“Cordelia!” Her door burst open and Arthur came hurrying through, tucking his neatly pressed white shirt into his pants. “I’m so sorry, my dear, I didn’t intend for you to see that.” She looked away from him, hiding most of her face in shadow. She didn’t want him to see how upset she was, but the tears in her voice couldn’t be hidden. 

“How long has this been going on?

“Since long before we were married. I didn’t want you to find out this way.” Arthur took a step toward her and she stood up and moved further away. “I’m truly sorry.” Of this Cordelia had no doubt but she didn’t know how to forgive him for infidelity, much less infidelity of this sort.  

“I’m sure you are,” she said, recovering enough to put a note of ice in her voice. “What am I supposed to do now?”

“Don’t tell anyone,” he said, his voice almost pleading. “Please. It would kill my father.”

“You know I could divorce you for this,” Cordelia said, turning her back on him. “And the Court would allow it, as would the Church. It’s a mortal sin, Arthur.”

“I know, and I’m begging you not to. I never wanted to get married in the first place,” he said. “Father said that if I didn’t marry and give him an heir he would disown me. Once he dies, I’ll be Lord Whittemore and we won’t have to worry about him. You can divorce me then if you want.”

“And if he doesn’t die soon? What then?” Cordelia shook her head. “I can’t believe you would ask something like this of me.”

“I know,” Arthur said. “It’s not fair to you. There’s nothing else for it, though. If you want to ruin me, then by all means petition for a divorce. You’re right, no one would deny it to you and if that’s what you wish to do I won’t deny you.” He came around to where she was facing the wall, forcing Cordelia to look at him. She turned her face toward him, her jaw set in a way that she knew her own father would be proud of. 

“All right,” she said finally. “I’ll keep your secret, but at least keep your affairs out of the house. Find somewhere else to do it or I really will tell your father about it.”

“Yes, of course. Whatever you want.” Arthur leaned forward to kiss her on the cheek and she shrank away from him. She couldn’t bring herself to let him kiss her after seeing him with another man. Cheating aside, she’d brought up to believe that it was unnatural and she didn’t know how she’d be able to look at him after this. He didn’t try to kiss her again and she looked away, unable to believe she was agreeing to this. “Thank you, my darling. You won’t regret this. I’ll make sure you have everything you could ever desire.”

“Mm.” Cordelia kept her face turned away from his and he finally stepped away from her. 

“Well, I suppose I should go visit my father. He’ll be expecting me later but there’s nothing wrong with showing up earlier.”

Of course not, thought Cordelia. Unless you come home early and find your husband with another man.

“Be careful,” Cordelia said, trying not to sound irritable. Arthur paused for a moment, then
walked out of the room quickly, as if he was running away from her.  

Once he was gone and the door was closed, Cordelia went behind him and locked it. Then she went back to her place by the window where there was a handsome wooden rocker. She sat down and began to rock back and forth slowly. Her anger was dissipating, being replaced by a deep sadness. 

She’d brought the chair with her at her mother’s urging, and had been dreaming since she was a girl of sitting in the rocker and rocking her baby to sleep. Now that dream looked to have been shattered. If he wasn’t interested in her, then she didn’t know how they were going to have a baby. The only time they’d come close to making love was on their wedding night and it had taken quite a lot of effort. She’d attributed it to his being nervous and having had a lot to drink but now she knew better.  

Cordelia started to rock faster, focusing on the sliver of light that was coming through the crack in the curtains and not the image of her husband with another man on his knees in front of him. She didn’t know if she’d ever be able to get it out of her head. More tears threatened to fall and she tried to will them away. She’d have to deal with the staff before too long and she didn’t want it to look like she’d been crying. They were all so kind, they’d want to know what was going on and she didn’t want to have to lie to them.  

 It suddenly occurred to her that they may have known about this all along. Feeling betrayed by both her staff and her husband, Cordelia sighed heavily and leaned her head back against the chair. She was really stuck now. The longer she stayed in her marriage, the less likely it would be for her to be able to get a divorce. All she could do was hope for her father-in-law to die soon so she could get out of her marriage, and that made her feel even worse.  

I’m well and truly trapped now, she thought. I wish Father had never made this arrangement.

 Every Rogue’s Heart is available at Amazon for $2.99 from now until December! Buy it here or get it free with Kindle Unlimited.