September to Remember: 2013 365 Challenge #244

In the crow's nest

In the crow’s nest

My goodness, is it September already? I only realised because my KDP books sales reports have gone from ‘not very many’ to ‘ugly brown bar that will make you miserable until you sell a book’. Hopefully I’ll manage to get Baby Blues finished sometime soon to boost sales all round.

This September will be one to remember. This is the month when my son – my baby – turns three. My daughter – my other baby – starts school. My second book, Baby Blues, goes out in the world, hopefully in print and ebook format. My hubbie (hopefully) finds a job, and I get to wear jeans again at last as we move into autumn. I love autumn!

It’s been a helluva year and September always feels like that month when things begin to wind down. Crazy, as there are still four months left of the year, but it still does.

Building dens

Building dens

I’m hoping this September will also be the month of reading: I just won a bundle of books in a Ebook Escapes Author Tour rafflecopter giveaway! I never win anything, so I’m very excited. What a great way to start the month.

Actually I started the month lying in bed for an hour next to a comatose husband, while the kids took themselves downstairs to play. God bless them. Hubbie has been away playing cars for two days, so he is exhausted. I took the children out to one of the farms we visit yesterday, with some friends, and we tried very hard to wear the children out.

Four hours at the farm, riding ponies, making dens, digging in the sandpit, and we went back to their house for more playing, trampolining, den building, and craft, finishing with a loud, noisy, splashy bath which thankfully their daddy was in charge of.

My smart boy

My smart boy

My children were finally home and in bed at 8.30pm and I crawled up an hour later, thinking I could write my post in the morning while they slept in. Only they were up at 6.30am. How do kids do that?

And instead of writing my post I started filling out my Smashwords author questionnaire, before realising I was writing all about Dragon Wraiths when it’s locked into KDP Select until the end of the month! Oops.

So apologies for the random ramble of a post this morning: I’m trying to get my brain into gear to write the first Claire installment of September. Always the hardest of the month, as it’s hopefully the grab for people to download and read the ebook. By the way, if you know anyone who fancies a gentle read in nice, easy to manage, 20-25k chunks, do send them to Smashwords, Apple or Barnes & Noble to download the Claire installments. Or send them here, of course! 🙂

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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Claire stepped back, her face burning. Afraid to meet Josh’s gaze, she stared at the floor, until she heard him chuckle.

“Well, that was some welcome. I didn’t need to worry whether you’d be pleased to see me then?”

Claire’s cheeks burned hotter and she turned to collect her rucksack; feeling a strong urge to keep walking to the door.

Really cool, Claire, really clever. Flinging yourself at a married man like he’s your long lost lover. What were you thinking?

Retrieving her bag, Claire concentrated on long, slow, breaths, to calm her hammering heart and cool her red-hot skin. After everything that had happened in the months since she’d last seen him, it had been more than she could do to keep herself under control.

He’s still married. Just because he’s come to New Zealand to find me, he still has a wife and three kids.

She forced herself to smile brightly, and walked back to Josh. “It’s always nice to see a friendly face when you’re a long way from home.”

Josh raised an eyebrow and Claire prayed he wouldn’t push it. For a moment they were still and something seem to pass between them, although Claire couldn’t decide exactly what. He seemed vulnerable, as if he also needed a hug, a friend. She remembered his email had said precisely that.

Then a mask dropped over his features, and he was the old Josh. “So, how are you liking being on the right side of the world? Plucked up the courage to bungee jump yet?” He linked arms with her and guided her to a seat.

Grateful for his light words, Claire sought to do the same. “I love New Zealand. No I haven’t thrown myself off a bridge with an elastic band round my ankles, but I have been white water rafting and sand boarding. You’d have been proud.” She flushed, as memories of him coaxing her to jump off a waterfall came to mind. He felt like her teacher in the life of the verb and that led onto other dangerous thoughts.

If Josh noticed he didn’t say anything. “Yes, I’ve seen some of it on the blog. You’ve come a long way, I’m impressed. And how do you like the tour bus experience?”

“Ah, not so much. You know I missed the bus? At Cape Reinga? It’s not the same as having your own car. But at least I don’t have to think.”

Beneath the veneer of their words, Claire could feel the tension, the shared memories of travelling around England in her Skoda, of hiking and getting drunk together. He bore little resemblance to the scruffy man who had taken her to an observatory in the snow three months before.

Looking at him now, she wondered if she would have recognised him if she hadn’t known it was him in the lift. There was no hint of the unwashed hobo. His hair was short and neat, his skin tanned. His clothes had no patches or home repairs, no stains or holes. He looked every inch the doctor on vacation, in his polo shirt and jeans.

She felt herself under a similar scrutiny and wondered what Josh saw. Could he tell that her clothes hadn’t been washed in a fortnight? Did she look like someone whose world had collapsed in the intervening weeks since their last meeting?

At least I had a shower this morning. Thank god he didn’t see me when I got off the ferry yesterday.

“You look … well. A tan suits you.” Josh said eventually, his words breaking the silence. “You’re thinner, though. Are you eating properly?”

His low voice burrowed into her tummy, leaving a warm glow. Claire became aware of every inch of her skin, every sound around her. The receptionist greeting travellers with a cheery hello. The barista in the bar whistling over the sound of the coffee machine. Chinking cutlery as someone laid the tables for lunch. She could smell Josh’s aftershave, although he no longer carried the scent of wood smoke. She wondered if Fiona disapproved of him smoking.

As if remembering her name brought Josh’s wife into the room, Claire jerked, feeling as if she’d been doused in cold water. With a shake of her head she tried to recall his question.

“Yes, I’m fine. Being stuck on a tour bus is a great way to diet. And I was on the ferry that got turned back from Picton yesterday.”

Josh’s expression changed to a more professional concern. “Holy crap, are you okay? No bumps or bruises? I heard that was pretty bad. Ten hours on a boat, poor chook. Have you had breakfast?”

She nodded, unable to speak. It had been so long since someone had worried about her – since she’d felt herself to be anything other than a nuisance – that the tears threatened to spill down her cheeks again.

Josh seemed to sense her distress. He sat up straight and smiled, although his eyes remained troubled.

“Let’s get out of here. Do you want me to drop your rucksack in my room? Then we can go exploring. Did you see much of Wellington? Have you been up to Mount Victoria? It’s worth the walk.”

Grateful for his understanding, Claire nodded. “That sounds good. I didn’t see much, the weather was awful.”

“That’s a plan then.” Josh leapt to his feet and picked up her bag. “Let’s go exploring.”

Knowing she would regret it, but helpless to resist, Claire followed meekly in his wake.

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