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BLOGWORDS – Wednesday 30 August 2017 – SPECIAL EDITION – THE LONG SHADOWS OF SUMMER RELEASE – EXCERPT

SPECIAL EDITION – THE LONG SHADOWS OF SUMMER RELEASE – EXCERPT

 

Available on Amazon 31 August!

 

My step wasn’t light but the ground was soft and my approach most quiet. Willow nickered gently as Mikal led her along the path.

“What is it, girl?” Willow’s ears perked at my approach. “Ce, what are you doing here?” He turned back toward the stables. “Is something the matter? Are the children—”

I placed my hand on his, raised my eyes to his. “All is well, Mik.” I whispered a kiss along his scruffy jawline.

He cocked his head, brought his hand to where my lips had brushed, so near to his. His eyes shuttered as his hand caressed my cheek and he drew his mouth to mine. His lips hovered for the barest of seconds, then closed in with such tender tension.

I brought my hands to his chest, stroked upward, intertwining my fingers behind his neck.

Mikal deepened his kiss, and the baby kicked.

Mon Dieu.” He relinquished the kiss and caressed our child.

“She likes when you kiss me.” I inched closer, pressed my belly against him. “I like when you kiss me.”

But I moved to Willow’s other side, as Mikal resumed walking. We came to a vein of the river that split off, providing safe drinking—no alligators. Mikal tied Willow to an oak branch and came to me. He took me in his arms.

“I like when I kiss you, too, mon amour.” His hands teased up the length of my bare arms, caressed my shoulders and neck, and tangled in my hair.

I tipped my head back at his touch, and he touched his lips to my shoulders, my neck, my ears.

He moved his hands down my back and my body quivered at his touch. My gaze locked on his, I traced my hands up his arms, cupped his face and drew him to me.

The kiss was explosive, fiery, leaving us at once sated and longing for more. Mikal split the kiss, drew in a ragged breath, and murmured, “Je t’aime.”

He pulled me tight, touched his lips to mine again. Sparks lit the flame, the kiss intensified, heat that had nothing to do with August humidity cloaked us.

Je t’aime,” he repeated, pulled away but didn’t release my hands. “Je t’aime.”

Mikal put space between us, stepped to the water, splashed his face with his free hand. Then splashed me. I couldn’t even feign irritation, the cool felt quite refreshing.

“What was that about?” He found his breath, and it seemed, his senses.

“Can a wife not tell her husband she loves him?”

“You told me well, Wife.”

 

The southern town of Saisons lies at the crossroads between North and South, progressive and genteel antebellum life. Between East and West, between history and heritage, and new frontiers. Downton Abbey meets Gone With the Wind.

 

It’s 1912, in a world where slavery is dying and women’s rights are rising, and four young women who once shared a bond—and experienced a tragedy—question their own truths.

 

Mercedes has always been an avid reader and devours each new Sherlock Holmes mystery as soon as she gets her hands on them. When one of her friends comes to her, Mercedes vows to keep Simone’s secrets and uncover the truth.

 

But as Mercedes plays detective to her friends’ questions, she discovers something far more shocking—she herself is not who she thought she was.

 

 

#Blogwords, Special Edition, The Long Shadows of Summer, Excerpt, Mercedes’ Dream, Release Feature, Seasons Book 1

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BLOGWORDS – Wednesday 23 August 2017 – SPECIAL EDITION – THE LONG SHADOWS OF SUMMER RELEASE – EXCERPT

SPECIAL EDITION – THE LONG SHADOWS OF SUMMER RELEASE – EXCERPT

 

Available on Amazon 31 August!

 

The black water swirled around me, my hair floating atop like silk. My body, though, had vanished in the depths beneath me. I was floating along on the river but didn’t seem to be moving. I felt more than heard fish swimming. Snakes slithered across me but didn’t seem to notice me. Alligators hissed and growled next to me and I was sure one would bite my head off. If my body was even there.

The darkness was as tangible as the water; neither stars nor moon evidenced above. Trees stood silent sentinel and Lissette appeared in their naked branches. She was evanescent, a filmy representation of herself, eyes vacant, hair black as… Pearl’s. I had never noticed how Pearl looked like Lisette. Her hands were as the branches on the trees and her legs were shrouded by a billowing swirling gray gown.

The silence was maddening. More maddening even than my inability to move. I only saw movement about me—Simone was suddenly by my side, sitting in a chair and talking to someone I couldn’t see. The chair didn’t float but sat squarely on the surface of the water.

Pearl was running along a path that followed the river, going nowhere as I was. But Pearl wasn’t Pearl; she was a boy. Dressed in white knickers and black boots, her hair was gone, cut short.

I struggled to be released from… from what I didn’t know. I was not bound by tethers or ties, but neither could I move. If my body was even with me any more.

My eyes riveted to the wall of the church, Saint Allyons, that rose at water’s edge. Scarlett looked directly at me as she plunged into the depths and disappeared. Then she suddenly was atop the wall again, leaping—or did she fall?—into the midnight water. Like a carnival ride, she was on the wall—she didn’t climb, she was just there—again and again.

I felt my body shift and felt pains of labor. But my womb produced nothing. The trees became burning walls. Lissette stood beyond the flames and pointed at me, accusing, but no one else was there.

 

 

The southern town of Saisons lies at the crossroads between North and South, progressive and genteel antebellum life. Between East and West, between history and heritage, and new frontiers. Downton Abbey meets Gone With the Wind.

 

It’s 1912, in a world where slavery is dying and women’s rights are rising, and four young women who once shared a bond—and experienced a tragedy—question their own truths.

 

Mercedes has always been an avid reader and devours each new Sherlock Holmes mystery as soon as she gets her hands on them. When one of her friends comes to her, Mercedes vows to keep Simone’s secrets and uncover the truth.

 

But as Mercedes plays detective to her friends’ questions, she discovers something far more shocking—she herself is not who she thought she was.

 

 

#Blogwords, Special Edition, The Long Shadows of Summer, Excerpt, Mercedes’ Dream, Release Feature, Seasons Book 1

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BLOGWORDS – Wednesday  16 August 2017 – SPECIAL EDITION – THE LONG SHADOWS OF SUMMER RELEASE

SPECIAL EDITION – THE LONG SHADOWS OF SUMMER RELEASE

 Cover reveal 24 August!

 

Bastille House was a pretentious bastion of wealth that no longer was there. It was no secret that Monsieur Adrièn spent money lavishly and foolishly, gambling away what he had once had. He had enlarged the house to ridiculous proportions, adding rooms and wings that would never be used.

For all his spending, he did not improve the operation of his father’s legacy; Bastille House had produced some of the finest black Spanish grapes in the southeast. I knew it was a lucrative industry even as prohibition swirled around us. I knew, too, that Monsieur Adrièn exported much of his inventory to Nimes in France. And I realized with startling clarity that was where the letter from Madame Adélaide had come from.

 

I now approached the house with no small degree of trepidation. I had had little to do with Monsieur Fontaine, dealing with house staff only on the rare occasion I was even there.

Under pretense of delivering cane syrup for a recipe, I knocked on the servant’s door. I hoped both that someone would hear me, so soft was my tapping, and that no one would hear; I feared Monsieur Fontaine’s reaction should he see me.

The chance of seeing the man in the servant’s level of the house was practically zero but that did nothing to ease the anxiety coursing through me. Anxiety that was very much like the icy chills I had come to recognize.

It did not, however, outweigh my concern for Scarlett. An agitation had stirred in me since her visit. After three days, with the feeling growing and not ebbing, I had to speak to her. I had to know she was well.

Tierney wiped flour from her hands as she opened the door.

Bonjour, Madame Renaldi.” She waved her hand indicating I should enter, and closed and locked the door. “What can I do for you?”

The poor woman was so rigid and tense I feared she might snap like a twig. Her face, though young, no more than thirty, was etched with wrinkles, her skin sallow. Already she wore gray streamers in her dark hair.

“I brought you some syrup.” Her face lit up at the gesture. Our cane syrup was a favorite, and a treat belowstairs at Bastille House.

“But this is not why you have come, it is Madame?” Tierney was as perceptive as her accent was thick.

“No, I’m afraid it is not.” I glanced about and she indicated a chair at the table.

“You are looking for your friend, n’est-ce pas?”

I set the small crockery on the table and she laid her hand over mine, bony and raw as an old woman. Her eyes watered but produced no tears.

“She is… how you say, récupérer.”

Recovering. Scarlett was recovering.

“How bad?” I was not shocked at Tierney’s report; it was nothing new.

Her silence was answer enough.

“Take me to her.” I rose but Tierney shook her head.

“She is in bedchamber of Monsieur.”

This news caused me great concern. Either she was so badly injured she required the care and attention of Docteur Petit, or Monsieur Fontaine was using her for his pleasure again. Probably both.

“She is… no conscious.”

It was worse than I feared. I knew I had to leave. I could not be seen. Monsieur Fontaine would not hesitate to beat me as well, for trespassing.

S’il vous plaît, let her know I came to speak to her.” Now I laid my hand on hers, and squeezed, conveying my grasp of the risk I was asking Tierney to take on my behalf.

Oui, Madame.” Her dark eyes darted around the dank space, fear searching for the face of evil. He did not present himself. “Merci pour le sirop.”

De rien.” I ducked as I exited the doorway, and Tierney closed it with a quiet click.

 

 

The southern town of Saisons lies at the crossroads between North and South, progressive and genteel antebellum life. Between East and West, between history and heritage, and new frontiers. Downton Abbey meets Gone With the Wind.

 

It’s 1912, in a world where slavery is dying and women’s rights are rising, and four young women who once shared a bond—and experienced a tragedy—question their own truths.

 

Mercedes has always been an avid reader and devours each new Sherlock Holmes mystery as soon as she gets her hands on them. When one of her friends comes to her, Mercedes vows to keep Simone’s secrets and uncover the truth.

 

But as Mercedes plays detective to her friends’ questions, she discovers something far more shocking—she herself is not who she thought she was.

 

 

#Blogwords, Special Edition, The Long Shadows of Summer, Excerpt, Release Feature

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BLOGWORDS – Wednesday  August 2017 – SPECIAL EDITION – THE LONG SHADOWS OF SUMMER RELEASE

SPECIAL EDITION – THE LONG SHADOWS OF SUMMER RELEASE

 

 

“Exactly, Pearl.” Simone tapped her head with her finger. “You are a lady, and the degenerate rake likes ladies.”

If it were not for Scarlett and his treatment of her, I would wonder of his reputation. What I knew of his beloved first wife… Perhaps he grieved so deeply… Something was amiss, I felt it.

“Well Merc surely can’t go. He won’t acknowledge her station.” Pearl turned from the window, rubbing the chill from her arms. “And you can’t go. He thinks you’re dead.” For all her grace and etiquette Pearl sometimes had no tact.

It dawned on us all at the same moment—Simone would be the one to deliver the watch to Fontaine, precisely because he thought her dead—dressed in gray and white with ashes smeared over her face and arms—she would pose as a ghost.

We arranged a time, after Simmie’s 1:00 feeding, and I crept down the stairs. It was a new house so there were no creaky steps. My feet absorbed the plush cushion of the velvety carpet and I slipped on my old work boots on the stoop as raindrops flicked the ground.

Shrouded in a black riding cloak, Simone had donned her costume and followed me out the door. She had spent much time barefoot as a child, and the habit had carried to her adult life. I wondered for a fleeting moment did her time in the village influence her preference.

Tonight she wore no shoes.

Pearl and I both were garbed all in black, my pale hair tightly coiled beneath a black wrap. No hats, only our dresses and cloaks, both against the damp chill and to veil our presence.

Without le bébé inside me, I moved as lithely as Simone. Pearl was light on her feet, but not in the dark and not along the bank of the canal. Tonight would not be the time for her to repeat her episode and fall into the muddy water.

Pearl had sent a message to Scarlett with instruction that it be delivered directly into her hand. If Scarlett was unavailable, Tierney was to read it. Tierney was fond of Pearl and would do whatever she required, no questions asked.

The door was not only unlocked, but stood open. Not a single light flickered, and no shadows evidenced themselves; it was utter darkness. Pearl and I slipped our shoes off and tucked them in a bin by the door.

I led the way by virtue of my former status and therefore, my familiarity with the stairs and passageways as they turned and twisted. As a younger woman, I had visited with Abigail and Harley. Abby and I were dear friends still.

The stairs and hallways were something out of a medieval tale, veering off, hallways offset, alcoves with stairs that climbed upward but no corresponding steps descending. Fontaine had even specified a tower, six stories high, but the room at the top was unbearable in the summer heat. I remembered tales of someone dying in the heat in that room while locked in.

Also cloaked in black, Scarlett waited in an alcove at the end of the passage. She knew a trick to open the door without making a sound. I cast a chastising glance at her. Of all of us, she was at greatest risk. If Fontaine awoke and saw any of us other than Simone, he would have all our necks, regardless of our station or our wealth, or even that Simone had his precious watch.

I knew from talking to Scarlett that Fontaine slept alone unless he had company in his bed. His pitiful wife was abandoned to her apartments, living as much in solitude as Madame Marchand, though not of her own choosing. I knew also that he drank heavily of his whiskey of an evening till he passed out. We used this knowledge to our advantage.

Scarlett had not been part of our planning but she offered what was at once the greatest proposition and the most dangerous—Simone would ride on her shoulders giving even greater impression of a visiting specter. She carried Simone with ease.

Fontaine had an enormous bed with massive columns at the corners. The ceiling was coffered above, and heavy drapes enclosed the space. Scarlett said they were always tied back; it wasn’t cold enough in South Carolina to ever draw them closed. Pearl and I padded to the sides and loosed the ties, the drapes casting the bed and its drunken occupant in utter dark.

Next we drew the windows open, the chill breeze blustering through. My blood ran cold as Fontaine’s gravelly voice rumbled. We all held still as the statue in the square, and I wondered I didn’t faint away from holding my breath.

He muttered something about Sessy and the fire. My skin crawled.

He gargled and wheezed, then it sounded like a wild beast as he settled into slumbered snoring.

I released my breath and resisted the urge to drop to my knees in prayerful thanks.

We had brought candles, and Pearl and I now lit them, placing them on three tables between the windows, away from drapes and wind so they’d neither be extinguished nor catch the drapes ablaze, but would cast shadows with the movement of the wind. We then slid to the wall at the head of the bed and whispered hushed moans, high and plaintive.

Fontaine mumbled again, calling out for Sessy.

Then he saw her and he shrieked like Pearl had when Simone had killed a cotton mouth one summer when we had been dipping our feet in the canal. I feared his staff might awaken and come to his aid; I didn’t realize they would neither hear him nor care if they did.

He sputtered and muttered, and like the character in the Charles Dicken’s tale, begged the spirit to leave him be.

Simone raised an ash-smeared white hand and pointed at him. I couldn’t see him but imagined him to be trembling, clutching the covers to his chin. I could, however, hear his piteous whimpers and felt a fleeting sense of pity. We had banked on the man’s superstitious nature and his lack of interest in all things godly and I now felt we were taking cruel advantage. I knew because Scarlett had told me, he was deathly afraid of ghosts—and here we were perpetrating our ruse with the very thing he feared most in life.

Pearl and I increased our wailing, and so too, did Fontaine. Simone held her position, her accusing finger seeming to reach right into his soul.

When I thought the man could bear no more—truly when I thought I could bear no more—Simone pulled her hand back inside her cloak and pulled the hood over her face. I was by the windows and extinguished the candles, then dropped them to the ground below. Still moaning soft and low, Pearl and I padded to the end of the bed and released the ties at the end, then we left the room quickly and silently, slamming the door behind us and leaving Fontaine bellowing like a wounded bear.

Scarlett led us to a secret stairway and we made our hasty exit. She had said she would retrieve the candles from the ground. We took no time for friendly affection in parting but knew we’d not risk coming to see Scarlett for several days at least.

“Did you leave it?”

Even in the dark, I knew the expression on Simone’s face. “Of course I left it Pearl.”

“I know you did.” Pearl’s breath was ragged. This was the most daring thing she had done in her pampered life. “I was so scared.”

“We all were, Pearl.” I caught just the movement, and that more of a whisper of sound, but I knew Simone had taken Pearl’s hand in hers.

We walked in silence for some minutes. It was the middle of the night and the darkness was eerie, perhaps spookier because of what we had just done.

I was a woman now of seven and twenty years, a wife and mother. I was no longer the adventuresome adolescent I had once been. I made my decisions based on prayer and deliberation, not whimsy or irrational diversion. What had we just done? What were we thinking?

 

The southern town of Saisons lies at the crossroads between North and South, progressive and genteel antebellum life. Between East and West, between history and heritage, and new frontiers. Downton Abbey meets Gone With the Wind.

 

It’s 1912, in a world where slavery is dying and women’s rights are rising, and four young women who once shared a bond—and experienced a tragedy—question their own truths.

 

Mercedes has always been an avid reader and devours each new Sherlock Holmes mystery as soon as she gets her hands on them. When one of her friends comes to her, Mercedes vows to keep Simone’s secrets and uncover the truth.

 

But as Mercedes plays detective to her friends’ questions, she discovers something far more shocking—she herself is not who she thought she was.

 

 

#Blogwords, Special Edition, The Long Shadows of Summer, Excerpt, Release Feature

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BLOGWORDS – Wednesday 2 August 2017 – SPECIAL EDITION – THE LONG SHADOWS OF SUMMER RELEASE FEATURE

SPECIAL EDITION – THE LONG SHADOWS OF SUMMER RELEASE

 

The Long Shadows of Summer

Mercedes

July 1912

 

She looked so familiar to me, but I couldn’t place her. Sitting on the bench as she was outside Hooper’s Market. Her hat was at a rakish angle, her cocoa colored hair perfectly coiffed. Seemed there were tears in her green eyes. I was certain I had never seen her before. But she reminded me of someone…

It couldn’t be her, though. She was dead, we had all watched her die. Floating away like that in the swamp. Her lavender dress billowed up like a balloon, her dark hair fanning out on the black water. We had made a pact, Pearl and Scarlett and me, never to tell anyone what happened.

>>> <<<

            I was the oldest of us girls and we did everything together. As often as our elders would allow, at least. My mother worked for Simone’s grand-mère, Madame Antoinette Dubois. I helped Mamá most times, but sometimes I was allowed to play with Simone and her friend Pearl.

It happened in 1897, the summer I was eleven. Mamá didn’t make me help her as much in the summers and I was allowed to go outdoors with Simone and Pearl.  Our friend, Scarlett’s Mamá, though, made her help with dusting the abovestairs rooms, but she was permitted to come outdoors after luncheon was served.

Simone always was most daring, walking atop fences and climbing trees and such. That summer, though, it seemed she didn’t have a care. She wasn’t just daring, she was indifferent. She climbed higher than we had ever seen her climb. She would swing from the branches, like the monkeys we read about in our lessons, and then drop to the ground. She jumped right in the black water of the Edisto River that day.

And floated away, pale as death.

>>><<<

 

 

#Blogwords, Special Edition, The Long Shadows of Summer, Chapter One, Excerpt, Release Feature

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Sarah Loudin Thomas - Author

Appalachian Blessings

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