, Virginia Coast United States
It took a certain amount of courage to leave a safe and comfortable life, to leap into the void, and risk failure. Liane Gautier-MacGregor sighed–one sigh was all she would allow–then faced the slow, even swells of the
Atlantic. Normally, she loved the solitude of the
narrow beach but, tonight, it echoed with loneliness.
Dreams, lies, broken trust. She shrugged; they were all the same. Take her ex-husband. Please, she added with a snarky smile. For a long time, she’d thought Devyn was the man of her dreams. “Which just goes to show,” she said, shrugging.
Far out to sea, a pale line of fog rose out of the ocean depths. High above the fog, a star pulsed in the indigo sky.
“Star light, star bright,” Liane began, then paused, unsure what to wish for. A blast of cold air shoved her backward. Pulling her jacket together, she braced herself against the wind. What did ex-husbands and the weather have in common? Can’t count on either of them. Glancing at the star again, she muttered, “It’s probably a satellite anyway.”
From atop the bluff, the dull thump of her ex-husband’s car door, followed by the BMW’s throaty growl echoed off the trees and cottage walls. She turned to see the top landing of the sea stairs. Twin beams of light speared the darkness then angled away.
She was alone. In the dark. On a deserted beach.
Liane shivered. Gautiers were never afraid. At least, that’s what her father had always said. She drew in a breath of salt-laden air, then turned to carefully retrace her footsteps. She could see them clearly in the moonlight and for a moment wished she could as easily retrace her life’s footsteps. Go back to a time before her marriage, before she’d become such a huge disappointment to her parents. To herself.
A wave lapped over her left foot, filling her shoe with icy water. She jumped sideways before the next wave hit. Waves shouldn’t reach this high on the little beach. She puzzled over it for a moment. Maybe a storm was coming? But the sky was clear, filled with stars and a brilliant full moon.
In fact, her wishing star, or satellite, twinkled even more brightly. “Star light, star bright. First star I see tonight.”
She chuckled. Well, it was the first star she’d noticed that night at any rate. “May I have, may I wish–”
She paused again, and thought. “What I wish tonight.”
The BMW’s engine noise faded in the distance. She shivered at the sudden stillness. “I wish for a new beginning.”
Okay, so that was going to happen anyway now that her divorce was final. "I wish for a good new beginning."
Vague, that was too vague, she decided. Maybe-- "I wish that I'm brave enough to succeed at a new beginning."
Fear of failure, fear of success...it didn't matter what you called it. The fact was, she was a coward in so many different aspects of her life. And so much would be different if she had been a tenth as brave as her mother or father. Her head lowered as grief rolled over her. Her chest tightened, constricting her breath. But, her head jerked sideways in a negating gesture, she wasn’t brave and her parents were dead because of her cowardice. Because she’d let her father drive when he wasn’t familiar with icy roads. She cast a sad, longing look at the star.
Her wishing star jinked sideways, then elongated. Was it a comet? So much for wishes. “Should have wished for a telescope.”
As she watched the comet-star, a buzzing, tickling sensation swept over her. Her scalp tingled, her hair lifted. She looked around uneasily as the wind died. Even the waves, so restless moments ago, hesitated, stuck in mid-curl.
Her gaze, drawn to the sky, settled on the not-star as it sped toward the moon. Liane’s throat filled with dread as, with a flash of blinding whiteness and an utter lack of sound, the moon exploded.
She gasped in terrified awe as fragments whirled silently through the sky. Get inside! screamed the primitive part of her mind, inside, inside, inside. Obeying the silent command, she sped toward the sea stairs but the wind came at her like a battering ram. She stumbled, fell back, and caught herself as her shoes filled with cold ocean water. The tide surged, slammed into her knees.
With a supreme effort, Liane dragged herself forward then–
The sea, the beach, the moon and stars–all spun in rapid circles around her. A queer, sideways slide, a wrenching shift, threw her off-balance.
From somewhere came her ex-husband’s startled yell followed by the deep mechanical growl of his BMW.
She flailed as a kaleidoscope of color burned across her eyes and drummed through her skull. Swept up, she clawed empty air. Tiny zaps, electrically charged, sizzled over her, around her, through her. Then, as if a giant hand reached out to snatch her from the maelstrom–
Liane reeled in broad daylight, the sun beating over the waves and blinding her with its brilliance.
“They that rise wi’ the sun hae their wark weel begun.”
New Alba Virginia Coast
Dizzy and off-balance, Liane had a single moment to gape at the suddenly day-lit beach before a man-shaped wrecking-ball slammed into her, dumping her into the chilly surf. “Erp!”
“Guh!” The man sprawled on top of her. A frothing wave crashed over her, filling her nose and mouth with the briny taste of seawater. The man levered himself up and gaped at her through a pair of startling green eyes--her ex-husband’s green eyes.“Blethering hell, woman! Where did you come from?” He leaped to his feet, staring at her with an equal mixture of irritation, astonishment and concern. He offered her a hand up. “Are you hurt?”
The last thing she wanted to do was touch him–unless she had a two-by-four in her hands–so she ignored him. She stood, brushing her wet clothes with sharp flicks of her hands. Movement from the corner of her eye had her turn in time to see a dark bay horse scaling the bluff. What the hell was a horse doing here? For that matter, she turned to her ex, what was he doing here? “What are you doing here?”
His green eyes narrowed. “I might ask you the same, lass.”
His Scottish burr startled her. So did his clothing–a red and black kilt, a blue coat, unbuttoned to reveal a snowy white shirt, wetly plastered to his chest, argyle socks over silver-buckled boots. Her gaze settled on his bare knees. Even if he was a two-timing snake, Devyn had gorgeous knees...for a man, she added grudgingly. Sneering, she said, “Cute outfit. Where’d you get it? Scots R Us?”
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