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Moon Over Water
By Debbie Macomber
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Eternal rest grant upon her, oh, Lord...." Lorraine Dancy closed her eyes as the first shovelful of dirt hit her mother's casket. The sound seemed to reverberate around her, magnified a hundred times, drowning out the words intoned by Father Darien. This was her mother - her mother - and Virginia Dancy deserved so much more than a cold blanket of Kentucky mud.
Lorraine had received word the evening of April first that her mother had been involved in a horrible freeway accident. In the beginning she'd thought it was some kind of cruel hoax, a distasteful practical joke, but the mud-splattered casket was real enough to rip her heart wide open.
Her chest tightened with the effort to hold back tears. A low mewling sound escaped her lips and her trembling increased as she listened to the priest's words in the gray afternoon.
After a while, the friends who'd come to say their last farewells started to move away. Father Darien gently took hold of Lorraine's hands and in sincere compassionate tones offered a few final words of comfort. Reaching deep within herself, Lorraine managed to thank him.
Still, she remained.
"Sweetheart." Gary Franklin, her fiance, stepped closer and placed his arm around her waist. "It's time to go home."
She resisted and held her ground when Gary tried to steer her toward the waiting limo. She wasn't ready to leave her mother. Not yet. Please, not yet. It made everything so final ... to turn her back and walk away.
This shouldn't be happening. This couldn't be real. But the reality of the moment was undeniable - the open grave, the nearby headstones, the muddy ground. Her fears assailed her from all sides, sending a chill down her spine. Lorraine wasn't sure she could survive without her mother's love and support. Virginia had been her touchstone. Her example. Her mother.
"Sweetheart, I know this is difficult, but you can't stay here." Gary again tried to urge her away from the grave.
"No," she said, her voice stronger this time. What made it all the more difficult, all the more painful, was the complete lack of warning. Lorraine had talked to her mother that very weekend. They were so close; it had been the two of them against the world for as long as Lorraine could remember. Not a day passed that they didn't connect in some way - with a conversation, a visit, even an e-mail message. On Saturday they'd spent more than an hour on the phone discussing plans for the wedding.
Her mother had been delighted when Lorraine accepted Gary's proposal. Virginia had always liked Gary and encouraged the relationship from the beginning. Gary and her mother had gotten along famously.
Just last weekend - just a few days ago - her mother had been alive. During their phone call Virginia had chatted endlessly about the kind of wedding she wanted for her only child. They'd discussed the wedding dress, the bridesmaids, the flowers, the invitations. Lorraine had never heard her mother sound more excited. In her enthusiasm, Virginia had even mentioned her own wedding all those years ago and the only man she'd ever loved. She rarely spoke of Lorraine's father. That was the one thing she didn't share with her daughter - at least not since Lorraine's early teens. Those were private memories, and it was as though Virginia held them close to her heart. They'd sustained her through the long lonely years of widowhood.
Lorraine couldn't remember her father, who'd died when she was barely three. It seemed her mother had loved Thomas Dancy so completely she'd never entertained the thought of remarrying.
No man, she'd once told Lorraine, could live up to the memory of the one she'd lost.
Her parents' love story was possibly the most romantic Lorraine had ever heard. When she was small, her mother had often told her how wonderful Thomas had been. In later years, of course, she hardly ever talked about him, but Lorraine remembered those long-ago stories - of her father being a decorated war hero and how her parents had defied everyone by getting married. They were the adventure tales, the marvelous bedtime stories of her early childhood, and they'd made a deep and lasting impression on her. It was one of the reasons Lorraine had waited until she was twenty-eight before becoming engaged herself. For years she'd been searching for a man like her father, a man who was noble. Honest. Brave. A man of integrity and high ideals. No one seemed right until Gary Franklin came into her life.
"Lorraine, everyone's gone." Gary's arm tightened around her waist.
"Not yet. Please." She couldn't leave her mother, not like this. Not in a cold wet grave when Virginia Dancy hadn't even reached the age of fifty. The pain was more than Lorraine could bear. As the agony of the moment consumed her, tears began to roll down her cheeks.
"Come on, honey, let me get you away from here," Gary murmured in a voice gentle with sympathy.
Lorraine took a step in retreat. She didn't want Gary. She didn't want anyone except her mother. And her mother was in a grave. "Oh, Mom," she cried, then broke into sobs, unable to stop herself.
Gary turned her in his arms and held her protectively against him. "Let it out, sweetheart. It's okay. Go ahead and cry."
Lorraine hid her face in his shoulder and wept as she hadn't since that night the state patrolman had come to her with the tragic news. How long Gary let her weep, she didn't know. Until her eyes stung and her nose ran and there were no more tears to shed.
"The house is going to fill up and you'll need to be there," Gary reminded her.
Excerpted from Moon Over Water by Debbie Macomber Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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