In three different posts I will give you a teaser from my novel Shadows of the Past, that is the Prologue. Here is the first part. Enjoy!
In the quiet solitude of a small, remote convent,
Only prayers seem alive
On the lips of holy sisters.
Candles flicker in their hands
Like lost souls in search of light,
And the yellowish, faint glimmer
Makes a halo round their whispers.
* * *
The peal of the church bells from the abbey tower startled Genevieve. The sound added to her mounting anxiety.
The massive abbey loomed over the stone paved path. All the nuns were at evening mass. With a bit of luck her disappearance would go unnoticed for a few more hours. The Abbess would assume she was cleaning the toilets as ordered.
Fear skittered through Genevieve when she turned away from the abbey towards the path leading to town. Nothing stirred. She hesitated. Evil emanated from the forest surrounding the abbey. With a shiver, she leaned against the solid oak gates that flanked the abbey's main path. They had hidden her from detection for the past couple of hours, but how much longer would she be safe?
The mountain shadows grew thicker and closer.
She moved her weight from one leg to the other. They ached from so much standing, but she lacked the strength to return to the gardener's cottage and wait for Andrew's arrival as planned. Genevieve closed her tired eyes. The image of old Ryan, slumped dead in his chair in his cubicle, caught life in her mind and made her whole body ripple with fear.
She'd rather wait for Andrew here, outside.
Had he forgotten his promise? What if something terrible befell him during the last three days, or he had changed his mind? Why should he risk all for an ordinary nun?
Had his folks talked him into giving her up, made him see reason? Helping her out of her predicament meant a huge risk for him -- losing his family, his friends and his position among his peers. His words echoed in her mind. "I will risk everything for you, even life, if necessary."
A gust of wind swirled the dust on the path and dried the beads of sweat covering her temple. She shivered and pressed her cool hands to her cheeks. Had she misunderstood Andrew? No. She remembered vividly what he'd told her when they talked in Ryan's cottage. Three days. The evening of the third day, she should wait at Ryan's.
Her gaze strayed again to the impassive building of the abbey, her home for such a long time. She blamed the increasing wind for the sudden trail of dampness on her face, for the unmistakable tears blurring her vision. She blinked several times to clear her view. This was no time for tears.
Genevieve's brow wrinkled, and her breath caught in her throat. Sister Francesca and Sister Benedicta smiled and waved at her from the abbey's entrance.
She shook her head and closed her eyes. Impossible. Both were dead. Genevieve wiped her tears and gazed at the abbey again. The image of the two Sisters, so dear to her, faded out.
Genevieve dared another peek along the path from the town.
Not a sound. Not a shadow.
Hopefully, Andrew hadn’t decided to follow the direct route through the forest. Danger lurked there. He should know all the dark legends people told about the cursed forest.
"Dear God, protect Andrew from the evil forest," she prayed; Andrew's face came to her as she’d last seen it three days before.
His kind loving eyes. His soft encouraging words. His tender touch.
She recalled the turmoil of emotions she’d experienced when she first met Andrew. Everything made sense now, in the light of the latest events. The warm waves coming from him and engulfing her, searing her body and soul, and the anxiety following those waves. It had been love at first sight. A feeling neither of them wanted to admit to until recently.
Love. Love and sin.
The monotonous muffled sound of hoof beats came up the path. Her gaze snapped to the dusty path. Nightfall descended with shadows, and she trembled with apprehension. What if the rider wasn't Andrew but someone summoned by the Abbess to dispose of Ryan's lifeless body and grab her too?
An eerie sensation of danger whispered in her ears, invaded her, and sent shivers down her spine. She should find shelter behind the bush of musk rose, and later, if everything proved safe, start down the path to town. She might meet Andrew along the road. If not. . .
She could no longer remain here. Once mass was over any of the other nuns might discover her and bring the information to the hateful Abbess.
An overwhelming sense of relief washed over Genevieve when she saw that Andrew was the approaching rider. He came to the abbey riding his black mare and holding the reins of a bay for her. His eyebrows peaked with surprise; he inclined his head to his shoulder. The abbey's wide open gates with nobody in sight must have surprised him.
Genevieve understood his amazement. She'd told him three days ago about the Abbess's order to Ryan. Sister Clementa had asked the old gardener to keep the gates locked, even during the day.
Ryan said Clementa feared that one of the few nuns who disagreed with her behavior might leave the abbey unnoticed, at night. The Abbess didn't want any of them to take denouncing messages to the town's Archbishop.
No sooner had Andrew swung off his horse and tied the reins of both horses to a tree than Genevieve, managing to break out of her petrified state, hurried from behind the gates.
A warm smile brightened his face upon seeing her. His smile melted away. Something about her expression must have warned him all wasn't well. His gaze, worried and questioning, lingered on her face.
"What's wrong, my darling? Have you changed your mind? Why are you here by the gate? I thought I’d find you in the old man's house? Someone could have seen you and alerted the Abbess," he said.
He pulled an ivory wood anemone from his saddlebag and gave it to Genevieve. "I picked this along the way. It looks like you: pretty and delicate.”
"Come, we should leave at once," she said and glanced nervously over her shoulder. "Something terrible happened after you left for town. I think the Abbess found out about us. Our meeting in Uncle Ryan's cabin is no longer a secret. We have been overheard. For all I know someone spies on us even as we speak. I think the Abbess, or one of her 'friends,' is hovering somewhere nearby and listening to every word."
Andrew pulled her into his arms and tightened her in his embrace. "Calm down, please. Tell me what’s wrong."
"No, please, let's leave. There's danger all around us. I know what I'm saying."
“Then you can tell me what happened along the way." Andrew took hold of her hand as if trying to instill courage and confidence in her. He untied the reins of the horse he'd brought for her. Placing a tender kiss on her forehead, he helped Genevieve up and then swung himself into the saddle. He turned his head as if to hide the worried frown across his face. "A scorned woman is worse than an unleashed hurricane," he said. Then he addressed Genevieve, "We'll follow the most direct route through the forest."
The forest. The very cursed forest. The main reason for the tragedy in her family.
To Be Continued
Buy link Wild Child Publishing
Buy link Wild Child Publishing