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A Highland Emerald Excerpt by Brenda B. Taylor

Posted by Julie on September 18, 2017 in Guest blogger, Julie Arduini, Writing |

Excerpt:

Isle of Mull

Scotland, 1486

 

My father sat in his usual chair in front of the crackling fire, staring at the flame with dim eyes and a fur robe wrapped around his broad shoulders, the deerhound curled at his feet.

“Where are you going, Aine?” he asked with his back turned toward the stone, spiral staircase where I stood. “Come, sit with me for awhile.”

I pushed the arisaid from my shoulders, letting it drop to the floor, then stepped over the wrap. Making my way to the stool where my mother’s embroidery frame stood, I took a seat and watched the flame.

Without turning his head, my father, Lachlan Og MacLean, eighth chief and fourth Laird of Durant Castle, asked, “Where are you going?”

“How did you ken ’twas I?” He never ceased to amaze me with his uncanny knowledge of events  around him although his eyes, so dimmed by injury, saw very little.

“I heard the rustle of your skirts.” He extended his hand for me, so I rose and hugged his neck.

He smiled, embracing my arms. “And I ken your scent, lass. ‘Tis so like your mither’s. You use the same scented soap as she.”

“Aye, but from so far away and with the smell of burning wood and dog in your nostril’s?”

“Your odor is a different pleasantry among the usual burning wood and dog. It stands out in my memory as does the pleasant odor of your mither.” He smiled broadly, showing still straight, white teeth beneath a greying beard. I could almost feel his penetrating gaze upon me as in the days before his sight was taken in battle. He asked, “Where are you going this dreary night?”

“Here, Da. To sit beside you and talk of the feast on the morrow.”

“Don’t try to deceive me, lass. I heard the sound of your arisaid dropping to the floor. You are planning a tryst, I feel certain.” His dimmed gaze pierced through to the depths of my soul. “I could see the turn of your head toward him each time he spoke at the evening meal.” A line formed between his brows and a shadow darkened his face. “You are to marry the Munro.”

“I dinna love William Munro.” My voice began to rise, and I struggled to control the cry climbing from the depths of my heart. “I wanna marry him, Da. You promised I could wed for love, not convenience.” The cry emerged from my lips. I buried my head on his shoulder and sobbed.

 

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Excerpt: Ransom in Rio by Theresa Lynn Hall

Posted by Julie on August 28, 2017 in ACFW, Guest blogger, Julie Arduini, Writing |
Excerpt from Ransom in Rio, Theresa Lynn Hall
Her worst nightmare had come to life.
Now, the fear of what she would do if it ever happened was over, but the loss of her brother came with a burden she hadn’t foreseen. It left her to deal with her family alone. To carry the legacy. To protect the empire. To convince everyone to believe the lies.
“He was always so careful,” she muttered to herself as she drove.
Snow had started falling as the last “Amen” was said at the cemetery. The heavy white powder made the pale, yellow lines on the road fade in and out of sight. Lexi tugged her sweater tighter around her body with one hand and gripped the steering wheel with the other. The funeral had drained her of what little emotional strength she had left. It was crazy, but several times throughout the day she’d found herself picking up her phone to see if Jace had messaged her. He used to text or call every day. Silly stuff sometimes, like never walk the dog with no shoes on. Once he’d texted that he had the hiccups.
“I just can’t believe he’s gone.” Lexi glanced at her friend. She didn’t expect Kristy to say anything. Nothing she could say would make the pain go away.
Jace had been the perfect big brother, Lexi’s best friend. From an early age, they learned that sticking together in a dysfunctional family was their only hope. One thing Lexi knew for certain was that Jace wouldn’t leave her here alone. He would not have put himself in danger for a stupid fishing trip. His chance to break free of their crazy family was finally around the corner. He’d just bought his girlfriend an engagement ring. They had plans to move to New York as soon as the wedding was over. Now he was gone. None of it made any sense. Why was she the only person who could see that something was wrong with ruling the cause of death as accidental?
Lexi brushed at her red hair with a careless hand and caught a glimpse of her swollen, blue eyes in the rearview mirror. She hardly resembled her brother at all—a fact that had always bothered her, but she’d never questioned it the way Jace had. He had always asked where he’d gotten his blonde hair.
“Lexi, why don’t you stay with me tonight?”
The sound of Kristy’s voice startled her. “I’m sorry. I’m really out of it.” She smiled and wiped a stray tear from her cheek. “Thank you for everything. You’ve done more than enough for me over the past few days.”
“You know I’m always here.” “I know.” She swallowed hard. “Kristy…”
“What’s wrong?” “I can’t stop thinking…I just don’t think this was
an accident. It couldn’t be. Jace didn’t even like to fish. He wouldn’t charter a boat to go fishing in Cozumel. He liked nice restaurants, museums, theaters. Not fishing. And then there’s the fact that he didn’t take Selena with him. He always had Selena with him. Why doesn’t anyone else seem to think this is odd?”
“I don’t know. Now that you bring it up, Jace wasn’t much of a risk-taker.”
“Exactly. The strangest thing is that Selena said he told her he would be back in an hour. He only left for one hour. Who charters a fishing boat for only an hour?”
“Did Selena tell you why he didn’t take her?”
“She didn’t say, and I didn’t want to ask her a lot of questions. Not yet.”
Kristy nodded. “I saw her today. She’s really not handling this well.”
“No one is.” She pulled into Kristy’s driveway. It was a relief to be off the snowy roads.
No matter how she looked at this, her brother’s death could not have been an accident. Somehow, she would prove that he didn’t drown on a fishing trip. She would prove Jace was murdered.
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