Intermingling of Romance and Mystery – an excerpt from BLOODROOT, a work in progress -- by Robert W. Walker
Last week I discussed the importance of making a mystery well-rounded by having a strong romantic thread running throughout, and conversely a well-rounded romance novel ought to have a mystery thread embedded (or pulled through it). This is true of a good historical novel as well, and in fact the historical probably ought to be much more about the romance than the history, as was the case in Gone With the Wind. To bring home my point, here is an excerpt from my novel of romance set in the time of the Salem Witch Trials, BLOODROOT (which is looking for a visionary editor as it divides into three separate sections or books and runs to 160,000 words).
Jeremiah and Serena located an old cabin on the Nurse property, one long out of use except as emergency shelter and storage. There was also a shelter beside the cabin large enough for the horses. In the storm, they left their mounts tethered and saddled, rushing indoors hand-in-hand. They’d become absolutely soaked and chilled.
“So early for such rains,” she complained, her arms flailing with the wet.
“Haven’t been this wet since . . .” he began.
“Since that day you pushed me into the Frost Fish.”
“You had it coming, remember? The game was called Even-Stephens!”
“What? For kissing you?”
“You needed a good cooling down that day, Jeremy Wakely.”
“What’re we to do? Stand here and shiver?”
“Build a fire. Surely, in all your worldly travels, by now you’ve learned how?”
“Watch me.” Jeremy went to work at the cobwebbed hearth, starting with kindling and some gunpowder from a pouch he carried. Soon a fire was building, and next roaring, sending most of its heat straight up and out the chimney. Still, the fire glowed bright and cast an orange glow about the old cabin, filling it with a warm feeling but when he looked around, no Serena.
Jeremy could not find her, yet they were in a single-room cabin. She’d disappeared in the manner of a phantom, and for a half moment, he gasped at the trick of light as she stepped from behind a stairwell at the center of the cabin leading to an attic room overhead. “Bit warmer upstairs,” she said. “She’d wrapped a sheet around her like a shroud, tied tightly against her body.
Jeremy had already peeled away his shirt and he stood before the fire in silhouette, his broad shoulders and muscles outlined against the fire behind him. “You should bring down your clothes to dry ar the fire,” he suggested.
“And you,” she countered, tossing him a blanket to use.
“Ah, yes, and I should undress?”
“Yes, by all means. Get those wet clothes off and wrap yourself in the blanket.”
She retreated back up the stairs, her footstep so light as to be near undetectable. Jeremy wondered what was so interesting about upstairs, but he worried now with getting the rest of his drenched clothes off. The blanket tied about him, he grabbed an old chair to drape his shirt, pants, socks, and unmentionables before the fire. “You really should bring down your clothes to dry,” he called up the stairwell now.
“There’s a fine view of the storm from up here,” she replied. “Great bay window to look out.”
It was a clear invitation to join her. Jeremiah cautiously took the stairwell, barefoot, wrapped in the woolen blanket. The warmth had returned to his body, and for that he felt grateful.
When his head came above the floor on the second landing, he found Serena propped on her side, head in hand, supine on an old oaken bed, staring out the window she had spoken of as a crooked sword of lighting streaked the night sky overhead to stab at the earth.
“Come watch the fireworks!” she called out to him on seeing he’d entered the room.
“What use has a man of fireworks in the distance, when all the beauty of the world lies here before me?”
This took her attention from the storm, and she gazed into his longing eyes. “So you are a flatterer. I wonder how many others have you said such words to.”
“I have remained ever faithful to you, Serena. I swear it.”
She sat up, the sheet covering her now sliding sensuously down from her shoulders, exposing her soft breasts and inviting nipples and aureoles. “Are you sure?” she asked.
“S-Sure?” Inwardly, he was shouting the word sure. “Absolutely.”
“No, I don’t mean like that.”
He unconsciously reached out and cupped her breasts in his hands as if mesmerized. “What do you mean?” he absently asked, fondling her, dunking his head ito her and passionately kissing her.
“Are you sure, Jeremiah Wakely,” she said while gasping at his touch, “that I’m not just some-some passing fancy for a man passing through on-on his way to elsewhere?”
“I assure you, my love is real.” He kissed her breasts now, one after the other.
His hot breath on her nipples sent her arching into his tongue, and with her head thrown back, her neck now taking the brunt of his kisses, she gasped out more words: “Then I’m not some-some diversion for a rolling s-stone?”
“A trifling you’ve merely . . . stumbled ’pon? Jeremiah Wakely?”
“No, never.” He continued smothering her in kisses.
“Never you say, yet-yet you left me once before.”
“I was a fool.”
“A wiser man.”
She firmly held him at bay now with a stiff arm. “Do you count me wise as well?”
“I do, and Serena, the time away from you has proved me a fool, and tasting you has made me a genius.”
“A genius, eh?”
“It’s proved that I love you.”
Tears formed in her eyes on hearing these words. “Honestly?”
“Honestly, and in honest love there is respect.”
She smiled wide at this. “Respect is it? Is that what you call—”
He cut off her anger. “I love you.”
“I will make love to you, Jeremy, here, now.”
“What?” his confusion appeared complete.
“But I am unsure if either of us know one another well enough anymore to know if we’re still in love.”
“I think I follow that, yet my heart says it is so, that I love you and always have—since childhood!”
“We’re not children any longer, Jere.”
“My feelings haven’t changed. Have yours?”
“What consequences may come of making love cannot be so complicated as being in love.”
“I accept the consequences.” He returned to kissing her on the mouth.
She struggled to find the strength to push him away again. When she did, she said, “Especially now, Jere, you must promise that after all this time—”
“You’re not fearful of breaking with the commandments, so much as afraid of me?”
“I am not afraid of either consequence,” she lied. “But I want this to mark the last time you will leave me.”
“I see. I—”
“I’ve waited ten years to feel your body close to mine, and I’m not waiting ten more—not even for the Ten Commandments—to find out if you are what I want from this life.”
“I don’t know what to say,” he confessed.
“Say nothing more.”
“Shut up and come into me.”
Awkwardly, nervously now, his mind swirling with what price she’d placed on their lovemaking, he lowered himself over Serena, taking her in his arms. The warmth and energy coursing through their entwined bodies seemed as blazing and as chaotic as the lightening in the sky outside—or the hearth near the bed as a second hearth cut of the same chimney stones squatted at one end of the attic, and from it additional heat poured forth.
The lovers were soon exchanging perspiration with their embrace and passions. Jeremy’s unbridled passion unleashed, Serena felt a wave of ecstasy and a sense of freedom and weightlessness that defied being beneath the only man she had ever loved. All inhibitions had fallen away as easily as her sheet and his blanket.
And it felt right; it felt proper. It felt like the natural bonding that she imagined her parents had felt as young people.