So-o, after spending some days, weeks, mired in the muck of disappointment, I have started work cutting description, moving faster. This is only my seventh time rewriting! But I AM DETERMINED to sell this novel to SOMEBODY. If it takes the rest of my life. Now there's a commitment that will bring you up, out of the mire and muck. Besides, every time I go back through Summer of Deception, a romance set just after the Gulf War, I fall more in love with Luke Markham and Rachel York.
Below is their first meeting I have now moved up to page 2.
Story line: Summer of Deception is the story of a young woman who determines to unearth the truth about her brother's reported death by taking a position at an historic Carolina Plantation, only to realize he truth may destroy her new found love and could even cost her life.
(The heroine has arrived late one night at Markham Hall, Charleston, South Carolina.)
Rachel stepped onto a looped rug that spread under two leather chairs and a wide desk. A woodsy smell of cedar chips floated on the air.
A dog’s bark split the silence.
Rachel gasped and dropped her purse.
A man, bronzed by the sun or weather, stood in front of a rock fireplace at the far side of the room. A patch covered one of his eyes. He wore a faded olive T-shirt and Levis stuffed into army boots. The Irish setter at his feet started to leap forward but fell back when a strong hand clamped on its collar.
Rachel found it difficult to breathe as the man’s glance raked from her head to her open-toed heels peeking beneath her jeans. She resisted the urge to smooth her curls or straighten her blazer. Instead, with all the grace she could muster, she retrieved her handbag from the rug.
The dog barked again and its master took its head into his hands. “I want you to sit quietly, Gabriel. Got it?” His voice resonated with authority.
Gabriel sat with his mouth hanging open in a grin, his tail wagging.
After an affectionate rub, the man snapped the dog’s lead to a ring beside the mantle and strode toward Rachel.
A quiver of uneasiness traveled up Rachel’s back. This was not the elderly Charles Markham she expected to see. This man appeared to be in his late twenties or early thirties.
His boots clunked three times on the bare floor before he reached the rug near her. The damp t-shirt stretched across thick, muscled shoulders and arms. Raindrops glistened on his short black hair. He was built like Ron. However, the similarity stopped there. Her brother had been fair and blond, and he was…gone.
Trembling at that thought, Rachel looked up at the man standing before her. Even in her three-inch heels, he was a head taller. Brown stubble darkened his chiseled cheeks. A thin mustache floated above his upper lip. Dark shadows under his eyes and lines etched around his mouth hinted at grief or pain. Or was it anger? Nevertheless, he was the most handsome man she'd ever seen.
“Sorry Gabriel gave you a start. I’m Luke Markham.” He extended a hand toward her with a stiff smile that briefly lifted the shadows from his face and showed even white teeth.
His closeness and the deep, rich timbre of his voice sent a tremor through Rachel. She reached her hand toward his. Luke's calloused one swallowed hers and caused warmth to travel up her arm. Their gazes locked. The scent of spicy aftershave mixed with sweat and rain tickled Rachel’s nose.
“Rachel York,” she said, surprised at how squeaky her voice sounded. She pulled her hand away and tried not to look at the eye patch.
He noticed and adjusted it before he picked up an armchair as though it were a bucket of oats and moved it near the desk. “Have a seat.”
She glanced at the chair and then at him. This certainly was not the man she needed to see. “Thank you, but I’m fine.”
Luke shrugged and sat behind the desk. A small, half-finished carving lay in front of him, surrounded by cedar chips. He swept the shavings into a trash basket and shoved the aromatic wooden piece and pocketknife into a drawer. Then he leaned back in his chair and looked at her with keen interest before something like shutters closed over his face. He cracked his knuckles twice before speaking. “What brings you to Markham Hall, Miss York? –On a night like this.”
Somewhere in the house, a clock began to strike the late hour. The dog in the corner plopped down and laid its head on its paws.
Rachel sighed. “There’s been a mistake. I’m here to see Mr. Charles Markham.”
Luke’s chair squeaked as he sat forward. “Uncle Charles?”
“I’m sorry I’m late, but my plane was delayed by the storm. Is Mr. Markham retired already?”
“You... might say so.” The man emphasized each word. “What exactly did you want to see him about?”
Rachel’s empty stomach knotted. First the housekeeper, now this apparent nephew. Wasn’t anyone expecting her? She shook off her uneasiness. Everything could be cleared up in two seconds. “Mr. Markham offered me a summer position. I have his note.”
Luke’s brow rose. He laid strong hands on the desk. “May I see it?”
Rachel sat in the chair he had offered and opened her handbag. As she searched for the paper, his rapt attention made her feel like she used to feel during her stepfather’s interrogations. She knocked a lipstick tube to the floor and bent to reclaim it. Relax. Never again would she have to fear Lester Black's control of her every move. She could just see his face, contorted and red, when he found her note tomorrow. Too late. She was in the midst of a wonderful new beginning, just like Ron had found two years earlier. She found the folded sheet and handed it across the desk.
An uneasy silence settled in the room as Luke reread the note several times.
Rachel’s travel weariness returned and a pain began to throb behind her right eye. She glanced around. An impressive gun case caught her interest. Finally, she began scanning titles in the bookcase behind Luke. But her mind seemed in such a jumble she could only make out “Marines” etched on the spines of tall manuals. Her eyes fell on a gold-embossed Bible resting in a corner and above it some framed family photos. Two of a dark-headed little girl. Her charge? Some of Rachel’s frustration evaporated.
She looked again at Luke bent over the letter. How could a brief note take so long to understand? Obviously, he didn’t know about his uncle’s offer to her of a summer job. Mr. Markham’s gentle face that day in Dean Wood’s office floated across her mind. Her confidence recharged.
“Where did you come by this note, Miss York?” Luke’s challenging tone startled her.
She swallowed and forced her voice to stay calm. “From your uncle, of course. He can explain everyth—".
"Uncle Charles died three weeks ago.”
Onward! ---Elva Martin