Archive for the 'Favorites' Category

How to make a lifelong nerd… er, reader!
by Jessa Slade on June 13th, 2009

Currently working on: The End
Mood: Pre-post-apocalyptic

I’m old. This sad fact is revealed by my favorite childhood book, which is actually an LP.  For you whippersnappers, that’s a Long Playing record.  As in vinyl. 

hobbitMy first favorite book was, not shockingly, THE HOBBIT.  And the awesome thing about this version of the 1977 animated TV movie is that you could read along while the actors spoke, so you didn’t have to ask any adults how to pronounce Lothlorien and whatnot.  Plus, there were cool iron-ons.  Plus, there were sing-alongs.

To this day, I sometimes spontaneously break into the chorus of “Down, down to goblin town, you go, my lad, ho ho, my lad” while on my way to the day job.

This post, of course, is just a blatant excuse for a fan-grrl moment about the 2011 remake of THE HOBBIT, with exec producers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh (director and writers of the most recent THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy — swoon) with  Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy II) directing.

dragon2dragon1I can’t wait to see Del Toro’s vision for Smaug.  Shiver.  He says his favorite dragons are Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty and Vermithrax Pejorative from Dragonslayer

Rumor has it, the story outline and treatments are done, and the screenplay work has begun.  Oh, to be a writer on that team.  The shoot itself is supposed to last for most of 2010 in New Zealand (I am totally going to plan a book signing tour in NZ! I only want one gold piece…) using some of the sets and actors from TLotR. The actor to play Bilbo is supposed to be announced in the next couple weeks.  Oh, gleeful Gollum-style cavorting!

But back to the book/LP version I sang along with as a kid.  What I liked best about it was the moment I discovered there was a much loooonger version, though without pictures.  Written by this guy name Tolkien.  And there were three sequels.

Thus is a lifelong nerd reader born.

Did you ever read a book as a kid that totally ruined you for life?  And did you later buy that book for a child at your first opportunity?

Girls with Gumption!
by Our Guest on June 11th, 2009

Someone mentioned A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle the other day. I still own a copy of that book and read it again when I’d heard that Madeleine L’Engle passed away. Of all the books from my childhood, that one really stands out. Maybe it’s because the heroine, Meg, wasn’t a princess, or popular or especially pretty or endowed with magical powers. Being a kid who hadn’t quite grown into herself, she was awkward. Her hair never did what she wanted. She wore glasses (considered cool now but not then!). She often didn’t like herself and she never could quite control her temper, especially when the other kids at school poked fun at her family situation (father missing) or her “dumb baby brother.” Meg was a regular girl, a girl like me, who struggled with life and fitting in and worrying if she would ever just be “good enough” in the eyes of others.

In a sci-fi adventure story driven by the values of honor, courage, loyalty, personal freedom, the importance of family, etc., we watch Meg overcome one insecurity after another, until she comes to see her own worth. In learning to believe in herself, Meg learns she has the power to save the people she loves even when all seems lost.

For a shy ten-year-old who didn’t think she was particularly remarkable either, that was a powerful message

Another book I loved was THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND by Elizabeth George Speare. It was what you could call my first historical romance and the beginning of a lifelong obsession. OK, the romance was kind of secondary to Kit’s trials and tribulations as she tries to fit in with her Puritan relatives in cold, damp, gray Connecticut (coming from Barbados, poor thing!), but Nat is there for her when she most needs him and makes her dreams come true at the end, albeit they were dreams she never knew she had.

WITCH is a fish out of water story, and I love experiencing the journey of someone who is struggling to adapt to new situations without losing their own sense of who they are. Kit is a fighter and a courageous girl, which is especially evident when she befriends a woman reputed to be a witch. Not cool in a Puritan environment! I’ll admit that in the beginning she is a bit of a spoiled rich girl, but little by little she gets over her silver spoon expectations, comes to terms with the drastic changes in her life, learns to value her often dour relatives and emerges a strong, positive, independent-minded young woman.

I think it’s so important for young girls to read stories that feature strong, intelligent young heroines with the power to take their world by the reins. My friend Traci Hall’s YA Wiccan series, about a spirited, psychic teenage girl named Rhiannon, certainly fits that category. Can anyone suggest others that are being written today?

Dog Star Rising
by Our Guest on June 8th, 2009

Today we’re excited to have author Jeri Smith-Ready with us talking about this week’s topic, our favorite childhood books.

Jeri will be stopping by throughout the day, so leave a comment or question for her and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of her latest romantic urban fantasy, BAD TO THE BONE, which features the vampire dog Dexter, among other dark and devoted heroes.

Smith-Ready pours plenty of fun into her charming, fang-in-cheek urban fantasy. — Publishers Weekly, starred review


By Jeri Smith-Ready

Thanks to Jessa for inviting me to join you ladies on your fabulous blog! I was thrilled when she told me the topic, because I always relish the opportunity to dish about books I love, especially lesser known ones like DOGSBODY by Diana Wynne Jones.

I rediscovered my favorite childhood book only last year. I couldn’t remember the title or author, just that it was about Sirius the Dog Star, a short-tempered Luminary (a sort of deity) who was framed for murder and sentenced to live out the life of a dog on Earth. After almost an hour of searching online, I found the now-out-of-print book and ordered a used copy. There was much rejoicing.

I then had the pleasure of reading this book out loud to my own dog as she recovered from back surgery last December. It seemed to soothe her to put her head in my lap and listen to my voice. She didn’t even care how gracelessly I switched between the English and Irish accents.

Anyway, the book. The reader experiences everything through the mind of Sirius as he is born blind and deaf (and very, very hungry!), and then is tossed in a river with the rest of his mongrel brothers and sisters. He survives this ordeal with the help of the sun (Sol, who along with the Moon and Earth will later become a friend and helper) and is rescued by Kathleen, an Irish girl living with her English cousins while her father serves a prison term for his part in “the Troubles.”

As Sirius grows up, he realizes/remembers he’s more than just a dog, and that one of the reasons he’s been sent to Earth is to find a dangerous luminary weapon known as the Zoi. Problem is, he doesn’t know what it looks like or where to find it. Moreover, the pursuit of his quest tends to be sidetracked by things like butcher shops and bitches in heat. He is, after all, still a dog, and at first he laments his corporeal limitations. But when he faces an ancient power as old as the earth itself, it’s the love he inspires in his adopted family that ultimately sees him through his darkest hours.

DOGSBODY was the perfect novel for my nine-year-old self, for I loved animals and astronomy. But it’s a book that filled Grownup Jeri with as much wonder as it did Kid Jeri. As an adult, I was better able to appreciate the ambitious task Jones undertook in her attempt to marry a girl-meets-dog story with astro-mythical elements, plus a dash of Celtic legends.

To this day, I adore animals, and Sirius is still my favorite star (not to mention my choice in satellite radio carriers). I even married an astronomer and convinced him to adopt a dog. Talk about childhood dreams coming true!


Jeri can be found at and most often these days at, along with the WVMP Radio series main characters Ciara Griffin ( and Shane McAllister (

Welcome Toni Andrews!
by Our Guest on June 4th, 2009

We’re thrilled today to be part of Toni Andrews’ month-long virtual book signing tour, celebrating the release of the latest in her Mercy Hollings Series, CRY MERCY. In a first for Silk & Shadows, Toni comes to us via video blog - vlog!


Toni Andrews likes to say it’s easier to list the jobs she hasn’t tried. From lifeguard to lounge singer, bartender to bill collector, door-to-door salesperson to corporate business analyst–Toni has been there and done that. Then, she decided that what she really wanted to be was a writer. After fifteen years in Southern California and seven in Miami, Toni returned to the lakeside cottage in Connecticut where she spent her childhood summers, where she writes full time.
After discovering that it’s not always easy for authors to get publicity, Toni took matters into her own hands in 2008 and began producing her own public access television show, So Many Books, which features authors of all genres and appears in over 150 towns in New England and New York.
Toni also writes romance novels under the pen name Virginia Reede.


As Toni Andrews:
Cry Mercy, Mira Books, June 2009
Angel of Mercy, Mira Books, May 2008
Beg for Mercy, Mira Books, September 2007

As Virginia Reede:
A Red Hot New Year (Anthology), Avon Red, December 2007
Men in Chains, Cerridwen Press, July 2007
Witch’s Knight, Ellora’s Cave, June 2007
Beastmistress, Ellora’s Cave, June 2006

Grab a cup of coffee and click here to join Toni on her porch overlooking beautiful Crystal Lake in Connecticut!:

Click here for Toni’s Tarot Reading

Below are the links to follow Toni’s virtual book tour and to purchase the books:

Toni’s Website
Link For Tour (with address for SASE)
Toni’s Blog
Toni’s TV Show
Cindy Cruciger’s site (mentioned in the video)

Links to Purchase the Book:
Mira Books (discounted while they last!)
Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble
Indigo Books (Canada)
Rondezvous Romance (Australia)
Least expensive place to buy (out of print) BEG FOR MERCY and ANGEL OF MERCY

by Sharon Ashwood on June 3rd, 2009


As Annette pointed out yesterday, practicality and usefulness are key when selecting a superpower. But then, so is how well something fits with your own personality.

Blowing things up with a flick of the wrist, a la Piper on Charmed, would be a bit TOO useful. Annoying people would be gone, gone, gone. Screaming children in the grocery lineup–poof! The grunt at the gym hogging the equipment–zap! The next pedestrian who wandered in front of my car like he/she is too sexy for a crosswalk–kazaam! So much easier on the paint job than actually running them over.

Nope, I would enjoy that way too much. One-stop karma destruction.

Teleportation would be my next choice. I’m always running late. Simply popping through the ether would be the answer to a lot of problems. Plus, who hasn’t been enjoying a nice night out, realized it was far too late, and then thought, gee, now I have to get home. Teleporting into bed about then would be wonderful, especially if you could materialize already changed into your jammies and with your teeth brushed.

Yeah, that would be high on my list, but my top choice is sending out duplicates of myself–shadow selves that could show up at meetings while the real me stayed at my desk and did actual work. They could go to the office functions. They could show up at all the social events I really don’t want to attend. Maybe they could be trained to do housework, shopping, and errands. I would be off the hook for a pile of tasks that drain life faster than any vampire.


Sure, I saw the film 2001 and know that artificial life forms can get nasty, but these would be magical, not technological. So what if my doppelganger starts a Facebook page? Would there be a material difference from the one I already have? They might do a better job of keeping it up to date.

And yet–it’s an interesting and sobering thought to imagine an artificial me going through my day, doing all the small social interactions, smiling, nodding, saying the right words, texting the right replies. I wonder how many friends and acquaintances would notice they were talking to a shadow? That’s why I’d want the power, right? To make them think it was the real me?

How disturbed would I be if it actually worked? And what would that imply? :shock:

On second thought, maybe I’ll just show up at the blasted meetings. At least sometimes there are doughnuts.


Leaping Tall Buildings … Or Not
by Annette McCleave on June 2nd, 2009

When I was a kid, I dreamed of at least a million superpowers I’d love to have. Flying. Invisibility. Leaping tall buildings in a single bound. Traveling through time at will. Moving objects with my mind. All of those and more. Anything that would help me escape my chores, bring the pages of my favorite books to life, or prove to the school bullies that they couldn’t mess with me was fair game.

Naturally, I thought choosing a favorite superpower today with be a snap—I’d just run though my old list and pick the best one.

Flying. Nice, but now that I have a car and can afford an airline ticket, not at the top of my list.

Invisibility. Hmmm. Sometimes I feel invisible already. Not nearly as much fun as I imagined.

Leaping tall buildings. I still watch that scene from Underworld where Selene leaps off a skyscraper and lands on the ground in a comfortable crouch and think, yeah that would be cool. But really, cool factor aside, it only saves me an elevator ride.


Time Travel. Let’s put it this way: I’ve read The Time Machine and seen The Butterfly Effect. This one comes with consequences I’m not sure I could handle.

Telekinesis. Now that I’m older and I have occasional bouts of back pain, being able to move objects with my mind has plenty of appeal. But my mind is already fully occupied trying to force words onto a blank page, so I’m not sure I have the bandwidth.

Wow. This choosing a superpower thing is not as easy as I thought. Let’s see if I can come up with some new ones:

Split into several alternate selves. If I could do this, I’d be able to get the grocery shopping done, clean the house, and write. What’s the downside? Oh yeah, one of the selves is always your evil side, which then runs off and creates chaos.

Super speed. A variation on the above theme. If I could move super fast, I could do all those chores and be back at my computer in a millisecond, leaving more time to write. Oh, wait. The rest of the world doesn’t have the same power, so I’d still get stuck at the grocery checkout for twenty minutes. Scratch this one.

Stop time. Every time I get behind on my To Do list, I could just stop time, catch up, and then put the world back in motion. Hmmm. I’m sensing a trend here. Hold on, if time stands still for the rest of the world, but I’m able to keep moving, does that mean I’d age faster than everyone else?

Magic. I can think of a few spells that would come in handy: presto, a home-cooked meal; abracadabra, a shiny new computer. But, drat, my early childhood lessons have had an impact on me—these feel like cheating.

See into the future. Um, no. I saw Terminator Salvation in the theater last week. On the off-chance the future looks like that, I’d prefer to go in blind.


So, what incredible power would I want? Willpower. Boatloads of willpower. Highly underestimated superpower, but genuinely useful. The deities blessed me some, but not as much as I’d like. I have a secret lab in my basement where I’m developing more willpower, and I have high hopes that my experiments will produce results. But if you run across a bottle and you don’t need it, could you send it my way?


I’m curious. What superpower(s) did you dream of having as a kid? Would you still want it (them) today?

Power corrupts; superpowers corrupt… superly?
by Jessa Slade on June 1st, 2009

Currently working on: Redesigning website
Mood: Baffled

I shouldn’t have a superpower.  I say this because I am fairly certain I would abuse my superpower.  My XY tried to reassure me.  “You’d be a benevolent dictator,” he said.

Sure, that’s what all the dictators say. 


It’s like that 1981 study by the Swedish research who survey American college student driver, 88% of whom declared themselves better than average drivers.  Now, you can play with the numbers to make average mean whatever you want, so that more than 50% can indeed be “better” than average at something.  But anyone who drives knows that the aforementioned 88% is patently delusional.  And I’d be deluded to think I’d be a force for good (or at least above average) just because the universe — or maybe aliens or radiation poisoning or whatever – gave me a superpower.

Lord Acton’s full quote in 1887 was:

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

Since I’m not a Swedish researcher, I won’t argue percentages with Lord Acton, I’ll just point out that Superman wasn’t from Earth, so he doesn’t count.  But back to my superpower or lack thereof.

I think, in order to keep my corrupting influence off my superpower, I’d be Dharma Girl.  I’m envisioning some sort of invisible-but-sparkly-under-special-goggles fairty-type dust drifting in my wake as I pirouette through the world.  Those who encountered my steps would see their ideal path laid out before them in matching sparkly footsteps — literal and metaphorical.  They would know unequivocally they were going the right way. 

And woe be unto she who did not follow.  Because of course I can’t entirely give up the Dark Knight dastardly deeds — my evil alterego would be Swamp Gas Girl, whose arrival is preceded by the stench of low tide and whose twinkly lights lead followers to an early grave.


Tragically, every superpower has a superfailing.  And mine is obviously that I don’t trust myself to be sure I’m on the right path.  Then again, the universe — or maybe aliens or radiation poisoning — gave me a talent for words and I’m using them on romance writing.  So maybe I would use my superpower for good.

Does your favorite superpower reveal something dastardly about you?  Do share.  Supervillains are people too.

Do I Have To Pick A Favorite?
by Our Guest on April 9th, 2009

Pinning myself down to favorites is hard for me. I have so many, and sometimes it has a lot to do with my mood. But I’m going to jump right in here with three – see, I can’t quite make up my mind on one or two.


In the scene following the opera, Loretta is floored after discovering that her father is having an affair, and she’s ready to give up on the whole notion of ever finding love or real happiness. But Ronny isn’t having any of that. With La Boheme surging in the background, in his thick Brooklyn accent he sets her straight:

“Love don’t make things nice. It ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren’t here to make things perfect. Snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. We’re here to ruin ourselves, and break our hearts, and love the wrong people and die…”

What makes this scene so completely satisfying is the moment when Loretta reaches out and grasps Ronny’s prosthetic hand – the very same hand that drove Ronny’s former fiancée away and ruined his life. For both of them, it’s a leap of faith, a moment of total acceptance and trust. In the freezing cold night, his poetically stark words strip them both bare, leaving only vulnerability and honesty. And Love.


(I just love this old Fabio cover!)

I grabbed this “keeper” off my shelves today and found the exact scene I wanted marked with a post-it, something I did years and years ago. What is so astounding about this story, what sets it apart from all others, is that at the outset the hero has had a stroke and can barely express himself in words. The heroine, Maddy, is a Quaker, torn between her love for Christian and her devotion to her faith and her people. In essence, she is forced to choose between them, and it all comes to a head when she goes before the congregation to explain her dilemma and make her decision. Christian, in his desperation to hang on to her, issues an ultimatum.

He stopped at the door and looked back. “I’ll wait outside…five minutes!” he snarled. “You come…or never!” He waited much longer than five minutes. He waited, with diminishing hope, for full an hour, and then two, knowing he should go, knowing the futility of issuing stupid ultimatums, finally knowing that, foolishly, he was waiting for a glimpse of her – one glimpse – just one more before she was gone beyond his reach.

When at last Maddy comes to him where he’s waiting in the churchyard and reveals her decision, He still had no command over himself, no way to answer but to go down on his knees and press his face against her body, with a groan that was yes and yes and I love you and are you sure?

With precious few words at his command, Christian still manages to convey, throughout this story, the most romantic sentiments I have ever read, in any book. Ever, ever.


Although this movie ends with the heartbreaking fact that, like Romeo and Juliet, this ill-fated couple must part, their last words to each other leave us with a renewed belief in the power of eternal love and the knowledge that Will’s love for Viola will live on forever in his plays. And that, perhaps, they will find a way to be together again, in some form…

“You will never age for me, nor fade, nor die.”
“Nor you for me.”
“Goodbye, my love, a thousand times goodbye.”
“Write me well.”

My romantic moment
by Jessa Slade on April 6th, 2009

Currently working on: Redesigning website
Mood: Giddy

This week’s topic here at Silk And Shadows is about “the best romantic scene in a book or movie.”  But I’m unable to compose a sensible response because I’m in love.


Shhh, shh.  Don’t look at him.  He’ll know we’re talking about him.  Tee-hee-hee.  Yes, that him!  My hero!  And he’s so strong, and handsome, and dreamy, and well-dressed.  And he has my name on him!  What’s not to love?

That’s the funny thing about those romance scenes.  They don’t have much to do with reality.    Which isn’t to say that romance doesn’t exist; just that it exists outside of the pesky needlings of reality, such as “So, isn’t your hero smart enough to wear a shirt in the middle of a Chicago November?”

That’s why when a new parent proudly displays her offspring with a cooed invitation to share her delight, your response can never be any of the following:

  • “Well, he has the requisite number of limbs.”
  • “At least he looks healthy.” 
  • “Who’s the father again?”  (For the new author, this translates to “Who wrote this?  You did?”)

No, as the cornered audience, you can only warily reflect that the chemical soup of interally produced painkillers, muscle relaxants and mood destabilizers coursing through mama’s bloodstream turns her into something closely related to a sleep-deprived ninja, and enthuse in return, “Oh, he’s going to make all the girls cry.”

Whether your new love is 8 1/2 pounds of squalling infant or 6 1/4 feet of black leather-wrapped alpha — or the 7-inch cover slick of the aforementioned alpha — of course you know it’s not always going to be perfect, or easy, or even particularly tidy.  But you want that moment of illusion, the surprise and joy.  And you want everyone — no, really, everyone — to feel that same thrill.

Later (say, October 6, 2009) he’ll grow up, take off on his own, hopefully make you proud, and maybe even support you in your old age.  But whatever happens, you’ll always be able to pull out the baby picture and remember the moment you first fell in love.

And because who can get enough of baby pictures, here’s the backside.


No, not that backside…


Living Dangerously, Sort of
by Our Guest on March 12th, 2009

I have to admit, my favorite scenes are where I get to address my personal phobias and vicariously live out the wildest scenarios from the comfort of my desk chair. For example, In DARK OBSESSION, the heroine has to gallop through a forest during a rainstorm at night to save her family. Now, I did a bit of riding as a kid but never anything approaching that, and frankly the thought of it terrifies me. So where does Nora find her family? Way out on a rocky, drenched headland, just feet from the edge. Have I mentioned my irrational fear of heights? Since I live in Florida I can pretty much ignore it most of the time, but lift me more than a few feet off the ground and my spine becomes a gelatinous river of chills.

In DARK TEMPTATION, I took that fear one step further in a scene where emotion, action, danger, sexual chemistry and touches of paranormal all come together with an energy that propels the hero and heroine into each other’s arms at Edgecombe, Chad’s isolated, haunted estate – but you’ll have to read the book to find out what happens then!

Anyway, in the scene, Chad, my hero, is in a small sailboat exploring the coastline for a hidden harbor. The heroine, Sophie, is doing the same thing, but she has gone on foot, picking her way along a ledge at the foot of a cliff. What she doesn’t realize is that the tide is racing in and will soon submerge the ledge. The way being too rocky to permit the boat access to the cliff, Chad is forced to dive in.
Half drowned, bleeding from being battered against boulders and reeling from an encounter with a ghostly face in the water, Chad has managed to reach Sophie, and had just driven home the point that the tide has cut off all means of escape but one:

(condensed version)
His shoulders fell to their full breadth, giving Sophie the giddy impression of yet another cliff face, tall and rugged and powerful. She felt rescued. She felt safe. Until he spoke again.

“We’re both trapped now. There is no way in hell I’ll ever be able to swim back to the boat, much less bring you with me.”

“We’ll return the way I came, then.” She turned in that direction and immediately comprehended the impossibility of the suggestion. The rocks were already submerged, the cliff face gleaming and slick. “The other way, then.”

But that proved no better. A wave slapped their ankles. Her skirts were sodden from the knees down, already heavy and cumbersome.

“What can we do?” She shoving strands of hair out of her eyes and prayed the earl had an answer.


“What?” Perhaps she hadn’t heard him correctly. He was still shivering, panting, gasping past the water he had so recently swallowed.

“We’ll have to climb. There’s no other way.”

Alarm bells clanged inside her. “No. Oh, no, no, no. I’ve never…I couldn’t—”

He seized her shoulders. “We have no choice. The boat can’t get to us and we can’t get to it. Within minutes the tide will devour this ledge and we’ll be swept away. We’ll both drown, Sophie, unless we climb to safety.”

“I…oh…all right.” Her teeth were clacking now. She looked up again. Up and up and up.

He regarded her with a faint frown. “You’ll need to take this off.”

“My dress?”

“It’s soaked. It’ll weigh you down.”

Lord Wycliffe spun her about, gripped her bodice and yanked. The top button popped free, then the next two, and then all the rest in a torrent, pattering around her feet and into the water.

Yards of green muslin puddled onto the wet rocks, leaving her little option but to kick her legs free. A wave swept the ledge. When the water receded her dress coursed with it, blending with the vivid blue-greens of the sea.

“We haven’t much time.” Reaching over his head he wedged his fingers into grooves in the rock, lifted a foot to a ridge, balanced with his toes and stepped up. “Like this. Slow and steady, all the way up. Oh, and Sophie?”

The somber rumble of his voice made her go still.

“Whatever you do, don’t look down.”

She gulped and placed the fingers of her right hand into a crack in the stone. She did the same with her other hand, before looking down to find her first foothold. One step up, then another. Not so bad. With luck, she might even make it to the top.

He waited for her to repeat the process, raising herself a foot or two higher on the wall before climbing up beside her. “That’s all there is to it. Just keep at it until we reach the top. So, how about it? You game?”

“You make it sound like a dare, as if I have a choice.” Yes, she even detected a twinkle of enjoyment in his eye.

“It is a dare, Sophie. I dare you to show me you aren’t afraid of a little climb. That you are every bit as capable as I am of tackling this scrap of a challenge. Unless, of course, you truly aren’t up to it.”

“Excuse me?” She experienced a stab of indignation before realizing his purpose. Yes, of course. The appreciative grin she flashed him quivered a little – she couldn’t help that – but she hoped it convinced him, as he had almost convinced her, that she could manage this feat.

“Right, then,” he said briskly. “Remember, slow and steady. We won’t stop again until we reach the top. Ready?”

(Now, since these are the main characters, we’ll assume they live and skip ahead just a bit…)

He disappeared over the rim of the cliff, and she experienced an instant’s panic at being without him, left alone between the distant, snarling water and the garishly bright sky. Then his head and shoulders reappeared. His hand dangled above her.

“Catch hold. I’ll pull you up.”

Her eyes squeezed shut and didn’t open until her chin smacked the turf of the headland. Relief poured through her in weakening torrents. She lay flat against the ground, cheek to the grass, arms outstretched as if to embrace the earth and thank it…simply thank it for being there beneath her.

“We made it…oh, good heavens, we made it. I can’t believe we did it…that I did it.” Tears welled in her eyes, rolling off the bridge of her nose and trickling into the grass. She fisted her hands around clumps of weeds, half unable to accept that she was safe. “Thank you, Chad. Thank you. If it weren’t for your faith in me, I could never have—”

“It’s Chad now, is it?”

Something in his tone, a cold edge she had not heard previously, made her lift her face from the ground. At the sight of him standing over her, she sat up in alarm. His eyes were fierce, fever bright in a face gone deathly pale. His nose was pinched, his lips a thin, grim line. Blood from the cut on his forehead had caked in his eyebrow and smeared across his cheek. Sophie’s gaze dropped to his side, to the scarlet streaks staining his white linen shirt.

“Good heavens, you’re hurt. We had better—”

In a blur of movement he was on his knees before her. He seized her face between shaking hands and shoved his own face close.

“Faith in you?” he bellowed. “Do you have any idea how many small deaths I died watching you struggle up that cliff? What the bloody blazes did you think you were doing, strolling along that ledge?”

Before her startled wits could recover sufficiently to form an answer, he crushed his lips to hers in a savage, bruising kiss.