It’s a rainy, cool Monday morning here, and I’m snuggled in a hoodie and warm socks for the first time since our long cool spring finally gave way to summer heat. I’m thinking about fall, my favorite season, and the ACFW conference which starts in less than three weeks now.

Summer will be back by the end of the week, but since it feels like fall today, and I love fall, here’s a brief but appropriate snippet from the WIP written a few days ago.

The heat had broken at sunset with a rain that thundered through with brief intensity, then passed on east across the foothills as twilight fell. A freshening breeze still blew in its wake, and while it kept away the mosquitoes, it raised gooseflesh down Willa’s bare arms and calves. She had come out in her shift, and the temperature was fallen to something nigh chill. Crossing the yard barefoot under a moon so bright she could see her shadow moving ahead of her, she had no real aim in mind, but when she spotted a stray branch, strewn by the storm, she picked it up. A few paces on she found another.

Making a slow circuit of the clearing, she gathered windblown limbs to break into kindling, come morning.

The heavy stickiness of the previous day had vanished. The air felt scrubbed clean, and still smelled of rain. The stars were brilliant and many, adding their light to the moon’s. She stopped to feel the breeze on her skin, sensing in it a distant hint of autumn.

Would she be there still once autumn passed?

She had no more than caught that worry from the corner of her mind’s eye before a memory slipped in to distract her, turning her thoughts back to weeks ago.

Your hair… ’tis the color o’ winter oak leaves.

She had left the cabin to stop thinking of Neil MacGregor. Better to fix her mind on the land auction… and the letter that still had not come. Her hope in it ever coming was frayed now. No longer hope, but desperation.

Oh that I had the wings of a dove,” she whispered into the wind. Then she would fly to Albany herself and find Tilda Fruehauf… or her grave marker, if she too was dead.

Hugging the bundle of storm-cast limbs to her chest, she moved on, her feet and the hem of her shift swishing through the wet, seeding grasses that grew along the stock-pen fence, while the wind rattled the trees at the clearing’s edge and ran cool fingers through her unbraided hair. 

Crickets sang in the grass. Somewhere nearby a night bird called and she thought, he would be able to name it…. 

With a frustrated hiss through her teeth, she turned back toward the cabin, following the fence line Neil MacGregor had mended. As she reached the empty stall-shed, having circled around to the rear of the log structure, the breeze kicked up. Its soughing and leaf-rattling covered her footsteps. It covered as well the small sounds that might have warned her before the horse blew practically in her ear, from the other side of the shed wall. 

Flinging aside all but the stoutest limb, she rounded the shed as a figure stepped out, towering between her and the horse’s rump. Richard, she thought, an instant before she smelled the bear grease. An instant too late. With a fierce, half-choked cry, she had already swung.

~ from The Quiet In The Land (working title Willa)
Copyright 2010 Lori Benton

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