I’m home! My flight got in about 5:30 yesterday evening, and my wonderful hubby took me straight to church for praise band practice so I can sing on Sunday. Such a great guy!
The retreat was beyond amazing. Don’t get me wrong–it was a lot of hard work. We were at it 12-14 hours a day by the time we finished teaching segments, writing time, one on one time with the teachers, and watching and analyzing movies. I’m still processing everything I learned, but amazingly, I’m not exhausted. It’s not like coming home from ACFW. I think, because it was 5 days instead of 3, I hit the wall (on the second day) and had to keep going through it. I’ve been home less than 24 hours and not only have I been working on the book today, I’m almost completely unpacked and have been out twice to run errands. Yep, twice. After the first set, I came home to make a pot of chili and the can opener was missing, so I had to run out to get a new one. How do you lose a can opener?
Here’s the scene I wrote Monday night that Susan May Warren read to everyone. It’s set in Scotland, 1764, a couple of months after Culloden and at the beginning of the clearing of the Highlands. (Please pardon the formatting. My software is not letting me indent the first lines.)
“Marsali, you have to go.” He grabbed her arm and hauled her to her feet.
She jerked free and anger flashed in her eyes. “What? I can’t leave now. I just got Maeve to trust me!”
Bloody hell, she was beautiful when she was angry. “You have to. There is a patrol coming.”
“Patrol?” gasped Maeve, who scooped up her baby, and Geoffrey wondered if it was the only English word she knew.
“I can’t leave you, and what about Maeve’s baby? He’s so sick.”
Geoffrey put his hands on her shoulders and his fingers brushed her dark curls. “I have to see that they get to safety. I can’t do that and look after you, too. Go home. I’ll come to you as soon as I can.”
She pulled up the hood of her arisaid. “Do you promise?”
Tears filled her eyes, and Geoffrey swallowed against the lump in his throat. She grabbed a double handful of his collar and kissed him, fast and hard. “Be safe. I love you.” The wool of her arisaid whispered against his coat before she fled from the cave.
He stood for a second, staring at the empty cave entrance, then took a deep breath of cold, musty air and motioned for Maeve to be silent. He pointed to the deeper part of the cave and her blue eyes widened in horror. She shook her head so hard that her thick blond braid whipped out from under her kertch and she clutched her baby harder.
He could hear voices now. They were too close to take her out of the cave. They’d never get to the tree line without being caught. He squatted in front of her, fervently praying for God to suddenly gift him with the ability to speak Gaelic, and pointed to the cave entrance.
He pointed again, and then at her. “They will take us away if they catch us.” He picked up the tattered doll Maeve’s sister had sent with them so she would know they were there to help. “You have to trust me if you want to live.”
Standing, he helped her to her feet and led her deeper into the cave, sinking into a shadow as the first dragoon came in.
Geoffrey held his breath, grateful that he stood in front of Maeve and blocked her view. His heart hammered when he recognized the man: Ensign Coates. Why did it have to be Coates?
Two more dragoons followed, and they gave the cave a cursory look.
“There’s been someone here,” said Coates.
The others agreed, and he said, “We shall have to keep an eye on this place.”
They turned to go, but Coates turned back slowly, his beady eyes scanning the darkness. The other two had stopped in the cave entrance, blocking more of the light.
Geoffrey held his breath and realized Maeve was squeezing his hand. He had no memory of taking it. Sweat trickled down his back despite the damp coolness.
Coates paced slowly toward him, moving surprisingly gracefully for a man built like a keg. Almost catlike. A slow smile creased his face as he stopped in front of Geoffrey.
“Lieutenant Ames. Can’t say I am surprised to see you here, but I am curious about what you are doing.”
Before Geoffrey could say anything, Maeve’s baby whimpered and she shushed him. Coates smiled, exposing tobacco stained teeth. “I have over-estimated you, Lieutenant. I always suspected you enjoyed having a go with a woman in need, but I never thought you too selfish to share.”
Geoffrey stepped forward, forcing Coates to step back.
Coates laughed. “And in front of the baby, no less.” He looked around Geoffrey and added, “Can’t say I blame you. Nice ripe bird.”
Geoffrey’s right fist slammed into the ensign’s jaw, sending him sprawling. Maeve screamed something unintelligible, and the other two dragoons ran back as Coates rubbed his jaw and staggered to his feet.
“Lieutenant, for future reference, if you’re planning to hide in a shadow, you should rub soot on your buttons. Your’s are so shiny it doesn’t take much light at all to reflect off them.” He spoke over his shoulder, never taking his eyes off Geoffrey. “We’re taking them in.”
There was a moment of stunned silence. “Sir, don’t you mean we’re taking her in?”
“No, I mean them. Both of them.”
“But sir, he’s one of ours!”
Coates whirled to face the man who protested. “Could you not see that he was protecting her? We’re going to take him in for questioning. Get the ropes.”
Maeve screamed again, and Geoffrey spun around. She was on her knees, crying and rocking the child she clutched to her chest.
Geoffrey knelt in front of her and she stopped rocking. He put his hand on the baby’s back. It was still. He touched her hand. “I am so sorry.”
Then he was being hauled to his feet, his arms drawn in front of him. Rough hemp rasped his wrists and he was jerked outside. Maeve was crying again, but he could do nothing for her now. As he was dragged out of the cave, he noted absently that the sunny day had turned drizzly again. Scanning the tree line, he saw no sign of Marsali, and his heart lifted a little. He could face any shame as long as she was safe.