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Every muscle in her body ached and it was all she could do to remain curled in a tight fetal position to protect herself from the sand whipping her body and the deafening roar that was overwhelming her. She could barely breathe and didn't know if she had the energy to move at all. Her brain felt fried, and reasoning was beyond her as pain continued to assault her from every direction, like pins thrust into her exposed skin. She spit sand out of her mouth, and groaned as she forced her hand to her lips to wipe it away. It took such an effort that she wanted to cry out her anguish, yet couldn't expend the energy ... yet survival impulse kicked in and she labored to open her eyes.
Immediately she closed them in response to the torrential wind that forced particles of sand into them. Her eyes now watering in retaliation, she blinked furiously, and mentally commanded herself to move again, hiding he face under her arm as the sandstorm lashed relentlessly and charges of lightning crashed all around her.
Had she died? Was this hell? Purgatory? Never in her life had she faced such an intense, terrible force of nature. Her chest throbbed with every intake of breath, as though someone had punched her, and her body began to shake violently, as if the ground rumbling beneath her were demanding she comply with its motion.
Somehow her brain sent the message that if she were dead, she wouldn't feel this pain, and she must move, find shelter, any protection. Weary, more exhausted than she had ever been, and frightened, Casey again tried to summon the energy to lift her head from the ground even slightly. Slowly, sending signals to each muscle in her arm, she again managed to bring her hand to her face. Sheltering her eyes, she tried once more to see where she was as sand pelted her hand and lightning illuminated the desolate landscape. She was in the desert.
A desert? Her brain couldn't compute it and she closed her eyes as she allowed her hand to fall back to the sand. Why ...? How had she gotten here? Another flash of lightning streaked before her closed lids and Casey shuddered in fright from the crack of thunder as she tried to pull her legs closer to her chest. Her left foot burned with a horrible pain. She had to get up, find shelter. If she stayed here, she would be hit and ...
Move, her brain commanded, and for the first time in her life Casey felt removed from her body. It was as though her body weren't hers! In her mind's eye she saw herself observing the whole situation, making decisions, like she was trying to find a way to fix a broken piece of machinery.
Was this death, this feeling of separation from her body? She wasn't ready to die! She wanted... She wasn't sure what she wanted, yet just the thought brought her back and she felt the pain again.
Then the images came to her ... a storm ... getting out of a car ... and then heat ... unbearable heat ... nearly suffocating ... and a light so bright she felt she had melted into it.
Shaking her head in confusion, she focused on getting away from the stinging sand and the terrifying electrical storm. Pushing herself up onto her elbows, she kept her face close to her chest as her straight, short hair snapped against her cheeks. Cupping her hand to her eyes, she again peeked out to the desert while lightning flashed, yet she couldn't make out anything large enough to protect her, and the mountains were too far away.
Dear God, if she wasn't dead, she would be soon if she stayed out here!
And then it happened ...
Casey thought it might be rain or perhaps thunder when she heard the crackle begin, yet it grew increasingly louder ... and it wasn't stopping. As every hair on her body rose, she knew static was filling the air. She looked up to the sky and her impulse to cringe was suddenly replaced by awe. It was as though heaven itself split open to thrust out an immense beam of light impaling the desert floor. The earth vibrated with a repetitive hum all around her, like nothing she had ever felt in her life ... She held her breath, yet there was no sound of explosion on impact. This wasn't mere lightning, her mind whispered, as she stayed riveted to the wide swath of silver, white, blue, and gold light which was now rebounding from the ground and spreading out like fantastic wings across the blackened sky.
Then, sounding above the blasting of wind and sand, an ear-piercing squeal flooded her ears as she watched the solid beam begin to contract, falling into a spiral that appeared to be swallowed up by the earth. All that remained was the impression of opaque wings slowly dissipating into the sandstorm. She blinked rapidly, not so much to shield her eyes as to ensure they were open ... for a solid, dark figure was emerging from the ghostly mist. The earth had stopped shaking and the ringing in her ears subsided as she gasped for breath. It was now beginning to move in her direction.
She was making this up. Whatever was happening was all in her mind. It had to be!
Desperately Casey rubbed at her eyes and then cupped her hands around them to shelter her face as more lightning, familiar narrow streaks, flashed around her and thunder rumbled. When she again looked, the silhouetted figure, with what appeared to be sails flapping at each side, approached steadily. Was it a man or ... what, a beast? As it moved closer toward her, she could begin to make out a long dark coat and a wide cowboy hat. It was a man. Her heart pounded against her chest as he came closer. She didn't know whether to be frightened or relieved by his presence ...
She was paralyzed by the entire bizarre display.
Wherever she was, whoever he was ... somehow, none of it could be real. Could she have died and this really was hell? Had she been such a horrid person to deserve this?
There was no more time for questions as the man slowly, deliberately, walked closer, as though he had no fear of the lightning or the sandstorm. Her voice was strangled in her throat. She wanted to ask him who he was, but only garbled noises emerged from her mouth as she watched him unbutton his dark coat above her. His face was hidden by a wide turned-up collar and the cowboy hat pulled low over his brow, but somehow the closer he came, the less she feared him. And what could she do, anyway? Scream? Ask for help? She was barely able to breathe!
He knelt before her and, without a word, wrapped the edges of the raincoat around her, pulling her to his chest and sheltering her from the sandstorm. She could feel the strength of his arms around her back, and immediately sensed peace as she was gathered into the sanctuary of his body. Concealed from the attacking sand, she could finally breathe, and the lightning seemed to dim beneath the barrier of his coat. She felt the strong beat of his heart reverberating against her face. She smelled something citrusy, very earthy, about him, and lifted her hand to cling to his soft shirt.
"You are all right, Casey O'Reilly."
She almost jumped at the close proximity of his voice resonating from his chest and into her ear. The low soothing tone sent shivers throughout her body and she found herself clinging even more tightly to his shirt.
"Who ...? Who are you?" she managed to mutter.
"I've come to help," he answered, holding her tighter as another crash of thunder made the ground shake violently beneath them.
"Thank heavens," she sobbed. Tears came into her eyes as relief spread like warm honey down her body. She felt so protected in this stranger's embrace. A part of her was denying that any of this could be taking place at all, and yet she was very aware that the man holding her, sheltering her from the elements of nature, felt mighty real.
"Yes," he replied gently.
Somehow she felt incredibly safe, more so than she had ever felt in her life. Her body was tingling with some strange and powerful energy that was unfamiliar and yet ... so perfectly wonderful. She felt a renewed strength welling up in her muscles, spreading through her body down to her burning foot. Her chest stopped aching and her headache eased as this man, who had just walked out of a bolt of lightning and into her life, continued to hold her patiently.
"Can you move?" he asked, shifting his head slightly.
She felt the movement, yet was afraid to lift her head to look at him. What if he disappeared? What if this was all a dream, or she was hallucinating, and she found herself alone again, in pain, dying in a sandstorm?
"Can you move?" he repeated.
She nodded. Not only had the pain in her body eased, but the thunder seemed farther away now. "I ... I think so," she answered in a voice that sounded, even to her ears, like a child's.
"Try," he encouraged, lifting her slightly as he rose. "I'll help you."
She gathered all her courage and commanded her muscles to obey as she pushed off the sand and stumbled against the hard muscles of his chest.
He caught her and held her tighter as she regained her balance.
"I ... I'm sorry," she whispered with embarrassment, as she allowed herself to be pressed against him even tighter. She inhaled deeply as a wild surge of sexual energy raced through her at the contact, and again her brain felt fried. How could she be thinking such thoughts at this moment? What was wrong with her?
Almost of its own accord, her head lifted slightly and her gaze slowly rose from his chest. She could make out an open collar and a lean neck beneath a strong square chin. Staring at it, Casey felt the area around her heart heating up as though trying to protect and expand at the same time. Her breath felt ragged as she tried to pull more courage from some untapped well within her, forcing air to her lungs and giving her the endurance to continue what she knew she must ... She had to see his face ... to make sure he was real.
Lips, round and sensual, were held in a relaxed way, as if he was comfortable with her inspection. His cheekbones were cradled by lean muscles that spoke of strength. Slowly her gaze traveled up beyond a straight, almost perfect nose. She really couldn't see more as the brim of his cowboy hat hid his eyes from her.
Her stomach clenched with regret and then, suddenly, a more distant flash of white illuminated his entire face. Astounded, she gaped at him.
Barely a trace of amusement was reflected in his soulful dark eyes. "Not quite," he said with a friendly grin.
Casey experienced a moment of intense pleasure that her moan was thankfully disguised by the distant thunder. Damn. She simply must pull herself together and decide if she had truly lost her mind, or was still unconscious from the lightning that hit her when she left the car and was imagining all this and ...
She remembered now. Flashes of memories raced across her mental screen. The flat tire. The horrid electrical storm. Her hand holding the metal door as she stepped into the darkness and was enveloped in the most intense light she could have ever imagined existing in any color spectrum. Deafening sound. And then heat, more than her body could handle, then a searing pain in her left foot as she left the earth and soared into oblivion.
"It's over now, Casey O'Reilly, you're okay," he reassured, as though he were reading her mind. "The earth and sky are no longer pulling at each other."
"Who ... who are you?" she asked, noticing that since he began holding her, the sand and electrical storm had subsided.
He lifted his hand from her back and tipped the brim of his hat slightly, before smiling with open friendliness. "Luke d'Séraphin."
"You ... you're Spanish?" she asked stupidly, responding to his accent, not knowing what else to say to this incredible man who stood so close to her.
He smiled and her heart again expanded before melting. What the hell was happening to her? Pull your act together, she mentally scolded herself. She instinctively knew she would need every ounce of wit, intelligence, courage, and common sense to find logic in any of this! None of it could possibly be real. It couldn't ...!
He again held her as she swayed against him. It wasn't the wind either, but she would be very grateful if he thought that was the cause.
"I have visited Spain ... yes."
"But you're not Spanish?" He certainly must carry some of those genes. Why was she asking these stupid questions!
"My name is French and Spanish. Does that matter to you?" He seemed genuinely interested in her answer.
She was stunned by his question, for it caused her mind to focus. "Well, no ..." she mumbled. "I asked because of your ... unusual name. Of course it doesn't matter." She was embarrassed for herself. Whoever he was, she wasn't making a great first impression. Then she thought about how she must look. She had just gone through God knew what, after traveling for seven hours, and she was only wearing one shoe! She felt the sand beneath her toes, reminding her that she was human after all even if she looked like a nightmare.
"Of course it doesn't," he answered, repeating her words. He allowed her to stand on her own as he reached into his pocket. "It's just a name. Like yours ... Casey. A man's name for a lovely woman ... intriguing. What does it mean?" She found his slight accent to be very pleasing.
"It's a family name," she said quickly in defense as she stood alone and pulled her sweater down. "Gaelic," she added. She could shake off his raincoat now, since the wind had died down and the electrical storm was moving off toward the direction of Albuquerque. But she really didn't want to move away ... yet. Dusk was rapidly beginning to envelop them in the vast desert, adding to the bizarre scene, and she lifted her chin. Kind of a weird conversation to be having, considering the situation.
"Ahh," he murmured as he brought something dark out of his pocket. "And in Gaelic what does it mean?"
She stared at him as he held it out to her. Fear raced through her body when she recognized her missing blue shoe. "Brave," she whispered dumbly. "It means ... brave."
"Your shoe, señorita?" he asked with a challenging grin.
Her lips barely moved. "Yes ..."
She swore his eyes sparkled with something more than friendliness, something making her reach out and hold on to his shoulder as he lowered his body to squat before her. Knocking sand out of the flat, he held the shoe invitingly in front of her foot.
Oh, this isn't happening ... Her mind struggled to find a balance amid the chaos of thoughts and feelings. How could he have her shoe? How could he have survived that lightning? How could he be this handsome? How could she stop mentally rambling and stick her foot into the damn shoe! Jeez, she was beyond rattled!
She pushed her tousled hair back off her face and clutched his shoulder even tighter as she lifted her foot and brushed the sole against her right calf, sensing a tenderness at her heel. The pain, though, was gone. She then slipped her foot, rather awkwardly, into the soft leather. He looked up at her and smiled briefly before rising.
"We must seek shelter for the night," he said, standing beside her as he gently enveloped her in the wide material of his long raincoat again. The coat reminded her of one of those they wear in Australia, a heavy oiled sailcloth protecting them both now from the cool night air.
He was at least a good foot taller than she, and she fit quite snugly under his arm as she joined him to look out over the surrounding desert. "Where's my car?"
He didn't say anything for a few moments. "I would imagine it is still on the road."
She peeked around the edge of his raincoat, not seeing anything but desert. "Where is the road? How far did I get thrown?"
She felt his deep intake of breath, as he hesitated again.
Silence seemed to surround them until Casey heard a faint rumble of thunder, as if warning her she wasn't going to like his answer.
Lowering his gaze, he looked directly into her eyes and said, "You were thrown back about a hundred and twenty years, as far as I can tell right now."
She merely blinked.
"What ...?" she finally was able to mumble. She couldn't have heard him correctly.
He answered her unspoken question. "Yes, you did."
She instinctively pushed him away and pulled herself together. She didn't care if he'd saved her life, or whether he'd come out of a blazing light, or if he was freakin' Starman himself ... that couldn't be real!
Excerpted from Heaven on Earth by Constance O'Day-Flannery. Copyright © 2000 Constance O'Day-Flannery. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted October 9, 2005
Time Travel Romance is my favorite genre, but this one misses the mark. Casey's denial about being thrown back in time goes a bit to the extreme, even when she's confronted with plenty of proof. Also, the long-winded philosophical discussions between Luke and Casey seems to stop the movement of the story line cold. I found this book cumbersome and difficult to hold my interest. In all honesty, I began to skim pages more than half way through, and eventually just skipped to the last chapter. Not a good read.
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Posted December 9, 2008
Casey O¿Reilly is driving from Albuquerque to Santa Fe to visit her sister when lightning hits her. When she awakens, Luc d¿Seraphin helps her reach Santa Fe. However, instead of the year being 2000, it is 1878. Casey rejects the concept of time travel although the visible evidence proves she is not in 2000. Luke explains he is a veteran traveler and tries to guide her until she accepts the pattern that is unfolding and learns to trusts in herself. <P>Over the next ten days, Casey falls in love with Luke and begins to more than just trust herself. She trusts Luke. He, to his shock, reciprocates her feelings, but refuses to act on it for her sake. However, she finally persuades him to make love. As the time to leave for home occurs, a pregnant Casey and Luke are separated, but she has all the time in the world while waiting for his return to her. <P>While underscored by a warm romance, this tale centers on an interesting, unique plot that provides depth to the complexities of time travel. The story line is action packed while imparting much insight into the late 1870¿s Hispanic-American culture. The lead couple is a dynamic team that makes time travel seems like a genuine part of physics. Constance O¿Day-Flannery makes her time travel novels read like HEAVEN ON EARTH to sub-genre fans. <P>Harriet Klausner
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