I’ve had a busy few days, arranging a book launch – tentatively set for March 10 – and generally tending to the stuff that comes up with a new release. Which brings me to one of those things – a contest!
I’m going to keep it simple. I’m always looking for ideas for this blog, so all I’m going to ask in order to be entered in a draw for a copy of Heart is that you comment on this post with a suggestion for a topic you’d like to see here – writing craft, historical, or otherwise – and that you follow my blog. I’ll run the contest until Valentine’s Day.
I also promised an excerpt, so I’ll give you the McShannons saying goodbye, not to be together again until the third book in the series (out next year if the Lord is willing and the creek don’t rise.) Enjoy!
Seagulls skimmed the harbor, their harsh voices at odds with their grace as they dipped and swirled, free as the sea breeze that carried them. Chelle took in a breath laden with the scents of salt water, tar and refuse, pungent and unfamiliar.
If the worth of a thing could be measured by the price paid for it, then freedom was precious indeed.
She’d never seen anything like New York before. She stood on the pier with her father and Trey, watching as sailors and stevedores went about their jobs, their shouts rising above the voices of other passengers saying their own farewells to family and friends. The city loomed in the background, its tall buildings creating a wall of brick and stone as cold and unforgiving as the light of the gray April morning. The scene didn’t seem real.
Rory had let her go without saying goodbye. Not a word, not a note.
Through the blur of shifts and changes as they made their way North, Chelle had refused to look back. If what she and Rory had felt for each other was love, it wasn’t worth regretting. Truth was truth, even if it broke her heart.
She felt miserably selfish. Everywhere along their route, people had been sober and preoccupied, preparing for what was all but certain to come. What right did she have to waste tears on a man who hadn’t wanted her, when the whole country was holding its collective breath, waiting for the first shot to be fired? If Rory could have seen the factories, the thousands of people in the New York streets, perhaps he would have understood why she couldn’t stay with him. The war was over before it had even begun. What would become of home, of the peaceful landscape she loved?
The McShannons had been exploring the ship, putting off the moment of parting, but the time had come when Trey had to go ashore. When they couldn’t delay any longer, Chelle threw her arms around her brother. She looked into his eyes and knew that this was tearing him apart, too.
He’d be traveling West, alone, through country that could be as dangerous as any battlefield. Her childhood playmate, her best friend. Trey might be capable and strong, but in so many ways, he was still a boy. Chelle didn’t want to make this harder for him, but she couldn’t let him go. She hugged him closer and laid her head on his shoulder.
“Trey, come with us, at least until the war is over. You can always come back then. Please. If we can’t get you on this ship, we’ll wait for another one.”
“It’s for the best this way, Chelle.” He lifted her chin and ruffled her hair. She felt him take a deep breath as he fought to control his voice. “It wouldn’t be any easier to leave you and Dad after the war, and what about Cloud? He’s waiting for me in that stable in Washington, remember? I’d have to sell him and that would take some time, even if I could do it, which I can’t. Maman wouldn’t want to see us going on like this.”
Somehow, Chelle steeled herself and stepped back. She couldn’t show less courage than Trey. “You’ve been the best brother a girl could have. Be careful. Write as soon as you get settled.”
“I will. You look after yourself too. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. And so will you.” Trey hadn’t spoken to her about Rory, but his silent sympathy had done wonders to help Chelle through the days since leaving home. He forced a grin. “Someday you’ll be able to visit the finest breeding farm west of Kentucky. Give my regards to Uncle Jack and Aunt Caroline.”
Her vision blurring with tears, Chelle watched as Trey turned and wrapped his arms around his father. “Goodbye, Dad. The two of you take care of each other. I’ll write as soon as I can. You’d better get aboard.”
“Aye.” Colin put his hands on his son’s shoulders and looked up at him with suspicious moisture in his eyes. “I’m proud of you, lad. Always have been. Remember that, and remember you’re your mother’s son. Goodbye.”
Trey stepped away with a bleak, young smile. He looked like he couldn’t speak, and Chelle knew she couldn’t. How many years would pass before she saw him again? She followed her father back across the gangway. As the ship started out of the harbor, Chelle pulled her mother’s shawl closer around her, stood at the rail and watched her brother’s figure dwindle to a lonely gray dot at the end of the pier. The life she’d always known disappeared with him, and at the moment she didn’t think she had it in her to build a new one.