Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Whet Your Appetite Wednesday - Blanche Marriott


A legendary crystal entangles two reluctant lovers with the help of an eccentric aunt and a mystical Indian.

Celeste Jordan knows nothing about gems so she questions why she sees a mark on hers that no one else can see. Rock Foster, a mineralogist, “rockhound”, is skeptical. As a scientist he doesn’t believe in legends, but he’d heard of crystals that hold knowledge for a privileged few. Reluctantly, he agrees to take Celeste to the desert dig site where he found the gem. Little did the loner know his life would be turned upside down and that love would knock down his door.

As an image consultant, Celeste always looks her best. Dirt, sweat, and outdoor showers have never been a part of her life. But she’s determined to get to the bottom of the mysterious gem and its affect on her, even if it means leaving the comforts of home for one night. Although attracted to the ruggedly handsome Rock, she knew nothing could come of it. They were each married to their careers and their worlds were miles apart. But when Mother Nature twists up a storm that changes all their plans, one night turns into another, then another...


“Celeste, he’s here, now! Hurry, or you’ll miss him.” The phone line nearly crackled from the excitement in the old lady’s voice.
“Aunt Clara, I’m in the middle of an appointment. Can it wait?” Celeste smiled and raised an apologetic shrug to the man frowning back at her from the other side of her desk. She’d have to work hard to win over her new client after this disruptive phone call magnified his unease.
“No! Suppose he gets away? This might be our only chance to talk to him. I’ve read the cards. They say now is the time.”
Oh, Lord, not the cards again. As if they hadn’t already caused enough trouble over the years. Unfortunately, they were usually right. Or rather, Aunt Clara was right.
“Okay, Auntie, I’ll be there as soon as I can. Now don’t do anything foolish. Just stay put until I get there.”
The bright red FOR SALE sign stood like a bold insult in front of the old one-story house with brown weathered shingles that had seen better days. Celeste Jordan noted the realtor’s familiar name, probably the only realtor in the tiny tight-knit community of Ashaway. A few dried, crimson leaves clustered around the post as though clinging, like the remains of summer, to the memories of the man who never would have dreamed of selling his house.
Celeste parked her car in the narrow gravel driveway then slid out, smoothing down the wrinkles from her skirt. She walked the broken cement path that led to the lopsided wooden porch on the side, careful not to catch her high heels in a crevice while her mind rehearsed how she’d open the conversation.
But before she placed a foot on the bottom step, the sound of a car caught her attention and she turned. A taxi, most unusual in these parts of rural Rhode Island, had pulled into the driveway and idled as its passenger gathered his things and paid the fare. Even more unusual was the passenger himself.
A cowboy?
It was the first thing that came to mind when she saw the tall stranger with the scuffed and battered hat. Not so much a cowboy hat, more like an Indiana Jones hat. His western shirt, visible beneath the open suede jacket, had inched its way out of his low-riding, faded jeans as he hefted a duffel bag over his shoulder. His brown boots thudded heavily up the walk.
Almost as heavy as the stern look he aimed at her in his slow approach.
“Mr. Foster?”
He continued toward her, his look hard, but questioning. “Do I know you?”
“Not really. My aunt lives next door. She told me you were here and asked that I come speak to you on her behalf.”
He stopped abruptly, his right boot bumping the toe of her left shoe as though it were a challenge, but she held her ground. He tipped his head back, allowing the late afternoon light to shine under the brim of his hat and into his smoky gray eyes. She noticed the odd color right away. That was her job, to notice the physical, and she was always on the job, always observing, sizing up, calculating. No detail escaped her keen professional eye.
Apparently nothing escaped his either, since he took the liberty of scanning her from head to foot and back. No telltale expression showed on his tanned face but a glimmer of annoyance flickered across his eyes.
“Your aunt said I was here?” His gaze drifted to the house next door across the large expanse of patchy lawn.
“Yes, she called me at work. We’ve been trying to reach you for some--”
“Whoa, whoa.” From the strap of the duffel bag over his shoulder, he wiggled his free fingers to halt her explanation. “Your aunt said I was here?
“Yes, I told you she called me. We’ve written to you--”
“But I just got here.”
“I know, that’s why she called.” Celeste bit back a lump of impatience and moved her foot away from his boot. Bad enough she’d rushed her client--who seemed less than confident she could clean up his image--out of her office and raced down here from Providence. Now she had to deal with a dim-witted cowboy, or whatever he was, whose overpowering presence made her feel like she was an intrusion.
“Lady, I just got off several long, bumpy flights from New Mexico and maybe my brain is a bit rattled, but the last time I checked a person didn’t arrive someplace until they actually arrived, if you catch my meaning. And as you yourself witnessed, I just arrived.”
Celeste was about to barge forward with her pitch when the full meaning of his drawn-out observation hit her. She’d been so busy concentrating on what to say to this phantom letter recipient, she hadn’t realized that Aunt Clara had been up to some old tricks.
More precisely, she’d ignored the warning flags that had gone up in the back of her mind.
“Yes, well, be that as it may, I’d still--”
“Be that as it may? Do people really talk like that around here?”
His mocking gaze took another slow inventory from the bottom of her navy blue heels, up her smart navy blue suit and white silk blouse, to the top of her hair neatly combed into place just before she’d gotten out of her car. A good image was everything.
She straightened her back. “As I was saying, I’ve written to you several times...”
With a slight shake of his head, he skirted around her and clomped up the porch steps, dropping his bag near the door.
“Jordan, right?”
A tingle ran up her spine hearing her name on his tongue. Smooth, mellow, and with just a hint of a western drawl.
“Yes, Celeste Jordan. My aunt is Clara Michaels, next door.”
“Right.” From his pocket, he pulled out a set of keys and decided on the right one while shouldering the screen door.
“So, you did receive my letters?”
He unlocked the door and grunted, “Yup,” then shoved the duffel bag inside. With an insolent slam, the screen door severed their conversation.
Flabbergasted, Celeste stiffened, uncertain whether to knock, wait or leave altogether. No, leaving was out of the question. She’d promised Aunt Clara. But if she didn’t leave, what did the uncivilized brute expect her to do, just yell through the door like a country bumpkin?
As she raised her hand to knock politely, the sound of his approaching boots stopped her. She held her breath until his disgruntled face appeared at the screen and the door squeaked open a notch.
“Are you coming in?”
The exasperation in his voice grated against her practiced patience. If it weren’t for Aunt Clara, she’d have been out of there five minutes ago.
“Yes, thank you.”
She entered what looked like a pantry. Shelves everywhere were stocked with canned goods and supplies, and old jackets hung from pegs at odd angles near the door. Celeste tucked her elbows close to her ribs as she passed. Who knew how long the jackets had been there, unwashed?
She stepped up from the entry into the kitchen. It too was cluttered, but a lived in kind of clutter. Canisters, small containers, cooking utensils. Everything sat out on the counter ready for use, as though Pap Wilson was still there.
“Mr. Foster--”
“Do you think you could call me Rock?” He pulled a bottle of aspirin from a cabinet. “I have a miserable headache, my stomach’s churning like a washing machine and my ears are still popping from the flight. Hearing you call me Mr. Foster is just more than I can handle right now.” He turned to the sink. “Excuse me.”
Celeste relaxed a bit. So maybe he wasn’t so much rude as just travel weary. She sympathized with that feeling after all the business trips she’d been on.
He filled a glass from the faucet, popped a couple of tablets in his mouth and washed them down with a loud gulp. Celeste shivered. Tap water. How barbaric.
“Now, if you’ll have a seat, I’ll give you my full attention, for what it’s worth right now.”
She gave the wooden chair beside the scarred table an apprehensive glance, unable to bring herself to sit in it. Pap had been dead for several months now. Who knew how long before that since the place had been cleaned?
“Oh, for God’s sake...” Rock mumbled as he got up, grabbed an old towel off the rack near the sink, and wiped down the chair. “There. Now sit.” He sank into the chair on the other side of the small table and waited for her to do the same.

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