I received my edits for Heart the other day, have gone through them (no major changes – phew!) and am ready to ship them back. It looks like I’ll have an e-book release by Christmas! If you’d like to enter my CONTEST win a copy, or a critique by freelance editor Patricia Thomas, PLEASE SEE MY LAST POST.
I’m including an excerpt below, of Chelle’s first meeting with Martin. And, for this week’s Folk Friday, Kathy Mattea’s beautiful rendition of “Mary, Did You Know?” Enjoy!
She hurried down the slope and, as she expected, found a young lamb caught by its fleece in the bramble’s thorns, nearly exhausted from struggling.
“You’ve got yourself in a fine mess, haven’t you?” Chelle didn’t relish the thought of getting her hands in among those thorns, but she didn’t see much help for it. After a quick glance around, she wrapped one hand in her cloak and started pulling the branches away from the lamb’s fleece.
In spite of the protection, the thorns reached through to her skin. The lamb didn’t help. Not as exhausted as Chelle had thought, as soon as she freed it from one clinging branch it struggled and got caught by another. By the time she lifted it out of the bush, she’d earned a couple of nasty scratches and mislaid her temper.
As she bent to set the lamb on its feet, a dog’s bark startled her. Still crouching, Chelle spun around and faced a grizzled black and white Border Collie, standing a few feet away with its teeth bared and hackles raised. Luckily, the dog’s owner stood close by. Her heart in her throat, Chelle released the lamb and slowly raised her gaze from a pair of heavy boots to eyes the color of a stormy sea.
“Come, Gyp.” The dog returned to the man’s side at the curt command. Hands in his pockets, he watched Chelle straighten up. She felt herself blushing under his cool stare.
He’d be as tall as Trey, perhaps an inch or two taller, but with his bulk he didn’t look it. He reminded her of Charlie Bascomb at home, broad in the shoulders, thick in the legs and torso, but the resemblance stopped with his build. Charlie was quiet and easy-going, always wearing a smile, but there was nothing approachable about this man with his lowering brows, grim mouth and slightly freckled face. His features, along with his rusty hair, told Chelle who he must be.
“Hello. I’m Chelle McShannon. You must be Martin Rainnie.”
The Collie stood braced beside his master, the fur still standing up on the back of his neck. Mr. Rainnie looked no more welcoming. He spoke as curtly as he had to his dog.
“Aye. What are you doin’ out here?”
It seemed Jean had done the man a favor by saying little about him, or perhaps Dales farmers were usually rude. Chelle lifted her chin and showed him her bleeding hand.
“That’s obvious enough, isn’t it? That lamb’s fleece was caught in this bush. I freed it.”
Mr. Rainnie looked her up and down with those cold gray-green eyes, then softened his tone and made an effort to curb his broad Yorkshire. Perhaps he’d recalled that his daughter was living with her family.
“So you’re Jack’s niece. I didn’t know you’d arrived yet.”
“We arrived yesterday.” Chelle fished a clean handkerchief from her skirt pocket and wrapped it around her scratched hand while she fumbled for something to say. “I’ve been out for a walk to the end of the fell. The view is lovely.”
His tenacious-looking mouth twisted in a sardonic grin as he stepped closer. “Aye, but it’s not very sustainin’. Not much but sheep will grow up here. This is Carswen fell, and the village down below is Carston.”
Chelle took in his well-worn work clothes and large, work-roughened hands. Martin Rainnie’s face showed the effects of wind and weather, but she thought the lines around his mouth and eyes came from bitterness. He looked like he could do with more sleep and less of the whiskey she smelled on him. With the breeze plucking at the sleeves of his faded canvas jacket, he seemed as much a natural part of the landscape as the sheep and the moorland grass, and just as rugged.
“I thought as much. Dad mentioned it, so I came out for a walk to see it for myself. I was on my way back when I decided to follow this trail and heard the lamb.”
He shrugged and stuck his hands back in his pockets. “You could have spared yourself the trouble. This is my flock, and I check on ‘em every day. You’d best get home and look to those scratches.” With that, he strode past her toward the sheep, his dog at his heels.
Chelle watched him go, his shoulders high, his broad back stiff with annoyance. Because she’d rescued one of his silly sheep? She turned on her heel and started back toward the village, muttering under her breath.
“I’m sorry for your daughter, Mr. Rainnie. As for me, the next time I find one of your animals in trouble, I’ll be leaving it alone.”