Archive | June, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: July 1, 2012 #sixsunday

30 Jun

In honor of the official release of my debut novel, The Mirrors at Barnard Hall, my six this week is from that very book.  This scene comes from the first time Callista Franklyn sees a handsome stranger inside of her antique mirror. 

{Synopsis: Callista Franklyn’s return to her family’s mansion in the English countryside stirs up more than memories of ghostly childhood friends when she discovers the very real, and very handsome, Nick Dalton in the reflection of her antique mirror.

The problem? Beyond the fact that he appears to reside in a mirror, historical records say Nick died in 1902.

Callista is intrigued by Nick’s claim that the year is 1902, so she investigates and uncovers a timeline of suspicious crimes and enchanted mirrors that connect her to the twentieth century. She also realizes that she’s falling for Nick, who is condemned to be murdered in August.

As the date of Nick’s impending death approaches, Callista must decide if she’s willing to risk changing history and erasing her place in the modern world in order to prevent the tragic crime and save the man she loves.}

 * * *

“You are not real,” I whispered toward the mirror, inwardly chanting the statement and willing the rest of me to believe the message. 

I would wake up soon—I had to.  And as soon as I woke up I was checking into a hotel… or mental hospital.

“So says the illusion.  I assure you, madam, I am more real than you shall ever be,” he shot back.

 This could not be happening; I was talking to myself, not a man inside of my mirror.

 

* * *

Intrigued?  The Mirrors at Barnard Hall is available on CreateSpace and Amazon (print for ONLY $9.99) and Amazon Kindle, Smashwords and Google Books (for only $2.99)!  Or you can start reading it HERE for FREE!!!!

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Interested in participating in Six Sentence Sunday?  Sign up on the website and post six sentences next Sunday!  Check out some of the other FAB Authors HERE

(Side note:  I’m driving back to Nashville from WV so I won’t be able to respond to your comments until Monday; however, I WILL respond :).  Thanks for stopping by!)

A Happy Beginning

29 Jun

The feeling of accomplishment from finally holding a print copy of something built entirely by my imagination is unmatched.  My brain created this thing… an amazing accomplishment, indeed.  But there is more to this than the fact that I was patient and diligent enough to write a book; this feat has a much wider–and deeper–reach.

This is what it feels like to have a dream, something that I used to fear sharing with even my closest companions, come true.

And friends, that is truly miraculous.

It is my hope that each one of you has the opportunity to feel this way at some point in the not-too-distant future because everyone deserves to have a day like today.

My celebratory gift to you is the final chapter of my debut novel, The Mirrors at Barnard Hall.  That means, if you don’t want to invest in purchasing your own copy, you can read it here, in its entirety.  All I ask is that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. 

Instead of calling this a, “Happy Ending,” why don’t we agree to call it, “A Happy Beginning?”

-Jenny

New to the story?  Click HERE to start from the beginning

Want to purchase your own copy?  Click HERE

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Chapter 29: August 24th

Barnard Hall’s staff had returned to their respective homes hours ago so there was no one left to help me.  Even if they had been around, I did not know who I could trust.  After all, one of them had most likely tried to kill me.  If I was going to save Nick and his parents, I would need to be alive to do so.  Rosa was still in 1902, so she was not available to assist me in my mission to protect the people I loved.

Changing from my gown would have stolen precious seconds so I didn’t bother.  Seconds were something I could not afford to waste.  The possibility of someone in 2012 seeing me in my dress was a risk I was more than willing to take. 

I raced across the lawn; the wind whipped my hair, twisting it into my eyes.  The damp air stung my face, much too cool for an August breeze.  Fall would come early this year.  I only hoped that Nick would be alive to see it.

When I burst through the door of the carriage house, the acrid smoke instantly burned my nose.  I navigated the rickety steps to the mirror and my heart stopped.  Through the haze I saw Nick and his parents, bound and unconscious, leaning awkwardly against some old trunks.  At least I told myself they were unconscious—the alternative was unfathomable.  I backed up and took a running start at the mirror.  The smoke had spilled through so, in theory, the doorway was working.  I prayed that I would not meet a glass wall of resistance and shatter my only hope of success.

My body passed easily through the portal, and I collapsed onto my knees back in 1902.  The carriage house was already engulfed in flames, but the blaze had blessedly started downstairs.  The lower walls glowed with fire; flames licked at the beams holding the stairs in place.  The crackling of the hungry inferno was deafening.

I tried to pick up Nick, but he was heavily muscled for such a thin man.  His head dropped to the right as I let his arms fall.

“Nick!” I shouted, trying to wake him over the roar, unworried that someone would hear me.  Both of his eyes were swelling and his nose looked broken.  There was blood seeping through a deep cut on his lip.  I checked his pulse; he was still alive, but not for long if I could not get him out of the twentieth century.

“Nick?” I tried again.

“Callista?”  I twisted to see Maria coming to.  She had a gash on her temple but looked the best out of the three.

“Maria, thank God! I need you to help me get them through the mirror.”

Nick’s mother nodded and struggled to stand.  She limped, and I noticed her ankle was twisted at a sickening angle.  She saw where my eyes fell and pulled the hem of her skirt to cover the obvious break.       

“Let’s save our family.”

Our family.

I held back my tears and nodded.  We picked up Nicholas Sr. by his arms and dragged him toward the mirror.

“How are we going to get him through?” She asked.

I had not thought that far ahead.  According to my carefully laid out plan, all of the Daltons were supposed to be conscious and able to jump through to safety themselves. 

A discarded chair in the corner caught my eye.  We heaved Maria’s husband onto the chair and then, together, dumped him unceremoniously into 2012.  He landed in an uncomfortable heap but at least he was safe.  What was another bruise as long as he was alive?

Maria and I returned to retrieve her son’s unconscious body.  A thunderous crack drew our screams.  A flaming beam fell inches from Nick’s foot, nearly pinning him to the ground.  The sparks quickly swallowed the area around the burning wood.  We pulled even harder and got him through the mirror with no time to spare.

“Will you be able to jump with your foot?” I asked Maria.  She smiled and hopped silently through the mirror, landing with her weight on her right foot.  I followed just as another beam fell where I had been standing only seconds earlier.  We had front row seats as we watched the carriage house inferno of 1902 from the safety of my own carriage house 110 years later.

“Might I point out that it is rather smoky in here?”

I whipped around to see Nick lying on the ground, peeking through his busted right eye.

“Oh Nick!”  I rushed to his side and traced his swollen face lightly with my fingertips.  He had been brutally beaten but he was alive—blessedly, miraculously alive.

He doesn’t want you I reminded myself and reluctantly pulled my hand away.  He noticed my hesitation.  Was that pain in his eyes?  Of course Nick would be in pain; his face was bloody and broken. 

“I’m sorry to interrupt your reunion, Callista, but we should probably move the mirror if we want to avoid death from smoke inhalation.”  Together, Maria and I shifted the mirror so that the piece was no longer in line with its match from 1902.  The metal frame was hot from the fire and the ornate design branded its likeness into my hand. The heat from the blaze immediately cooled when our reflections appeared.

I walked over to stand awkwardly next to Nick.  Even if he didn’t want me, I needed to be near him for as long as I could.

“You came back.”  Nick coughed deeply and tried to smile.  The movement reopened his cracked lip and blood oozed from the wound, collecting into a macabre pool on the floor.

“I did,” I confirmed.  “You sound surprised.”  And that surprise hurt my pride.  Even though he didn’t want me anymore he should have known I wouldn’t let him suffer the fate that we had both read about.

He chuckled then coughed again.  “I’m glad you over-think everything.”

“Just remember, you said that.”  He seemed happy to see me, but I wondered how long that would last.  He was probably just grateful that he had not died in the fire after all.  I knew I should wait for a more appropriate time, but I was burning with questions.  Time was a luxury we’d never had.  “Why did you send me away like that?  We could have avoided the entire situation if you would have let me stay for one more night.”

“I could not have allowed you to stay.”  He sounded so matter-of-fact, like he hadn’t regretted his decision.

“Okay.”  So nothing had changed.

“So that’s it?  There are no more questions?  I must admit that I am disappointed in you.”

“What would you have me ask?” My voice hitched unevenly.  Why was he torturing me?

“Ask me why I couldn’t let you stay.”

“Why couldn’t you let me stay?”  The question came out more shrilly than I had intended.  If he hadn’t wanted me to stay then he didn’t want to be with me now. 

“Because Lady Smyth had a derringer trained on your heart from the moment you stepped into the library.  She told me that…”  His voice broke and he winced in pain.  From the memory or his injuries, I wasn’t sure.

“She told you what?”

“She said if I valued the life of my betrothed, that I would send you back from whence you came.  I tried to reason with her, but she had gone mad.  I knew it would crush you but I had to do it to save you.  And then you weren’t going to leave…”  His good eye widened and searched the blank room as his mind relived the past. 

“I was going to convince you that you had not made a mistake.”  I had been prepared to grovel, to offer anything in exchange for more time with him.

“I never thought I had.  I felt myself ripping in two when I sent you away.  Even more terrifying than staring death in the eye was knowing I would never get the opportunity to apologize for the contemptible things I had been forced to say to you.  For the pain I have caused you, I apologize to the depths of my soul.”

“You didn’t mean it?”

“None of it.”

I smiled and tears of joy welled in my eyes.   Then I coughed.  Gray smoke overwhelmed the tiny space.

“This can’t be right.”  I glanced toward the mirror to see if there was any smoke coming through; there wasn’t.  My own reflection stared back at me with a look of blank confusion.  I looked around and saw flames licking up the steps.  The scene in front of me had become a fiery replica of the fire in 1902.  I jumped up and leaned over the loft railing, hoping to uncover the source of the fire.

There, at the bottom of the steps, stood Beth Smith.  My former maid was wielding a flaming torch and a can of what smelled like gasoline.

“Beth?”  My voice shook as realization settled in.

“Did you honestly think you could kill my brother and get away with it?”  Her eyes were wild, but her voice remained a sickening, almost pleasant timbre.

“Your brother?”  I had not killed anyone.  Nick, however…  “Here, in the carriage house?  Beth, he tried to kill me.”  Before the statement was out I knew she was not going to be reasonable.  Blazing torches and accelerant were way beyond reasonable.

She let out a cackling sound that sent shivers down my spine.  “He acted prematurely.  Given your history of mental instability, we could have gotten you out without murder.  If you haven’t noticed already, Barnard Hall makes people crazy.  Although I realize now how inconvenient it is that he did not succeed.  It would have saved me all this trouble.”  She gestured to the glowing walls.  “My hair is going to smell like smoke for a week thanks to you.”

My stomach dropped.  “And my mother?”  Before the question left my lisp I knew she had orchestrated their deaths.  Her cold smile confirmed my accusations.  Beth Smith had killed my mother Jim and now she would kill me.

I wasn’t sure if she would answer, but I had to understand if I could.  “Why would you do this?”  Beth had been the one Nick had heard speaking with the man who had tried to kill me.  Now she was going to finish the job her brother had started.

“Barnard Hall is mine.”

“Yours?  My mother bought this house.”

“It shouldn’t have been for sale.  This is my family’s ancestral home.”

“This home belonged to the Daltons.”

She screeched when I said their name.  “We owned this house before the thieving Daltons stole it from us.”

“Your family?”

“The Smyths.  My ancestors had to move away after the carriage house burned down the last time.  Fitting, isn’t it?  To have the anniversary of that event marked by another fire set by their descendent?”

“But don’t you see?  Your ancestors deserved their fate.  They tried to kill the entire Dalton family.”

“What do you mean tried?”  Beth smiled prettily at me and continued pouring the gasoline around the first floor.  When she was satisfied with the coating she threw down the torch before I could plead with her to stop.

Instead of leaving, she became entranced as the orange flames writhed and licked at the heavily lacquered furniture.  This could not be happening.  I had saved the Daltons from one fire only to have them killed in the same event one hundred and ten years later.  Perhaps fate truly had decided that the people I loved were to die in an inferno on the twenty fourth of August—no matter the year.

“Beth, don’t!”  She looked at me with an evil smirk then her smile faltered and the color drained from her face.

“No,” she whispered.  “No, you’re dead!”  My maid screamed and tried to get out the door.  But she had lingered for too long and was now surrounded by the fire she had set.  She did not notice the window to her right, offering her the only means of escape available.  Instead, she flailed and tripped over the empty gas can.  Her body pitched backward in slow motion.

I heard her scream and turned away from the grisly scene.  Nick’s hard chest was there to comfort me; he cradled me from the gruesome images below.

“I had no idea I looked that horrifying.”

Beth must have seen him and thought Nick had been a ghost.  Despite the morbidity of the situation, I smiled at the man I loved.

“On the contrary,” I said into his soot stained shirt.  “You look remarkably well for having been dead for over one hundred years.”

“Nick, Callista, we need to get out of here,” Maria said earnestly.

We searched for a way out.  The entire first floor was engulfed in the furnace.  In the midst of our panic, I remembered the last time I had almost died in the carriage house.

“The back window!  The other day I thought maybe…”

Nick rolled his eyes.

“Well, never mind.”  This was not the time for an in-depth explanation.  “The point is that a ladder should be just below the back window.” 

Nick’s father groaned as he woke up, and his wife helped him through the small opening at the rear of the building.

“Ladies, first.”  Nick handed me into the fresh air.

The Daltons and I heard the sirens blaring from the fire trucks that had arrived on the scene at Barnard Hall.  We raced inside just as Rosa met us at the doorway.

“The police are here,” she said in a harsh whisper.  Her hand flew to her chest when she realized our state.  In the light, the bruises on Nick’s face were turning as black as the soot marring our clothes.

I nodded.  “Have the paramedics look at the Daltons, Rosa.”

“What about you, Miss Callista?”

The four of them turned to face me as I started up the back steps to my room.  I stopped for a moment to survey the damage.  Besides a few minor cuts and bruises, my wounds were mostly superficial, nothing a bottle of Neosporin and a Band Aid wouldn’t fix.  The burns on my hands needed ointment, and that was in the first aid kit upstairs.  What I really wanted was a hot shower to peel the layer of grime from my skin and to loosen the tension in my back from the worst day of my life. 

We had survived; that was all that mattered.

I chuckled to myself.  Survival was a funny thing.  Even if I was alive, I could not survive without Nick.  Like Maria’s choice so many years before, the same decision now faced me. 

“As far as everyone is concerned, I didn’t survive.”

Nick was ready to argue but the look on my face silenced him.

From the upstairs hallway I heard Rosa welcome the local law enforcement.  A familiar voice asked where I was.  In response Rosa began telling James the story I had come up with.  “I’m afraid that Miss Callista was inside the carriage house.”

EPILOGUE

Fire Claims Carriage House

In the early house of August 24, 1902, a destructive fire engulfed the carriage house at Barnard Hall and continued burning well until half past four o’clock.  Firemen were engaged, endeavoring to subdue the blaze.  An official inquiry as to the circumstances regarding the fire led authorities to believe that it was the result of arson.  The Daltons, including Nicholas I, Nicholas II, and Maria Dalton, had been locked into the carriage house before it was purposely set ablaze.  The three had sustained injuries following an assault before the fire.  Lord Smyth, his wife Lady Regina Smyth, and daughter Lady Emily Smyth, were taken into custody regarding the injuries sustained by the Dalton Family. 

Fire Claims Young Heiress

In the early hours of August 24, 2012, a fire engulfed the carriage house at Barnard Hall, claiming the life of its owner, Miss Callista Franklyn.  An investigation is underway regarding the fire, which was ruled as arson by investigators.  The fire comes on the one hundred and tenth anniversary of the first fire at Barnard Hall, which nearly claimed the lives of then-owners, the Daltons. 

Three of the four witnesses to the blaze sustained minor injuries while attempting to free the young woman.

Authorities are seeking anyone with information and ask them to please step forward.  An investigation is also currently underway regarding Miss Franklyn’s untimely death.  According to a source, this event marked the second attempt on the young heiress’s life.  Memorial services for Callista Franklyn have yet to be announced.

               

Franklyn Will Read

In her will, Miss Callista Franklyn, daughter of Robert Franklyn and Sylvia Franklyn Burns, and heiress to a fortune reportedly over 150 million dollars, has left almost everything to her long time housekeeper, Mrs. Rosa Santos.  There was reportedly one million dollars set aside for her maid, Amanda Hall of Chilham.  Miss Hall has worked at Barnard Hall for six months.

While Mrs. Santos has been employed at Barnard Hall since 1982, the head housekeeper is no stranger to tragedy.  In the summer of 1982, her daughter, Maria Santos, went missing from Barnard Hall and was never found. 

Upon release of the will, an investigation was conducted and Mrs. Santos was cleared of any responsibility regarding the death of her employer.

THE END

Shameless Plug

28 Jun

Recently, I had the opportunity to play a small part in the taping of a reality TV show being produced in the UK.  Check out this clip from the live-feed of my book being plugged on the Billy Block Show in Nashville bymy  interim-Dream Manager from Belfast, No. Ireland, Sam!

CLICK HERE

Today is Wednesday

27 Jun

How horrible is it that I just realized that today is Wednesday?  I suppose this means Friday’s post, and the FINAL CHAPTER of my debut novel, The Mirrors at Barnard Hall, need to be epic.

Don’t want to wait until then?  The Print copy is available on CreateSpace and Amazon!  The book is also available digitally on Smashwords, Amazon and GoogleBooks.

Ohhh… and Click “LIKE” on the Facebook Link to your right to enter to win a signed copy of my book on July 24 and August 24!

-Jenny

Lucky 7

25 Jun

Okay, okay… I’m a horrible person!  I’ve been tagged twice now for “Lucky 7” and the necessary posting that comes with such an honor got buried beneath my beach vacation, my return to the day job, frantic wedding planning, receiving my first EVER print copy of my debut novel and the fact that I had no clue what in the world “Lucky 7” was!  (and I couldn’t figure out how to send a “private” tweet to get a definition).

HOWEVER, after hours of blog-research, I’ve finally figured out what I’m supposed to do:

  1. Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript
  2. Go to line 7
  3. Copy down the next seven lines/sentences exactly as they are
  4. Tag 7 other authors

Before I perform my duties, I’d like to thank Wildcat’s Wife and Monica Pierce for the nomination.  They are both fantastic writers.  If you haven’t read any of their work, I’d suggest you take a look!

-Jenny

MANUSCRIPT: Flight Risk (click for a brief synopsis)
PAGE/LINE: 77/7

“I love that there’s never any pressure from you,” Will mused.

“Pressure?” I asked.

“Yeah.  All of the other guys I know with girlfriends constantly have to dodge the big question conversation after about six months.  You’ve never once brought it up.”

“The big question?”  There were a number of subjects I had chosen to never bring up, but none of them seemed that significant.

“Yeah.”

 And now for the final step… I hereby nominate the following writers for “Lucky 7”: Donna CummingsUrsula GreyS.J. MayleeAlly Daniels;  Joyce ScarbroughJennifer Lowery; A.S. Fenichel

Six Sentence Sunday: June 24 #sixsunday

23 Jun

I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone for stopping by on a weekly basis and to welcome those of you who might be visiting for the first time!  As a side note:  The PRINT COPY of my debut novel, The Mirrors at Barnard Hall, is NOW AVAILABLE on CreateSpace and will be coming soon to the AMAZON bookstore 🙂

Once again, this week’s snippet comes from my second book, Flight Risk.  This scene is taken from Evelyn Ryan’s inconvenient reunion with her old flame, country music artist Jaxon Lee.

Synopsis: After a ten-year absence, Evelyn Ryan returns to Nashville with her boyfriend, Will—who knows very little of Evelyn’s past.  During the visit, Evelyn is confronted by friends she once knew and the love she had abandoned.   

 * * *

“You look exhausted, Jaxon.”  The man’s head was already too big; he didn’t need to hear that being near him again made it impossible for me to think coherently.  “Not sleeping very well?”

“If you’d remember, I do some of my best work at night,” Jaxon said, offering me a knowing grin.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I lied, steeling myself against his probing gaze.

“Your eyes tell a different story, Evie.”

 * * *

Interested in participating in Six Sentence Sunday?  All you need to do is sign up and post six sentences from a WIP or published work!

 

The Mirrors at Barnard Hall: Chapter 28

22 Jun

Today’s post is Chapter 28 of 29 from my debut novel, The Mirrors at Barnard Hall.  I don’t know about you, but I’m trying to figure out what in the world I’m supposed to do after #29 goes up next week.

I’m open to suggestions.

-Jenny

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New to the epic love story?  Click HERE to start from the beginning

Want to read the book in its entirety?  Click HERE to purchase a digital copy -or- a PRINT COPY!

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Chapter 28: Goodbye

Callista,
Meet me in the Library.
Nick

The note was wrinkled, crumpled by my fist.  Nick had disappeared half an hour ago, and I had panicked.  When I had expressed my concern to Tim, he had agreed to help me look for my missing fiancé.  Now I searched the crowd for Tilly’s husband so I could let him know I had found Nick only to notice Tim had gone missing too.  Since my mind was no longer preoccupied with useless worry, I realized none of the Daltons were in the ballroom.

So much for sticking together.

While the Daltons had appeared at ease, I had been noticeably on edge most of the night.  It was difficult feign enjoyment when I knew what the end of the night held.  Thankfully, the other guests appeared content to excuse my nervous energy as post-engagement jitters.

When I was in Nick’s arms, it was possible to temporarily forget that we were standing on a precipice.  Then we would dance by the back window and I would catch a glimpse of the carriage house looming at the edge of the dark forest.  It was standing as a constant reminder of what was going to happen.

I sneaked undetected out of the party and raced through the dim, candlelit hallway.  Nick must have discovered additional details about the fire and wanted to share them with me.  Perhaps he was gathering his entire family which would explain why I hadn’t been able to locate any of them.  I ran into the library, stopping just shy of the doorway.

Once again, an unsettling feeling of foreboding overwhelmed me.

Something was wrong.

The way Nick stood, his back ramrod straight and unyielding, made me hesitate for longer than usual.  He did not smile when he saw me standing there.  Nick had always smiled.  Instead, he looked… disappointed.  So this was to be bad news.  I could only say a prayer that it had nothing to do with the impending fire.

I tried to speak but no noise came out.

“Callista.”  My fiancé nodded a cold greeting.  His voice was hard and held the sharp edge of a blade.  Even when Nick had thought I was a ghost, he had never sounded like this.  His voice was flat, bleak.

“Nick,” I started carefully.  “Where is the rest of your family?”

“As you can see, they are not here.”

“But they aren’t in the party.  I’ve been looking everywhere for them… and for you.”

“And you’ve found me.  Callista, we need to talk.”

I stumbled toward him.  The urge to touch him, to hold him, overtook me.

“Don’t come any closer,” he hissed.  As commanded, I halted in my tracks.  “I cannot say what I need to with you near me.”

“Then maybe you shouldn’t say it at all,” I suggested.

A trace of regret lit his eyes.  “Nevertheless, I will say it.  Callista, we cannot continue this relationship.”

“What?  You’re joking…”  He had to be.  After all, he had convinced me that that we were meant to be together, that we could overcome any adversity as long as we were with one another.

“I am not joking.  I need a woman who knows how to run a household, who has been educated in propriety and social etiquette, and who is worthy of bearing my children.”

But he had just made the announcement of our impending marriage to everyone in attendance only two hours before.  Our engagement was officially official.  How humiliating for his family that he was now going back on his promise.  “Couldn’t you have decided this before today?”

“It has taken until this moment for me to realize the impossibility.”

“But your family…”

“Will understand.”

“Nick, please…  How can you say this after everything we’ve been through together?”  I did not care that I was begging.  I would have groveled if I thought it would make a difference.  My whole world was imploding, and I was clawing at anything concrete enough to keep me from being sucked into the black hole at my feet.

“Callista, you’re not good enough for me, for my family.  I have a responsibility to them that you cannot possibly understand.”

At first I thought he winced as he said those words, but his face immediately smoothed into an impassive mask.  The space just above the bridge of my nose began to throb with the beginnings of a migraine.   My head spun with a thousand images and questions.  All of the arguments he raised were vividly familiar—they had been my own only weeks before.

Instinctively, I knew who would meet all of his requirements, but Nick had adamantly opposed a connection with Lady Smyth.

“This is me.”  My voice hitched, quivering with unshed tears.  I pulled my hair from its elaborate chignon and let it fall in a thick, unruly curtain around my shoulders.  A pressure on my chest began suffocating me, keeping the air from reaching my lungs.  I ripped at the heavy diamonds crushing my neck; the clasp released, and I threw them at his feet.  The jewelry made a clinking sound much like that of a metal chain.  Instead of feeling lighter, my weight was harder to bear.  “You knew exactly what you were getting before you asked me to marry you.”

Nick’s eyes tightened, and his mouth turned to a frown.  “You are right.  I was a fool, forgive me.”

Forgive you?  Forgive you for what?  For crushing my soul, for breaking the most vital promise anyone has ever made?  The offense is unforgivable.”

“Yes, I know,” he whispered.

“Was it something I said or something I did?”  I flicked through the events of the evening; there had to have been some turning point.  What had happened to send Nick running away from me instead of into my arms?  What had I done? Had I committed some social faux pas, embarrassing his family beyond repair? Had Lady Smyth gotten to him and told him some vicious lie?

“Callista, believe me when I say this decision has nothing to do with you.”

I snorted.  How could he even begin to think this did not have anything to do with me?  “Oh, but it does.”  The voice that spoke came from somewhere else.  The tone was dead and calm, bordering on indifferent.  Inside I was filled with acidic bile, churning and eating away at my vital organs.  Inside I was writhing in agony. “When someone says, ‘Believe me,’ I have to be able to do just that.  But I can’t now, can I?”

He started to speak, but I interrupted.  If this was the last time I saw the man I loved, I had to try everything I could to keep hold of him.  “You promised me forever,” I reminded him bitterly.

“Nothing is forever.”

“But you promised!” I screamed then immediately regained my composure.

Nick was angry now.  He began pacing behind the solid desk, careful to keep the furniture as a barrier between us.  At least I had succeeded in pulling some reaction from him.  Anger was more acceptable than lifeless.  “Life is full of broken promises.  How can you consider yourself immune to the fact?”

Immune?  You know that my life has been nothing but broken promises.  I had thought you would be the first to keep your word.  But I was wrong.”

“I’m the one who was wrong.  We are not meant to be together.   Even from the beginning you were the one to tell me that.”

“Why did you even bother to convince me otherwise?”  The wasted words had ultimately been a fruitless endeavor.

“I don’t know.”

“Do you realize the date?”  Maybe he had forgotten that tonight marked the end of his life.

Nick nodded.

“I’m begging you, just let me stay until tomorrow.  Maybe I’ll be able to help.  I need to know you’re okay, that you’re…“ Alive.

“I’ll be just fine.  My family and I have dealt with similar situations before and survived.  We do not need you.”

No one had ever needed me.

“How will I know?” I asked dejectedly, only extending my pain.  This soul-crushing confrontation was going to be the last memory I would ever have of the man I loved.  Although the agony this conversation was causing me was excruciating, I couldn’t let go of the dream just yet.

He rubbed his hand through his dark hair.  “How did you find out the first time?  Read the newspaper again.”

“I won’t go.”  I would make him realize that he needed me, that he really did want me.

His eyes turned panicked, searching the room for a means of escape.  Did he really want me to go away that badly?  Was my presence that dreadful?  “You have to go, Callista.”

“I’m not a whim, I don’t change.  I’m permanent.”

“I know you are.  But circumstances change.  There are things out of our control, factors we can’t…”

“You told me that we were permanent.”

“I know.”

“What about when you told me you loved me?  Do you remember that?”

“Of course I remember,” he whispered.

“Well?  What about now?”

“Callista, love has nothing to do with this,” he explained slowly, as if I were an obstinate child.

“Then tell me you don’t love me.”

“Callista…” he protested, tortured.

“Tell me you don’t love me,” I repeated.  “Admit that you lied.”

“I lied.”

Without reciprocated love, what else was there to fight for?  Silence hanged in the air, separating us more finally than one hundred years.

Quietly now, with steel in his voice, Nick said his goodbye.  “After the ball you can collect your things, and I will arrange for our carriage to bring you to where you are staying.”

“But…”  I didn’t need the carriage.

“Just go!” he shouted, cutting me off.

Frantic now, I turned to escape.  Faceless guests in the hallway stared at me like I had finally gone mad; they were right.  Their whispers were distorted, colliding with one another and chasing me up the stairs.  I flew into Nick’s room and slammed the door, attempting to shut out the memories of what I had lost.  My heart shattered into microscopic pieces across the wooden planks.  The shards crushed beneath my shoes as I paced in the emptiness.

I tried not to breathe in his scent, but the smell of his skin lingered everywhere, even on my own sheets.  After I crossed over into the present, I ran to the corner of my vacant room—as far from the mirror as possible—where I could cry in silence.

Nick had abandoned me in a sea of loss, so far out that I was unable to see even a glimpse of healing shoreline.  It was disorienting, not knowing which way to swim.  Ultimately, I knew saving myself from drowning was no longer a priority.  I stilled my arms and sank deep beneath the waves, welcoming the burning liquid that filled my lungs.

For the past ten years I had felt alone.  I had been alone except for when I had been in Barnard Hall.  My interactions with others had been purely superficial; I had listened and responded when necessary, but nothing had gone deeper.  No one had broken through.

Nicholas Dalton had penetrated the fabric of my existence, and I could never be the same.  It would be impossible to let him go.  I would do anything I could to get him back, to undo whatever damage I had done.  But that couldn’t happen.  He hadn’t just been saying, “Goodnight,” or, “See you later.”  Nick’s farewell tonight had been irreversible.  I couldn’t allow myself to bother him, to become a nuisance.  What we needed—what Nick wanted—was a clean break.  If I could give him nothing else, I could give him back his life.

My eyes searched the room frantically.  Without conscious orders, I picked up the bedside lamp, and climbed onto my mattress.  I drew back the heavy metal and waited for my world to explode.

But nothing happened.

The lamp hit thin air, and I fell through the frame, landing on his quilt.  I escaped back to my room faster than I would have if his mattress had been engulfed in flames.   With inhuman strength, I shoved my own bed out of the way so I could be grounded in front of the mirror—my doorway to Nick.

With the heavy piece of furniture moved, I lifted the lamp a second time.  I could no longer see into his room, which diminished the significance of what I was about to do.  Risking seven years of bad luck was worth giving Nick what he wanted.

Prepared for another swing, I brought the lamp to crush the gateway but stopped just shy of the fragile glass.  The ring on my finger reflected an errant beam of light like a lighthouse, signaling my proximity to the healing shoreline.  Instead of giving up and allowing the sea to consume me, my arms and legs began to kick, forcing me to the surface.

I collapsed and leaned my head against the cold, hard reflection, too weak to shatter the dream.  My tears fell, leaving moist streaks against the smooth surface.  If, by some miracle, Nick ever wanted me back, I would need a way to go back.

Without Nick, my life was a like a blank page; not a clean slate or a fresh start.  I was an empty space, void of anything that mattered.  Hadn’t I known all along that this ending was inevitable?  It was the timing that was so disconcerting.  Earlier today Nicholas Dalton II had been declaring his undying love; now he had sent me away.

Now our undying love was dead.

Dead.

I checked the clock; it was just past one in the morning of August twenty fourth—the day Nick and his parents were supposed to die.

Maybe the final events had already been set in motion.  Perhaps Nick had no other choice than to send me away.  I clutched any reason to hold onto the fragile hope that remained in my being.

In the midst of my imploding world, Nick had said that a carriage would collect me.  He knew I did not need a carriage to return home.  Why had he said that?  Something was wrong, it had to be.  I would never find out what it was if I did not stop the fire.  If he decided to send me back afterward, at least I would know he was alive.

Even if he was never going to be with me, I needed Nick to be alive.

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