This week's Host: Jennifer Slattery
This week, we're starting our clash a little differently--vlogging style. After nearly a year of cyber-chatting, I thought it might be fun to make our time together a bit more personal. Join me on my back porch as I talk about this week's excerpts and those things that make moments romantic. Then, read the excerpts below and cast your vote to help determine who will reign as our next literary champion.
As you read the following excerpts, think about the question I raised in our video-chat: What makes a moment romantic? After casting our vote, we'd love to hear why you found each excerpt romanic. We'd also love to hear about your true-life romance moments. Did you husband drop on his knee when he proposed? Serve you breakfast in bed on your anniversary or perhaps take the kids for a day so you could relax with a great Clash competing book?
“That’s one of the things I love about it. Hometown qualities but still enough places to go and things to do.”
He nodded. “It’s got that. And a small college, of which I’m appreciative.”
About that time the song on the jukebox changed to the Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers singing “Why Do Fools Fall in Love.” Thayne slapped his hands together and said, “I dig this song. Wanna dance?” He was up and out of the booth before I had time to say yes or no.
The crowd had thinned out so there was really no need for me to be embarrassed by the whole thing, but I was nonetheless. I enjoyed dancing. I’d been to a few of the dances held at Saint Margaret Mary over the past four years, the ones where the boys from Saint Luke’s were invited to join us for punch and cake and dancing as long as no bodies touched and no one snuck away to neck and smooch. Mostly my dorm mates and I danced together, learning all the new moves of the day—whatever they happened to be. My friends at school said I was pretty good at doing the West Coast Swing.
We made quite a show of ourselves. The few patrons left—along with Cathy, Neil, the nameless waitress, a couple of cook’s helpers—stood in a circle, cheering us on with the rhythmic clapping of their hands. I was laughing freely and Thayne was keeping up with me, grinning all the while.
When the song changed to “Who’s Sorry Now,” Thayne pulled me to himself as though we’d been dancing together our whole lives and, in perfect time, shuffled into the box step. At school I’d always played the male role with my dorm mates, but I found it easy to allow him to lead. I caught a glimpse of Cathy then, hands clasped together and held near her heart, head against Neil’s shoulder. Neal’s arm was around his wife, and he turned her toward him and they, too, began to dance. When I was facing the counter again, I noticed the waitress vigorously wiping a circle on the linoleum. Another couple—older than we but not as old as our parents—had joined in the dance, and the cook’s helpers had disappeared. I dropped my forehead to Thayne’s shoulder and squeezed my eyes shut. In turn, Thayne’s breath blew across my ear, and for a split second I caught a delicious whiff of coffee and apple pie. It was a marvelous combination of senses—swaying back and forth, the warmth of his body as close to mine as propriety would allow, and the smell of his dessert blowing warm across the side of my face. I felt an involuntary shiver run down my spine, and I wondered if Thayne felt it too.
“Who’s sad and blue …” Thayne sang lightly in my ear, keeping harmony with the crooning of Connie Francis.
Not me, I thought. Not me at all.
I really wasn’t concentrating on what he was saying. All I could think about was him, here, so close. In his enthusiasm and excitement, he had moved but a foot from me. I continued to retreat until my back bumped up against the end wall. I looked back in surprise and then to my door, then to him. He stared down at me, as if recognizing, for the first time, how he affected me.
“Marcello, Paratore will have spies out, in all directions. If he catches wind that there are reinforcements…” Evangelia!
“Nay,” he said soothingly, face alight. “Paratore will only hear what I wish him to hear.”
“If he intercepts your messenger…” I swallowed hard. “Marcello, he has Lia. Down in his dungeon. He threatened to do unspeakable things to her.”
The muscles in his jaw tensed, and all trace of anticipated glory disappeared in his concern over my sister.
I couldn’t look into his warm eyes any longer. They were covering me, pulling me in. “They threatened to torture her—” My voice cracked then, and I looked down. I felt the heat of a deep blush climb my neck.
Marcello reached out and took my face in the curve of his warm hand. He waited until I looked back up to him. “So the warrior is not made of stone.”
Stone? Stone? He thought me made of stone?
He put his left hand on the other side of my face and leaned down to look into my eyes. “You are courageous, Gabriella. And clever. And strong. Remember that, in the thick of battle. You can utilize all three. And I will see to it that neither Lord Paratore nor Vannucci ever has the opportunity to harm either you or your sister.”
They were brave words. But only words.
And yet I wanted to believe them then. I had to believe them.
But we were much too…close.
“All right,” I said. “Thank you.”
Hands off me, Bucko. Remember, your heart belongs to someone else. And my heart is apparently…stone.
I was starting to squirm out of his magnetic pull when he moved an arm around me and tugged me closer. “Gabriella,” he said lowly, tracing my temple and cheek with the back of his right hand. He stilled, staring at me. So tender. So warm. I melted.
“There is something I must know,” he said, “something I’ve wondered about for days.”
He leaned down then and kissed me, softly at first, then deeper, searching. I knew I should stop him, push him away, but I didn’t have the strength. All I wanted was more of him, more of his warmth, his comfort. When he stepped back he looked as dazed as I felt. He rubbed his lower lip with the pad of his thumb, still staring at me intently, as if reliving our kiss. And then his eyes sharpened again with a glimmer of victory. He nodded at me. “I was correct.”