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26 October 2011

Tournament of Champions: Week Three, Clash 6!

*posted by April Gardner

It's the start of another Clash. Just listen to those cheers in the arena! There's definitely a reason to celebrate, because this begins another opportunity to vote AND enter to win a gift card. Woot, woot!

Today's game is found at author Naomi Musch's blog. Naomi is celebrating the brand new (10/15/11) release of Book 2 in the Empire in Pine series, The Red Fury. In this sequel to The Green Veil, Colette's daughter Lainey is seeking solace from tragic loss and two searing rejections by doing what 2 things? Find the answer HERE, then post it in the moderated comments section below. Doing so, you'll automatically be entered to win a $10 CBD gift card donated by our generous sponsor, Ann Gaylia O'Barr, author of Singing in Babylon. Thank you, Ann!

And now, let the Clash begin!

He was angry by all accounts, yet Colette recognized the same pain in Joseph's flashing green eyes she'd seen there the last time they were together.
      He continued to stare at her until she came to the end of the path.
      "So, you've found him then?" He offered no preamble. Colette braced herself as the words seethed out between Joe's teeth. "This old man? Is he the someone you were waiting for?"
      "Joseph, please..." She stepped closer, shaking her head. "I... I can't even explain."
      "What's the matter, Lettie? Can't stand up to what you did? Sure, and you're not sorry now?" Joe glared at her, every muscle in his body taught and quivering. "Don't lie. You obviously got what you wanted. It's not what I would have thought of you, Lettie."
      "It's not what you think."
      "How's that?" Joseph sneered, but Colette glimpsed the wetness in his eyes.
      Guilt settled over her. "It didn't happen the way you're thinking."
      "Oh? What am I thinking? Would you like to explain that to me?"
      She shook her head and moved her hands as though she, too, grasped for an answer.
      "I'll tell you how I am thinking." He stepped closer to her and looked down into her eyes. "I'm thinking there is another fellow, somewhere, someone you might have met at the mills or here in town, and I can't figure out who it is. Then it becomes clear. It's not another fellow I can compete with. It's rich old Harris Eastman whose wife is beautiful but dull, and he's taken with you. I should have seen it, but I didn't."
      "No, Joseph." She shook her head, unable to ward off the moisture welling in her eyes.
      "You married him, Lettie. What more is there to think?"
      Colette dropped her head and sniffed to try and stop the tears.
      "Is it money you want? I would have worked 'til doomsday to make you happy."
      "Is it his maturity, then?" Joseph's voice rose with each question that ripped out of him. He nearly shouted, "You seemed to imply often enough that I lacked in that area."
      "It wasn't even him, Joseph." She choked, a sob catching like a fist in her throat.
      "Not him?" Joseph laughed sourly. "How many others are there, Lettie girl?"
      He grasped her shoulders as though he might shake her, but he didn't. Colette summoned the strength to look up at him at the same moment she realized Harris had come out the door. Still, Joe didn't back down.
      Harris exited the house projecting calm and rationale. In the brief hours she'd been married to him, Colette already recognized that it was forced. Perhaps Joe knew it, too.
      "Joseph Gilbert? We haven't seen you in some time," he said, almost sounding pleasant.
      Joe threw him a glare and freed Colette. She sniffed and widened her gaze at Joe. If she couldn't make him sense the danger, no telling what his intense emotion might produce.



The gun exploded into sound . . . Abby’s breath went shallow. But it wasn’t from the shot . . . With Geoff’s nearness the soft hairs on his forearm brushed against hers. She bit down on her lip.
      “There now, you did fine . . . exceptionally fine for a beginner.” His brows drew together, but he continued to talk in that soothing voice he used . . . for Eshana, the children at the mission . . . and her. Just one of the many.
      But she wanted more from Geoff. She wanted him to hold her hand . . . hold her. Wanted him to help her at night to tuck Cam into bed, and his gentle smile for her as they watched her son go to sleep. Her lip bled a little, and she tasted the metallic tang of blood. She wanted Geoff’s kiss.
      Tears pricked at the back of her eyes. God would never allow that. And Geoff could not––or more accurately––would not ever give her that. Like Joseph in his treasured Bible he’d run from her with disgust filling his face. She was married. Even if she divorced Nick, Geoff would never marry her.
      The beating of her heart seemed to clang inside an empty steel vessel. She lifted the rifle, pressed the butt into her shoulder, laid the stock next to her cheek . . .
      She and Geoff could never be more than friends, and they must remain friends from afar. But for this moment she would be herself with him . . .
      Each muscle along her spine uncoiled and became fluid . . . she adjusted her aim, squeezed the trigger . . . smiled at the clean black hole in the center of the target . . . and began to rapidly empty the MK III . . . With her whole being she yearned to love this good man. But because of his impossible standards, she would have to hide her love from him and cast him from her life. Get rid of his big brother forbearance before it shred her heart further.
      He followed her out of the clearing . . . The lonely years ahead opened before her like a dark chasm.
    Before they reached the campsite he put out a hand to stop her. His gaze lowered to her mouth. He reached into his pocket, removed a clean white handkerchief and pressed it to her lower lip. All breath left her at his touch. When he removed the handkerchief, he glanced at the speck of blood, his eyes a somber gray . . 
      “Why didn’t you tell me, Abby?”
      . . . “I just did.”
      . . . Are you as proficient with a handgun?”
      She nodded.
      He placed his hand on her shoulder, indicating they go on. When he withdrew his hand, a piece of her heart felt as though it fell to the ground, spent.

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Item Reviewed: Tournament of Champions: Week Three, Clash 6! Rating: 5 Reviewed By: April Gardner