Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Chapter 7: Back and Forth
Back and forth, back and forth. Forever back and forth. As the mother of five children, Eileen O’Hara knows the creaking sounds of her old rocker as well as she knows the voices of her slumbering daughters. The one in her arms curls closer to her chest, finally lulled to sleep by the rhythmic motion of the chair, and Eileen sighs in relief. The little girl was restless tonight, and it took ages to calm her down.
Just as she goes to lay her in bed, however, a sound startles her out of her reverie. Voices. Angry, male voices, loud and nearby. Making sure not to wake her daughter, Eileen swiftly takes the child to the back room and heads outside to investigate.
Collapsing to the ground in a violent fit of coughing, Kieran writhes and shakes from the searing pain in his chest.
“Get up ye lazy dog!” the man beside him shouts. “We’re takin’ ye to the sheriff, and we don’ want ye covered in dirt when you’re hangin’ from that noose.”
“Noose?” Kieran gasps for air as he struggles to regain his footing. “What is my crime?”
The man snickers and kicks him to the ground again, viscously grinding the heel of his boot deep into Kieran’s already bruised stomach. “You were stealin’ from m’ lord’s private garden!” he spits.
“Yeah,” the other man nods his head vigorously. “Besides, you talk like ye ain’t from ‘round these parts, and we don’ like strangers lurkin’ near our town. Too many bad things been happenin’ lately, ye see?”
“Strange things,” the first man continues. “Ye were mighty close to them woods, boy, and there been talk of a witch livin’ out there. Wouldn’t be surprised if ye knew somethin’ ‘bout all that.”
“Twenty minutes on the rack oughta straighten ‘im out, huh Merrick?”
“Twenty minutes?” Merrick laughs heartily. “I bet he don’ last twenty seconds!”
“What is going on here?” A woman’s curt voice cuts into the conversation, and the men abruptly fall silent.
Eileen’s eyes dart back and forth between Merrick and Silas, the town bullies, to the bloody young man sprawled out in the middle of the road. With a furious snort, she strolls over to Kieran and takes his hand, determinedly pulling him to his feet.
“I should have expected to find you involved in such a situation, Merrick,” she hisses, “but I see you’ve dragged Silas down your same wicked path. Beating up a defenseless stranger? Absolutely shameful!”
“But this man’s a criminal!” Merrick retorts. “He was stealin’ from Lord Hadrian’s garden!”
“Since when do you care about Lord Hardian’s welfare?” Eileen snaps. “He’s done nothing but terrorize our town since the day he took over the fiefdom.”
“But he talks funny!” Silas chimes in. “Listen to ‘im. He talks like one ‘o them foreigners.”
“Despicable,” she snarls as she grabs Silas by the arm and drags him away from Merrick. “You of all people should know better. Or have you already forgotten the day you showed up in town, a runaway slave, half starved to death and within an inch of your life? My husband took you in, no questions asked, found you work and hid you from the bounty hunters. Why, if he could see you now-”
“Ah, leave ‘im alone Mrs. O’Hara,” Merrick calls out. “If you want a good-fer-nothin’ lout hangin’ ‘round your place, then fine. We’ll leave. We don’ want no trouble or nothin’.”
“Trouble finds those who go looking for it,” Eileen replies with a scathing glare. “Best keep your fists in your pockets, boy, else I shall be paying a visit to your Nana. And you, Silas, would do well to remember past kindnesses, for the way you’re acting now there may not be any more in your future.”
“Thank you,” Kieran mumbles as Eileen leads him into her small cottage. “I’ve been traveling for days now without food, and I was getting desperate. I- I’m sorry.”
Eileen shrugs indifferently, but her watchful eyes never leave Kieran’s face. “Lord Hadrian wastes more food than my whole family eats in a year. He won’t miss a few apples from his orchard.”
Kieran nods and rubs his aching head. “Regardless, I won’t make that mistake again,” he assures her.
“What is your name?” Eileen asks in a slightly softer tone.
“Kieran,” he grunts. “Kieran Everard.”
“What brings you to Aaron’s Dale, Kieran?”
“I’m searching for a man,” he replies vaguely. “I need his help with something.”
Eileen frowns. “Where does he live?”
Kieran glances up, meeting her gaze for the first time since she rescued him. “I- I don’t know. That’s why I’m searching for him.”
“Maybe I can help. I’ve lived in the valley my whole life, and I know most of the families around here.” She smiles at him, but her eyes remain hard and serious.
Kieran pauses for a moment, considering. “His name is Atticus Thorel,” he says at last. “He’s a mage that used to live in this area.”
Eileen begins to speak, but a woman cuts her off.
“I’ve heard of your mage,” a raspy, but determined voice announces. “When I was a child, he used to perform magic tricks for the kids in town. He moved to the other side of the pass, but I can’t imagine that he’s still alive. His grandchildren, however, might be.”
“What are you doing awake, Juno?” Eileen demands, not bothering to hide the irritation in her voice. “You should be in bed right now. Asleep.”
“I’m old, not dead, Lily Pad,” Juno says with a mischievous grin. “And until I die, you live in my house, under my rules.”
Eileen scowls back at her, but Kieran doesn’t give her a chance to reply.
“You know Atticus?” he asks briskly.
Walking over to stand beside her daughter-in-law, Juno shakes her head. “Not really,” the old woman replies. “He left town when I was just a little girl, but I heard rumors that people used to see him in Alderney occasionally.”
“Alderney,” Kieran repeats. “Where is that?”
Eileen frowns and drums her fingers on the table. “The other side of the pass,” she tells him. “A good two weeks on horseback.”
Kieran feels himself deflate. He’ll never make it all that way without food or water, especially since he doesn’t even know where he’s going.
Watching the young man carefully, Eileen’s eyes suddenly light up with an idea. She glances back at Juno and mouths something to the older woman, who shrugs and nods her head. “Kieran, did you say?” Eileen asks as she turns back around.
“Yes?” Kieran looks up sharply, having been lost in his own thoughts.
“Kieran, my family owns a small plot of land near the abbey by the hillside, a vineyard that we keep for his lordship. Due to my husband’s sudden passing this last summer, we have not been able to bring in a sufficient harvest this season, and with winter looming I fear that we do not have the time or resources to gather enough crop to satisfy Lord Hadrian and pay our fealty to the king. If you will stay and help us, then I will arrange for a guide to take you to Alderney before the pass becomes snowed in for the winter.”
Kieran pauses. “How long until the pass closes?”
“Should be at least a couple of months away,” Juno replies. “And since you will be working solely in the vineyard, the harvest should take no more than six weeks to gather.”
Eileen nods. “Six weeks of labor in exchange for room, board, and transport to Alderney sounds fair to me. What do you say?”
Not seeing any other choice, Kieran reluctantly agrees. Six weeks isn’t so long, he tells himself, and although he’s eager to find Atticus and return to his time, to the present, the experience could actually prove quite interesting.
With a wide, playful grin, Beau grabs Delilah and sweeps her in for a heated kiss.
“What was that for?” Lila giggles as she tries to break free from Beau’s firm grasp.
Beau shrugs and tries to act nonchalant, but he feels unusually nervous today, fidgety and uptight. He and Delilah have been in Sunlit Tides for one whole week now, and he has yet to pop the question. But tonight, he thinks ruefully, tonight that all changes.
“You look tense, darling,” Beau smirks as he teasingly slides his hand up under the skirt of her dress. “Why don’t you slip out of those clothes and into something a bit more comfortable? I want to give you a massage,” he adds with a wink.
Delilah is more than happy to oblige.
Beau starts out slowly, gently rubbing the warm oil into her smooth, sun-kissed skin and working his hands up and down the length of her bare back. The faint scent of coconut wafts through the air, mixing with the light tropical breeze to create an intoxicatingly rich aroma, and Beau quickly feels himself grow aroused by the sheer sensuality of the moment.
“Delilah,” he whispers, his voice a low growl against the soft hum of the island jungle.
Glancing up, Delilah looks straight into Beau’s hungry blue eyes.
“I want you,” he breathes.
Delilah smirks and pulls Beau on top of her, wrapping her legs around his waist as her hands impatiently fumble with the buttons on his shirt. She knows that expression on his face quite well by now, but she never tires of seeing it. The hold she has over him, the sexual chemistry between them, still feels absolutely electrifying to her.
“Let’s go back to the hotel room,” she suggests as he starts to undo his shorts.
Laughing at the shocked expression on her face, Beau sweeps Delilah into his arms and carries her across their lanai.
“I love you,” he murmurs.
Delilah just giggles and kisses him in response.
As soon as they reach their room, the rest of their clothes fall away, and they spend the remainder of the afternoon tangled up in each other's arms.
“The stars look beautiful tonight.” Delilah sighs and walks over to the window to get a better look. Kieran would have loved it here, she thinks as a sharp pang of regret tears through her chest.
“You look beautiful tonight,” Beau replies.
Lila forces herself to smile. This isn’t right, a small voice whispers in the back of her mind. You don’t love him, and you never will. Stop trying to fool yourself into believing this is something it isn’t.
“You seem sad,” Beau murmurs as he comes up behind her and wraps his arms around her waist. “What are you thinking about?”
Kieran, the voice says.
“Nothing,” she lies instead.
Tell him that it’s over. Tell him that you tried to make this work, that you tried to love him, but you’re not over Kieran. That you’ll never be over Kieran.
Delilah shakes her head, but Beau doesn’t seem to notice. He continues talking to her, whispering sweet words of adoration into her ear, but she isn’t listening to him.
I am over Kieran, she tells herself sternly. And I do love Beau.
Liar, the voice snaps back. You’re only with him because you’re afraid. Afraid to be alone, afraid to grow up, afraid to take responsibility for the mess you’ve made. But it’s time to face the consequences of your actions. You’re better than this, Delilah. You know you are.
With a sickening jolt, Delilah’s mind leaps back to the present. “What are you doing?” she demands as Beau drops to one knee.
“Proposing,” he quips before reaching over and pulling a box out from under the bed. “I love you, Delilah, and I want to spend the rest of my life trying to make you as happy as you have made me. Marry me, darling?”
I couldn’t abandon Kieran that easily, now could I? ;) So yes, this means that we will be following his story as well as Delilah’s. I just hope that it all makes sense and doesn’t confuse you guys. If you ever have any criticism/advice/feedback/tips/whatever, please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment with your suggestion! I’m always looking to improve. =)
Thanks for reading! <3