Friday, April 28, 2017

Release Day!

I've been kinda busy for the past week or so. Been mowing like a fiend, tilling and planting my garden, and getting Dreams From the Deep ready to publish.

I took the tractor out for the first time this year and mowed the lower field. Didn't take long, then I gave the tractor a bath because the birds had been pooping on it all winter. Funny thing, I used to take my horses out for a ride and then give them a bath. Now I'm doing it with my tractor. Times change, I guess. Anyway, this is what it looked like after I'd finished mowing the big field last fall. I love it!

I mowed the field on Monday, right after I'd gone in for a haircut. When Sherry asked me what I wanted to do, I said, "Dye it red." After her first incredulous response, she went and got her hair color samples and we picked one out. Any other time, she'd have had to schedule another appointment for me, but she didn't have another client for an hour, so we went for it. She said it was fate.

Then I went home, put on my John Deere cap, and climbed aboard my trusty Kubota. I lead such a glamorous life! If you're one of my Facebook friends, you may have already seen this picture, which got more likes and comments than a new book cover. *:D big grin

I'm slowly adjusting to seeing red hair when I look in the mirror. Of course, by the time I get used to it, the color will have faded. Don't know if I'll do it again, but it was fun for once. When you hang around with authors who have pink or purple hair, graying brown hair seems a bit dowdy. A temporary dye job was the best I could do to keep up.

I'm releasing book 2 of the Soul Survivors today. This one reflects the time I spent in Ireland a few years back. Many of the places we visited in County Kerry wound up in the book, and I hope I was at least accurate with the details. I took a bajillion pictures while we were there, but even so, Google Earth has become my favorite research partner. *:D big grin

Echoes From the Deep

Here's the blurb:

Marketing assistant Cleona Mahoney survives a horrific plane crash only to discover that the buzzing sound she hears is not a concussion but the voices of people who died in the crash.

When she meets Kevan MacFinnin, their mutual attraction is swift and powerful, despite the disfiguring scars he sustained in the terrorist bombing that killed his parents. In recent months, several of Kevan’s sheep have been sliced open and left on the hillside, the only clue being a mysterious symbol painted on the fleece.

After her communion with Earth’s spirit reveals Cleona to be the Carrier of Life’s Preservation, she and Kevan decode the revolutionary formula given to her by a solar scientist who perished in the crash. 

The discovery of another marked sheep puts Kevan and Cleona on the trail of a dangerous killer, and together they must strive to prevent a political assassination.

And the cover: She had blue eyes and incredibly voluminous hair when we started. I really like the way she turned out, thanks to Beth at Dragonfly Press Design!

And the first chapter and part of the second. Enjoy!

Chapter 1

Cleona Mahoney stepped out from beneath the ancient trees and gazed up at a sky shrouded with clouds of quilted gray. Despite the chilly wind, Ireland was a lovely, peaceful country—the perfect cure for the horrors she’d recently endured. If nothing else, her complexion had softened in the days since her arrival. Was the soap responsible or was it the water? Perhaps it was simply the climate, but whatever the reason, she felt more comfortable in her own skin than she had in many years.
If only she could say the same for her mind.
The strange dreams began in Sneem, although there was nothing remotely strange about the charming coastal town. Nothing more sinister than a leprechaun should have lurked in the tiny patch of Irish wilderness on the hill near the hotel. The dark hollow in the mossy tree stretching its roots across the path wasn’t home to anything more frightening than squirrels or rabbits. Tumbled stone fences, also blanketed with moss, lay hidden in the shadows created by the dense canopy above—shadows that should have seemed ominous, but somehow weren’t. Trailing ivy carpeted the ground as well as the trees, the occasional violet blooming from between the leaves. Nothing strange about that at all.
Leaving the woods behind, she strolled down the hill into town to meet her cousin, Sinead Mahoney, for breakfast. Tourists had arrived by the busload in the town’s triangular center, most of them licking ice cream cones and conversing in German or French. Funny how they all looked so foreign—and she rarely saw a smile among them. She’d passed a similar group on her way to the round fort at Staigue; none of them had been smiling then either.
“Dour folk,” Sinead had muttered in an aside.
Her cousin had been begging her to visit Ireland for so long, Cleona had lost count of how many times she’d had to say no. The last time she’d asked—four months ago, now—Sinead was understandably incredulous.
“D’you really mean it this time? No joking?”
“No joking,” Cleona had said. “I’m really coming. It took some doing, but I got my vacation approved for the last two weeks in May.”
She would undoubtedly pay for those two weeks with a month of total chaos at the office, but she had deemed it worthwhile. She was finally going to visit the home of her forefathers, although until now, Cleona’s name was the only thing about her that hinted at her Irish ancestry. Her accent was as American as apple pie with a touch of western twang, courtesy of her mother’s east Texas heritage. Even so, she’d caught herself picking up a slight brogue after only a few days on Irish soil.
“Must come naturally,” Sinead had said when she first noticed the change of inflection. “You’ll be sounding like a true Irishwoman by the time you leave.”
By the time I leave…
Cleona didn’t want to go home. The flight from Newark had been miserable—and that was even before the doomed 747 had taken a dive into the North Atlantic. She’d never been able to sleep on a plane, and that flight—the longest she’d ever been on—was no exception. She’d somehow managed to block the horrific ending from her memory, yet tiny images kept popping into her thoughts. Flying had never frightened her before, but having experienced a plane crash firsthand had changed her perceptions, making her want to remain in Ireland forever, never again setting foot inside any contraption with wings.
Unfortunately, her chances of staying put were pretty slim. Her job was in Dallas, not Ireland, and although she’d been issued temporary documents and could depart as scheduled, everything she’d brought with her had gone down with that plane, everything except her life—and the lives of two others.
A total of four, if you count the dog.
All three of the humans were American women in their late twenties: flight attendant Susan Maxwell and two passengers, Jillian Dulaine and Cleona. The three women had endured a bit of celebrity in the wake of the disaster—along with the questions as to how they’d managed to survive when no one else had.
Cleona still had a hard time replying to those queries.
The last thing she remembered was a tray flying up in her face. After that, holding her breath must have been instinctive because after a lung-bursting eternity, her head finally broke through the surface. Inexplicably, she was wearing a life jacket. The coast of Ireland was visible in the distance, and a small flotilla of fishing boats had sailed directly to the crash site as though they’d anticipated the event. Jillian had released a dog from its cage—a cage that had somehow become entangled with another life preserver, making it buoyant enough to float out of the hold. Jillian said she’d been sitting next to the dog’s owner and had seen pictures. She even knew the dog’s name.
Something in Jillian’s expression and Cleona’s own peculiar feelings ever since suggested there might be more to it than that. Jillian had shouted the dog’s name with such certainty. The dog had even seemed to know her.
Cleona arrived in Sneem a day later than she’d planned, having been issued a clean bill of health by the astonished staff of a Galway hospital, save for a mild concussion and a strange buzzing sound in her ears. Once settled at the hotel, she’d begun having flashbacks of the crash almost immediately. Not of her own experiences, but some that had to have been those of other passengers. Prior to that, she could only assume she’d been too dazed—or sedated—to notice the eerie images. The persistent buzz had since devolved into a cacophony of voices, each attempting to express different thoughts, haunting her like ghosts from within her own mind.
She’d done her best to force those ghosts back into the depths of her psyche without mentioning them to anyone. But the expressions on the faces of the two other survivors also haunted her, making her wonder whether they might also have collected the spirits of those who had perished.
Something Susan had said stuck with her. That was no accident. The flight attendant’s baby-soft voice had seemed incongruous with her brusque statement, and she spoke, not as though making a guess, but rather as a statement of fact. How could she possibly know for certain unless the dead had been speaking to her?
Cleona had quashed the notion as quickly as it had surfaced, refusing to admit to that level of insanity. Any bizarre imaginings were surely the result of post-traumatic stress—or perhaps survivor’s guilt. Even her dreams had been invaded. Sinead must have known sleep wouldn’t come easily in the wake of such a tragedy, and she seemed to have been actively trying to wear her out—and her cousin didn’t even know the weirdest part.
The dream was always the same. According to his tag, the dog’s name was McKnight. Thin and tall with a long tail, he looked like a greyhound and wore a saddle, of all things—a tiny saddle that was small enough to have been a toy, yet appeared to be authentic. Beneath the saddle were festering sores, and a small box labeled “Do not remove” was embedded in his right flank. His collar was embossed with the symbol of a castle with Baja, California written beneath it. What did it mean? Where did he come from and why? In the dream, she’d given the dog a bath and treated his sores.
Then she woke up.
If she’d had nightmares about the crash, she could’ve understood. But this particular dream made no sense whatsoever. Still, if any country could heal her soul and free her of her troubling dreams, Ireland was perfect for the task. The pace in the west country was gentle, although she doubted that Dublin would have the same relaxed feel.
So much to see, so little time.
Sinead had taken her to places on roads she never would’ve ventured down on her own, and she’d fallen into bed exhausted each night. But now, she simply wanted to be for a while. No rushing about, no obligations, and certainly no travel. Staying put had more appeal than ever before.
Today she and Sinead would set out for the family’s farm near Kenmare. Cleona had finally figured out how everything worked in the modern hotel—even the taps and electrical outlets seemed odd at first, and operating the washer and dryer combo was an exercise in futility. Now they would be living in a farmhouse that had been in the family for so long, no one could even say when it was first built. She welcomed the new learning experience as yet another means of diverting her attention from her disturbing thoughts. She longed to focus on more mundane activities, such as how to use an electric tea kettle, which was one of the handier appliances she had yet to run across.
They’d spent some time in Dingle during their sight-seeing travels, having lunch and exploring the shops. Dingle might have been larger than Sneem, but Cleona could still stroll from one end of town to the other—something she’d certainly never done in Dallas—and she enjoyed the small town atmosphere.   
Sinead had accompanied her on those outings, but today, she must’ve sensed that Cleona needed some time alone, having gone ahead to order breakfast, leaving Cleona to catch up after walking the cobwebs from her mind.
The restaurant’s neat stone storefront welcomed her with its green and gold sign, charming her with its petunia-stuffed flower pots. The sweet scent followed her inside, mingling briefly with the aroma of sausages and baking bread before being overwhelmed as the door closed behind her.
“I ordered you the full Irish breakfast,” Sinead announced.
Cleona took her seat, the chair legs screeching across the floor as she scooted up to the lacquered wooden table. “Can’t quite get used to having black pudding with my eggs and bacon, but if you insist…”
“I do.” Sinead flipped out her napkin. “All the good Irish meals you’ve been served have yet to put the roses back in your cheeks. Of course, you actually have to eat that food to gain any benefit from it.”
“I’ve eaten plenty,” Cleona protested. “Maybe not as much as you, but then, I wasn’t blessed with your constitution.”
Tall, slender, and blond, Sinead could put away meals that, inside a month, would have rendered Cleona the size of a young whale. If that was indeed her cousin’s intention, she had a long way to go. The amount of weight Cleona had lost since the crash would have delighted any desperate dieter, leaving her as thin and pale as the ghosts whispering admonitions to her. That is, if they’d bothered to materialize. So far, all they’d done was talk, and their constant babble had ruined her appetite.
See what you’ve done to me?
As if shamed into silence, they allowed her a moment’s respite before resuming their persistent din. There might have only been a handful of other patrons enjoying their breakfasts in the sunny room, but the noise in her mind was like a sports bar during the World Cup finals.
A waitress with warm brown eyes and softly curling hair brought their plates. Cleona picked up her fork, focusing on the tines before squeezing her eyes closed.
Shut up!
Thinking she might have spoken aloud, she cast an apologetic glance at her cousin. “Sorry.”
“For saying I’m a bit piggish?”
Cleona frowned. “Is that what I said?”
“Not exactly,” Sinead replied. “But no worries either way.”
No worries? Although Cleona envied her cousin’s attitude, she had yet to reach that level of complaisance. About the best she could say was that the peculiar voices had diminished over the past few days—in number if not in volume. Was that evidence of her recovery? Perhaps. The doctor had warned her that she might experience headaches and dizziness in addition to her memory loss. Thus far, dizziness had only been a problem once, and though she’d had several headaches, none had lingered long enough for her to take even the mild pain reliever he’d recommended. Of course, he’d never mentioned the possibility that the buzz in her ears might turn out to be voices.
Sinead cleared her throat. “If you’re not going to eat that, we should head back to the hotel and check out.”
Cleona glanced up from her practically untouched meal, noting that Sinead had already finished her breakfast and was sipping her tea, no doubt anxious to get back to her home. The frequent phone conversations with her boyfriend during the past week proved how much Sinead missed him.
“Sorry.” Quickly downing the rest of her egg, she took a bite or two of the bacon and sausage, unable to face even the tiniest taste of the pudding before the waitress brought the bill.
Sinead smiled at her efforts. “Is there anything you want to do here in town before we leave?”
“I just need to mail a postcard, and I’d like to stop at a bookstore.”
In addition to the occasional phone call, Cleona had been writing to her family almost daily, reassuring them that she was still alive and well. Something about writing a note and putting a stamp on a letter made her feel more alive.
“I still think you need more clothes,” Sinead said with an admonitory wag of her head.
“Are you kidding me? We’ve already been to every shop in Sneem and most of the stores in Dingle. Trust me, I have plenty to wear. Right now, all I need are some books.”
The fact that the entirety of Cleona’s belongings fit into one small suitcase was irrelevant anyway. If mere clothing could have erased the residual chill of the North Atlantic, her Aran sweater would have done it with ease. No, what she needed was a good book to silence the voices in her head—something to read at bedtime to keep the memories at bay long enough for her to fall asleep. She only wished she’d hit on that notion sooner. In the wake of the crash, sleep had been hard to come by.
The Irish countryside had helped soothe her during the drive from Connemara to Galway, but the effect had only been temporary. Memories somehow managed to slip past the barriers she’d erected to protect her sanity—creeping thoughts, complete with sights and smells and other sensations that brought it all back. The wake from fishing boats rocking the life raft, simultaneously evoking nausea and hope. The firm grasp of the fisherman’s strong, calloused hands as he hoisted her onto his vessel. The scratch of a rough woolen blanket that smelled faintly of fish, but provided more comforting warmth than the softest goose down quilt. The pleasing aroma of freshly brewed tea, mixed with milk and sugar before being thrust into her trembling hands by one of the men. The voices, the clamor, the shocked expressions on the faces of those gathered at the dock at Inisheer.
Then came the cameras, the questions, the officials—concerned but nameless—assuring her that everything would be taken care of and any costs or losses paid for by the airline. She’d certainly had nothing to declare in Customs. Even the clothes she’d been wearing were gone, left behind in an Inisheer hotel room. Only the rings on her fingers and her watch remained—a testament to the water resistance of that particular brand.
The de-Americanization of Cleona had begun. She smiled to herself, wondering how she would handle the culture shock upon her return to Dallas—sprawling, bustling, and hot.
The time spent at the farm would be the vacation from the vacation, and she was looking forward to it far more than touring the rest of County Kerry.
“No problem,” Sinead said with a sunny smile. “We can stop at the post office on the way, and there’s a bookshop in Kenmare. It won’t take long to get there. Thirty minutes, tops.”
Cleona rose from her chair, biting back a laugh as she went to pay the bill. She’d already discovered that what appeared to be a short distance on a map took far longer to reach than anyone would expect—that is, anyone who’d never traveled the roads that twisted through the mountains and waterways of Ireland. Even excluding the visit to Bunratty Castle and lunch at Durty Nelly’s, the drive from Galway to Sneem would have taken more than three hours. Tours of the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula had each taken a full day, stopping at various towns and points of interest along the way.
She and Sinead strolled back to the hotel, chatting about this and that while at the same time drinking in the flavor of the town. Cleona had never seen such beautiful scenery in her life, but even the view from Geokaun Mountain on Valencia Island hadn’t silenced the racket in her head. In such a lonely, lofty spot, even ghosts should have had the decency to leave a person alone with her thoughts. She had certainly felt small standing up there—or rather, the world had seemed bigger. Either way, she hadn’t been as alone as she’d hoped.
The Fogher Cliffs had reminded her too much of the Cliffs of Moher, which had been the only land visible from the sea where the plane went down. Although she’d been in a life raft at the time and the sight of land should’ve been encouraging, the mere thought of those cliffs evoked images of lifeless bodies being pounded into nothingness by the constant motion of the sea. Peering down at the churning waves had made her dizzy, and she’d had to lean against the stone abutment until her head cleared.
In those moments, the timeless nature of the rocky island seemed to seep into her bones. Ireland was so steeped in history; the culture, the traditions, and even the language seemed rooted in the distant past. There were plenty of historic sites in Texas, some dating back to the earliest inhabitants. But not even the Alamo had affected her in quite the same manner.
A plaque at the Fogher Cliffs told how the women of Dohilla had traversed a path over Geokaun Mountain to harvest peat. During the space of time it took her to read it, the voices in her head were momentarily silenced as though they also stood in awe of that nearly forgotten time. Those women were gone now, even their path eroded by the sea.
Afterward, she’d had to remind herself she’d actually read that account, and that it hadn’t originated with some other source. Even so, the mere mention of peat evoked a long-buried memory of the scent of smoke rising from those fires, a memory that couldn’t have come from simply reading about them.
Her thoughts returned to the present as they entered the hotel lobby with its high ceilings, fresh flowers, and stone fireplace. A glimpse of the bar and the elegant dining room through the open doorway reminded Cleona of the dinner they’d enjoyed there the night before. Freshly caught fish and crab in a creamy Parmesan sauce had tempted her appetite better than anything she’d eaten thus far. Even so, she would’ve done just as well to have ordered a child’s portion.
Sinead paid the hotel bill, promising to settle up with Cleona later.
“It’s easier this way,” she explained.
Cleona doubted that, but for the moment, she let it pass, being preoccupied with matters far more important than mere money. Thus far, she hadn’t heard a word from her fellow survivors. Perhaps they felt as strange as she did—apart from the world, somehow changed forever.
She hoped time spent on a peaceful farm would eradicate that feeling.
But she certainly wasn’t counting on it.

Chapter 2

Kevan MacFinnin cursed as he spotted yet another ewe lying dead on the hillside, her blood a dull red against the ruffling whiteness of her fleece. Anger mixed with despair as he picked his way through the rocks to kneel beside her body. He’d found three such ewes in recent months—their throats cut and their abdomens laid open with surgical precision. Any natural predator would have ripped through the fleece and devoured their kill. Those sheep had undoubtedly been killed by humans, but leaving the meat to be picked apart by scavengers made no sense at all.
He hadn’t noticed the peculiar design painted on the first ewe’s hip, but he’d seen it on the second and again on the third. This one was no different. The design was so unusual he’d begun keeping an eye out for it, but apparently someone else was either watching more closely than he or only applied it after the slaughter.
“Marked for death,” he muttered, although only his dog, Mac, could’ve possibly heard him.
The police and his neighbors had voiced theories ranging from pranksters to ritual sacrifices, neither of which was common in County Kerry. Nor could anyone explain why his farm had been singled out from the others in the area.
He glanced up as he heard a car approaching on the road above him. Although he’d had the occasional loss from road kill, most drivers tended to slow down for sheep. Tourists wanted a closer look and the locals understood a sheep’s value. His pastures were near a main road with no houses in sight, which might provide the opportunity, but motive? He still hadn’t figured out that part, unless he had enemies he didn’t even know about.
A wave from the window caught his eye as the car rounded the bend. Not surprisingly, he recognized the car before the driver.
Sinead Mahoney. No doubt bringing her cousin Cleona home from Sneem. He waved back before immediately returning his attention to the ewe, praying they would pass by without stopping.
They didn’t. Sinead had made no secret of her wish that her cousin would remain in Ireland for good. Unfortunately, introducing her to Kevan now would doom those hopes to failure.
His tall blond neighbor emerged from the vehicle. “Hey, Kevan!” Sinead called. “Come meet my cousin Cleona.” A moment later, her smile vanished. “Not another one!”
“Aye, I’m afraid so,” he replied. “Best not to come any closer.”
The dead ewe’s presence provided an excellent excuse to put off meeting a woman who had survived what was being called one of the most tragic terrorist attacks in recent years. Being a survivor himself might have given them a common bond, but Cleona had witnessed enough horrors before ever setting foot on Irish soil. She didn’t need to see a scarred man and the bloody carcass of a sheep-killer’s latest victim.
Too late.
“Oh, my…” The petite brunette paled as she joined her cousin by the fence. “What happened to it?”
Through force of habit, Kevan turned the undamaged side of his face toward the newcomer without meeting her eyes. “Looks like someone killed it using a very sharp knife,” he said, seeing no point in elaborating on the sheep’s appalling injuries. “This is the fourth I’ve found dead in as many months. If this keeps up, I’ll likely lose the farm.”
“D’you think someone’s trying to force you to sell out?” Sinead asked.
He combed his fingers through the dead ewe’s fleece. “If so, I wish they’d make me an offer and be done with it. There’s no need to go about murdering my sheep.”
Sinead spoke to Cleona in an aside she obviously didn’t intend for him to hear. Sinead had never been one to show pity toward Kevan, but he saw the same sort of behavior every time he was introduced to someone new, no doubt a few quiet words about his tragic past and the disfigured freak he’d become. Not that he truly cared what anyone thought. His parents had been gone for ten years—killed in the same terrorist attack that had maimed their only child—leaving him to carry on the family traditions alone at the age of eighteen. Losing the farm was a far more significant loss than the good opinion of others.  
He drew in a breath, reminding himself why he’d kept on fighting when perseverance had seemed so pointless. Because it wasn’t pointless. Everyone had a life to live, a mark to make, no matter how obscure.
Cleona’s ordeal hadn’t been as devastating to her personally, but that episode was more recent, the pain still raw. He had no call to be surly and remote toward her or any other stranger. But then, Sinead had chided him for the melancholy side of his personality since childhood.
“You’ll never get a girl by scowling like that,” she’d said. “You need to smile more and act friendly.”
She would know. Sinead had dated many a smiling charmer, finally settling on Conall O’Mara, who had the most engaging grin of them all. The two had yet to marry, but everyone knew it was only a matter of time. Despite the hopes of their respective parents, Kevan and Sinead had never connected in a romantic manner. Sinead was a friend, or the sister he’d never had, never a lover. He wished her and Conall all the happiness in the world, still hoping to find someone as special for himself someday.
That is, if the thing that made him good for nothing beyond spending time on lonely hillsides tending sheep hadn’t happened. He wondered why Sinead would inflict him on her cousin, especially now, in the wake of a disaster she had so miraculously survived.
Cleona stood beside Sinead, her white-knuckled grasp on a nearby fencepost demonstrating her need for support. She was a stranger to Ireland, and the cousin of his best friend and closest neighbor. He could at least shake her hand and make her feel welcome. Unfortunately, a downward glance suggested this might not be the best time for that.
He wiped away most of the blood before starting up the hill with Mac at his heels, hoping Sinead had at least prepared her cousin for this meeting. With a lively breeze feathering his hair over his scarred cheek, he probably looked as he had in his youth. He was okay with that. Better to let Cleona see the unblemished side first, before allowing a gust of wind to reveal what he could never completely hide without wearing a mask.
Sinead had described her cousin as pretty, but she had understated the matter. Cleona was lovely; her delicate features and smooth, unblemished complexion suggesting an English rose type rather than a stylish American. Kevan was about to chastise himself for his stereotypical assumptions when he realized her Aran sweater and tweed skirt were more classically Irish than Sinead’s jeans and sweatshirt—the sort of clothing a tourist might buy and wear while vacationing in Ireland.
Or someone who’d lost their luggage in a plane crash.
He tossed a glance over his left shoulder, hoping to prolong the illusion of normalcy a few moments longer. “Sorry you had to see that. It’s a bit gruesome.”
“Don’t worry about me.” Discounting any reticence she might have felt about touching his bloodstained palm, her handshake was unexpectedly firm. “I’m sorry about your sheep.”
Tingling warmth stole up his arm as she shook his hand, and his eyes were focused on hers when the breeze finally betrayed him.
No shock or revulsion marred her expression as she released his hand to stroke his cheek with a fingertip. “That must’ve hurt.” Blushing, she dropped her hand to her side and her gaze from his face. “Forgive me. That was rude.”
His lips parted in surprise before he managed to stammer a denial. “Nnot at all. Although it was a first.” When she didn’t respond, he felt compelled to add, “Most people are too grossed out to even stare, much less touch.”
“And cause you that much more pain?” She paused, frowning. “Seems unnecessarily cruel.”
“Yes, I suppose it is.” He glanced briefly at Sinead, whose befuddled shrug disclaimed any advance coaching. He returned his attention to Cleona. “I hear you’ve had a rough time of it yourself.”
Her blush deepened, reminding him once again of the English rose analogy. She swept a lock of dark brown hair from her face and raised her head, drawing his attention to the cleft in her chin. “Not so much, really. Only a concussion and a few bruises.”
Why would she be embarrassed that her injuries were so minor? Then he remembered.
Survivor’s guilt.
That was a feeling he knew all too well. Quite often the psychological impact of a disaster was more crippling than any physical effects. He’d suffered third degree burns, which reportedly ranked among the more painful injuries, but witnessing the devastation, especially his parents’ mangled bodies, had left far deeper scars.
A cloud drifted overhead, dimming the sunshine and adding darkness to his already dismal thoughts. “I’m glad you made it.” He started to add more—something about what a blow her death would have been to Sinead and her family—but decided against it.
“I’m glad you did too,” she said.
And then she smiled—a smile that sliced through the veil of sadness that had obscured his vision for so long. To say that the grass was greener and the sky more blue was not only trite but inadequate. The air itself seemed more transparent, making every color more vibrant, every edge more clearly defined.
He blinked and found that the radiance persisted even when his eyes were closed. Had her smile changed the world?
Or had it only lightened his soul?
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