Happy Friday! You may remember that last year, I did a little experiment with “live writing” late at night, and I started a paranormal romantic suspense story titled Dunning Manor. I wasn’t happy with how it was turning out though – the late hour meant I was just tired and not able to be fully involved with the story. So I ended the experiment, but I’m still very much interested in writing the story.
So after one reader vote (thank you, Ardee-ann!) and no waffling at all on my part, I’ve decided to serialize the rewrite of that draft here, starting today. You’ll notice it has a new title – Dunning Manor is now the name of the series, and this will be Book 1. With any luck, there will be many more books to follow…I’m pretty excited about getting this done – right, this time.
So without further ado, I give you the start of Under His Wing. A new installment will be posted every Friday, and this particular story will be sweet(ish – no graphic sex scenes).
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy it!
Under His Wing
Part 1 – Prologue
The air was still, his wife’s passionate cries long faded as Thomas Grady dropped another armful of straw against the back of the house. He stood back to survey the past half-hour’s work: a two-foot berm circling the foundation gleaming pale gold in the waning moonlight.
Part of him wished he’d never heard the boys gossiping in town. Or that he’d stayed away a little longer. Or come home sooner. But Lila had made her choice – several days ago according to those two drunks at the poker table. And Thomas had arrived at the Stattler homestead in plenty of time to hear the proof for himself.
She’d disgraced him, and herself. Her sin couldn’t go unpunished.
Going back to where he’d left his small pack, he picked up the bottle of whiskey and downed one more gulp. Then he poured out the rest across the straw and tossed the bottle down in the pile. Retrieving a match from his pocket, he struck it on a shingle, watching the flame burn for a long second before flicking it down on the berm. The flames jumped up and caught the arm of his shirt before he could back away, biting his skin as he tried to slap it out with his other hand. Dropping to the ground, he smashed his arm into the dirt for relief.
The fire from the house was so bright it hurt his eyes, the heat blistering just two feet away. Getting to his feet, he watched as the orange and yellow monster enveloped the house in seconds.
He thought he heard voices cry out, knew it was her. And him. There was no way out – he’d made sure of that, and the flames licked over the roof as Thomas stumbled back to pick up his bag.
The townsfolk would be here soon – a fire this big wouldn’t go unnoticed for long. He’d have to leave, of course, and never come back, but the way she’d shamed him, he’d have done that anyway. With one last look at the pyre, he blew one last kiss to the only woman he’d ever loved and then ran through the trees for the hills.
Three days later Thomas was parched, weary, and heartsick. He stumbled across one more stream, refusing to drink, and passed up some of the fattest blueberries he’d ever seen on the other side. It wouldn’t be long now. His body was shutting down, his thoughts rattling around like dried beans in a baby rattle. When he reached the top of the hill, he was going to sit down under that huge pine and stare out at the mountains while the rest of his life withered away.
As it should, after what he’d done. Though even as he reached his goal and dropped down to lean against the rough bark, he knew he’d have done it all over again.
A disturbing thought.
The sun was setting over the mountains, the sky turning orange and purple and pink. Lila had always loved the sunrise best, but him…he’d been a sunset man all his thirty years. As the color begin to fade, he closed his eyes, focusing on each breath, wondering which one would be his last.
When he finally drifted off, he thought he heard a rough male voice calling his name…
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