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"I burn" – an excerpt

Someone recently asked me if I has favourite scenes in my various books. Of course I do – don’t all authors? So I was thinking that maybe I should share some of these with you – but not the ones that are truly climactic to the book as such, as that would qualify as a spoiler. Instead, this is supposed to be a teaser, have you galloping off to buy the book and devour it. (Sheesh: I hate this part of being an author…I put it down to the Swedish “Jante” law, as per which one should never,ever, ever toot one’s own horn. Never. Ever.)
HNSIndieWinner2015So I decided to start with a longer excerpt from Revenge and Retribution. Why, one may ask, seeing as this is the sixth book in The Graham Saga. Simple: I LOVE THIS BOOK. Plus it won the HNS Indie Award 2015, which means many others love it as well. And speaking of love, the excerpt I’ve chosen is somewhat steamy. Just sayin’…
Very briefly, The Graham Saga is the story of Alex Lind, born in 1972 and yanked back to 1658 where she meets Matthew Graham, sorts herself out, and settles down to do the best of things in her new time zone. Having Matthew around sort of helps…But now and then there are these uncomfortable incidents that almost drag her back to the time she came from – something Alex definitely does not want to happen.
In the below, Alex has just had an uncomfortable encounter with Time, has almost been dragged back to the future, to the time she came from. Her nights are haunted by Isaac, her son in the future…
R&R webstampUpstairs, Alex was struggling to keep afloat on the surface of a dream-filled sleep. She didn’t want to sink down into those swirling mists. She tried to remain in a dozing state where she at least knew who and where she was.
She turned on the bed, feeling the rope bottom give. That brought her up to the reassuring surface again. Yes, this was Matthew’s time, and the bed stood in Julian’s house, and someone had to tighten the rope frame because the middle was sagging. She tried to blink herself awake, but she was too tired after endless nights of vivid, frightening dreams. She sank into the black of her subconscious.
Isaac was there, and he smiled at her, beckoning her to come close, to return to them. No, she didn’t want to, and Isaac’s eyes stared reproachfully at her, inches from her own. She got the distinct impression she was lying in a bed, and people were hovering around her, eyes on things that beeped and thumped, monitoring her every thought.
Leave him, Isaac whispered, come back to me, to me, Mama. Am I not owed for all these years?
Alex twisted in anguish, and all around her the future life took horrifying shape: TVs that hung flat and embedded on the walls, computers that were called tablets and were run by touch, electrical light that poured from fixtures in the roof.
It’s just a dream, Isaac went on. None of that life you think you’ve led is true. A dream, Mama, that has encapsulated you for years while we’ve sat waiting at your side.
No, Alex moaned, no, it isn’t a dream! Not my Matthew, not my sons and daughters.
A dream, Isaac repeated, his dark eyes suddenly cold and hard. A dream, your life is a dream, he whispered, laughing gratingly.
“No!” Alex shrieked out loud, was awake for a moment with her heart in her mouth and then was dragged inexorably back under.
“Alex?” Hands holding, shaking gently, lips that brushed her forehead. “Alex, my heart.”
A dream, a dream, nothing but a dream. He doesn’t exist, this man of yours. Isaac giggled maliciously.
But he did. Alex struggled back into the light, and the man holding her was solid under her hands, his concerned eyes a gold-flecked green in the light of the candle he had lit.
“Aye, Matthew, that’s me, lass.”
Alex struggled to sit, her sweat-drenched shift sticking to her skin. Matthew handed her a mug of cider, helping her to hold it steady. She blinked, trying to clear her mind of the fragmented images of Isaac. Jesus, I’m going insane, she thought. She drained the mug and with trembling hands began to undo the laces of her chemise.
“Let me,” Matthew said. He got her out of the sopping garment, and found a towel to pat her dry with, sitting with her shivering, naked body on his lap. She curled into him, her arms tight around his neck, and he ran his warm hands up and down her bare skin, crooning her name in a hoarse, breaking voice.
“I’m not sure,” she groaned. “Are you for real? Or are you the dream?”
“I’m no dream,” he whispered back, “nor am I a ghost. I’m here, now, and so are you. It’s the others that don’t exist, Alex. It is them that are the dream.”
“A nightmare,” she said against his chest, “not a dream, never a dream. A black hole of loneliness. An absolute freezing emptiness.”
“Ah, lass.” Matthew kissed the top of her head and gathered her to him. Alex needed him even closer, pulling at his shirt, his breeches in a frenzied attempt to get at his skin, his warmth. Yes, oh yes, he was real, and Alex sighed when he laid her back naked against the pillows.
Her skin sizzled under his hands. A long, strong finger followed the curve of her hip, and she imagined she could see the blisters popping up in its wake as searing heat flew like a shadow behind his digit. Beneath her skin, blood called to blood, and when his fingers manacled her wrist, she was entirely taken over by his beat. Strong it flowed into her, demanding it drove her pulse before it, and Alex no longer knew where she ended and he began.
The candle on the chest gasped, shrinking down to a weak blue glow before it flared back into life, this time a long, dancing flame that backlit them against the wainscoting that adorned the walls. At a remove, she could feel the stubble on his unshaven cheek against the tender skin of her thighs, her belly. He dragged his face across her, and she arched herself against him, because he was hers and she was his and she was very much alive. The soft warmth of his lips; his hot breath in her ear, down her neck, on her chest; his hands with those long, dexterous fingers…Her breasts in his grip, and when he slid down to kiss her, she sank her fingers into his hair and called his name.
“Matthew,” she said to the night air. “My Matthew.” Of course she would die if she were dragged back in time – how could she survive with half of her yanked out? And he, she saw in his eyes, he would dwindle and die as well. Bit by bit, the fire in him would falter and go out, and he would float away like top soil in a drought.
He cupped her buttocks and lifted her closer to his mouth, and she no longer thought, she simply was, awash with colours and sensations that flowed from her curled toes to the tip of her ears.
“Oh God,” she groaned, and her hands gripped at his head, his hair. “Ah!” she said, and Matthew’s muffled laughter ran like a vibration up her spine.
He raised himself up, used his knees to widen her thighs, and leaned forward to kiss her as he thrust himself into her. “Mine,” he said into her ear. “Only and forever mine.”
She clenched herself around him in response, her legs coming up to hold him in place. He kissed her again, and she tasted herself on his lips and the skin round his mouth. She clung to him, refusing to release him. Glued from hip to chest bone they lay, scarcely moving, and in the wavering candlelight, his eyes were black as they stared down at her. She made a demanding movement with her hips. With tantalising slowness, he moved, and she groaned out loud.
“I burn,” she said hoarsely. “All of me is burning.” And she was, consumed alive by a fire that he expertly stoked and throttled, fed, banked and finally let go, riding her until she cried his name out loud and sank her teeth into his shoulder.
They lay face to face, knees against knees, and noses almost touching. Matthew smoothed back the hair that lay stuck to her damp cheek and tugged gently at her bared ear.
“Alright then?”
Alex nodded. God, she was tired – in a way she hadn’t been since well before the incidents down at the meeting house. For the first time in days, her brain was free of any images but those of him, the pictures and people of a long gone future receding grumbling to slither down her brainstem and pop into non-existence.
“Hold me,” she whispered, and he rolled her over to fit against him. His hand came round to cup her breast, and Alex relaxed in his warmth. She yawned, wide enough to crack her jaws, and with a little grunt closed her eyes.
“I love you,” she said through yet another yawn. She covered his hand with her own, one finger on his wrist to feel his reassuring pulse.
“I adore you,” he replied.
Alex didn’t hear. She was already drifting into sleep. But she knew all the same.
So, what did you think? And the truly interesting question is, of course, if it is indeed a dream…
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