In Another Life

In Another Life

by Julie Christine Johnson

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781492625209
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 02/02/2016
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 849,229
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Julie Christine Johnson's work has appeared in several anthologies and literary journals. She lives and writes in the seaside village of Port Townsend in northwest Washington state.

Read an Excerpt

1

PARIS-CHARLES DE GAULLE AIRPORT, OUTSIDE PARIS-WINTER SOLSTICE, PRESENT DAY

Eighteen months after her husband's death, Lia Carrer returned to Languedoc like a shadow in search of light.

From inside the airport terminal's glass atrium, the gray blanket over Paris looked no different from the Seattle sky she'd left behind. But the City of Light was not her final destination. The high-speed train known as the TGV departed directly from Charles de Gaulle and would carry her five hundred miles south to Narbonne in fewer than five hours.

Once aboard the TGV, Lia sank into her reserved window seat. Echoes of jet engines and loudspeakers reverberated in her head, but the sounds of train travel-doors opening and closing with a pneumatic whoosh, air slamming between passing cars-reassured her that her journey was nearly over. She was back on solid ground. Soothed by the slight swaying motion of the moving train, Lia gazed out the window and allowed France to absorb her.

As winter-brown valleys gave way to the rocks and rises of the Massif Central, anticipation thrummed in her heart. On the other side of this vast expanse of extinct volcanoes and stony plateaus lay the storybook settings of Provence and the wild and lonely beauty of her beloved Languedoc. She imagined summer's scouring heat on the scrubland valleys of the Pyrénées and winter's wild storms along the Mediterranean coast.

It was December 21, the last of the darkest of nights. Lia hadn't consciously intended to arrive in France on this day, but the timing seemed auspicious. She'd always thought of winter solstice, when the pale hemisphere tilts again toward the sun, as a time of rebirth. Perhaps this journey was her rebirth. At the very least, it was forward motion.

Golden dusk was fading to deep blue as she collected her rental car from the Narbonne train station. She drove the final miles to the small town of Minerve on an empty highway through dark valleys where medieval ruins stood at the intersection of Roman roads. The soft drone of conversation on a Europe 1 call-in show and the occasional reminder from the disembodied GPS voice kept her company. Lia's journey ended when she stepped inside Le Pèlerin, a stone house at the edge of the village, perched high above the Cesse River.

Three years before, her dearest friends Rose and Domènec Hivert had purchased a crumbling ruin in Minerve, twenty miles north of their farm in Ferrals-les-Corbières. Naming it after the peregrine falcons that swooped and hunted throughout Languedoc, they'd transformed Le Pèlerin into a gîte-a vacation rental-to supplement their income as farmers and winemakers. Pèlerin also translated as pilgrim. When Lia called needing refuge, Rose offered up the cottage for her use until she could sort out her next steps.

Lia dropped her bags and kicked off her shoes in the foyer. "That's me," she announced to the dark, still house. "The pilgrim in search of a home." Entering Le Pèlerin, she had the sensation of walking into a nest tucked in the hollow of a tree, sheltered and calm. A lamp sitting on a narrow table just inside the door cast low light through the square passageway between the kitchen and front room. She hadn't been to Le Pèlerin since Rose and Domènec finished the remodel, and what she saw made her hum with pleasure.

The entryway separated the kitchen and dining room from the snug front room. Timber beams crossed the low ceilings, and plush, mismatched rugs in deep reds and blues were strewn across stained pine floors that had been polished until they shone. She walked around the front room, running her hands along the rough plaster walls that would hold in warmth on chilly days yet keep the house cool and fresh during the intense Languedoc summers. On the far end, logs were piled inside the fireplace built from river rock; all she need do was touch flame to the kindling to start a roaring fire. Domènec had emailed the day before she left Seattle to assure her that Marie-Françoise, a woman from the village who kept an eye on the place, would stop in to turn up the thermostat before Lia arrived. And indeed, the radiant heat under the stone floors in the kitchen warmed her stocking feet.

In three days, her friends would return from an early Christmas celebration with Domènec's parents in Perpignan. Until then, Lia was alone.

She trembled with weariness. Lugging her bags to the loft bedroom was more than she could manage, so Lia left them at the foot of the stairs, unpacking only a change of soft clothes and the small bottles of shampoo and body soap she'd stashed in her carry-on.

The claw-foot bathtub was wide and deep enough to fit two comfortably: utterly impractical, a waste of water, and the most wonderful sight Lia could have conjured at that moment. She turned the hot water on full and nudged open the cold tap; the reluctant water pressure meant she had some time before the tub filled. She stripped and padded naked to the kitchen. After twenty-six hours in the same clothes, the cool air was a refreshing kiss on her gritty skin.

A three-quarter moon lit the long room and pulled her toward the far end, where a long table sat before a wall of windows. Feeling weightless with fatigue, Lia thought she might float through the windows to the terrace and the Cesse River canyon beyond. But her bleached reflection halted at the glass.

Angles defined her body where there once had been curves. Shadows pressed against her ribs, the hollows of her cheeks, and her sunken eyes. She touched her belly and the sharp point of a hip. She was bone and muscle, hard and flat. Grief had eaten away the lush curves of her breasts and the sweet rise of her belly that Gabriel had loved to caress.

It had been so long since she'd really looked at her reflection. She'd avert her eyes from the floor-to-ceiling mirrors in the yoga studio and keep her face tilted toward the sink while she washed her hands in the bathroom down the hall from her office. She'd worked hard to disappear, to become a ghost.

Now, her body shimmering white against the cold glass, Lia saw how tightly she held herself, as if hardening her muscles would somehow steel her heart from pain. Eighteen months since she'd had an appetite. Eighteen months of going through the motions. She'd drifted through a life that had no rails to grasp for balance.

The lassitude had caught up with her on a warm day in October, when Seattle's skies glowed Tuscan blue and the scent of dry leaves rose in the air. The dean of the history department at Cascade University, where she'd served as an adjunct professor of European and medieval history, called her into his office, shut the door, and informed her that the department would not renew her contract after fall quarter. Her recent student evaluations had been grim, and she'd fallen behind on department committee work. The dean had previously hinted at a tenure-track position if Lia would just complete and defend her dissertation within the following year. But after Gabriel's death, her dissertation on the role of reincarnation and the afterlife in Cathar theology sat unopened on her hard drive. It took someone else making a decision about her life to propel Lia into finally making a few of her own.

She backed away from the glass with a curse of surprise but stopped as something white flashed just beyond the window. In the space between heartbeats, she saw the face of a man. Moonlight revealed fierce dark eyes and the etched planes of cheekbones. A seeping black streak marred the left side of his face, running from his temple down his cheek to the corner of his mouth. The palm of a hand came into view, reaching toward her. Her own hands flew up and smacked the glass as adrenaline, warm and electric, seared the weariness from her bones.

A screech ripped through the air, and the vision reassembled itself into something other than human. On the bough of an umbrella pine that clung to the side of the cliff perched a raptor. The breeze lifted the feathers of the bird's underbelly, and the moon bleached them white. His brown head tilted, and his amber eyes lit on Lia's naked form. Keeping her movements small, she looked around for something to cover herself. A chenille throw sat folded on a low, upholstered chair in the near corner. She edged toward the chair, her eyes on the bird outside, and clutched the blanket.

With the throw draped over her shoulders like a cloak, Lia turned the lock, pressed down the handle of the French door, and slipped onto the terrace attached to the stone face of the house.

She'd encountered a Bonelli's eagle two years before during a birds-of-prey demonstration at Château de Peyrepertuse. Once the emperor of Languedoc's skies, the Bonelli's eagle faced extinction in France. To see one in the wild was a once-in-never chance. Tears welled in Lia's eyes as she realized what a gift she'd been offered.

"What brought you here?" she whispered to the eagle as it watched her from his perch on the swaying bough.

In reply, he shifted his weight and showed Lia the profile of his fierce head and hooked beak. Then he spread his wings, and she gasped at the span of feathers, bone, and sinew that measured six feet from tip to tip. He launched from the tree, the whoosh of his wings more a sensation than a sound, and was swallowed by the night.

Leaning over the iron railing, she peered into the black depths below. The river whispered and the wind answered as it swept through the scrub, but the moonlight revealed only vague shapes. She slipped inside the door and locked it behind her.

"Lia, you need to sleep," she said to the empty room.

The sound of her voice broke the spell, and she heard rushing water. The hot bath beckoned, as did the wine that filled a rack on the kitchen counter. Domènec and Rose had stocked it with bottles of their vigorous estate blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre. Lia pulled a bottle from the rack, took a glass from the cupboard, and, with a free finger, gathered the corkscrew from the counter.

A layer of steam drifted over the tub, and water rippled just below its edge. Lia turned off the taps, letting an inch or two drain out while she lit the candles arrayed on the windowsill and opened the bottle. The wine was so opaque, it appeared black in the low light. She sank into water just shy of scalding, holding the glass above the surface, and stayed in the bath until the heat and the wine quieted the clamor in her head and dissolved the aches in her body.

Wrapped in a lavender-scented towel, she climbed the stairway to the loft tucked under the timber-and-plaster roof. A wall heater clicked and sighed as it radiated warmth into the deep, low room. The towel fell to the floor, and as she slipped between the down duvet and the cotton sheet, the bedding gathered her in a soft embrace. Sleep found her at last.

NEAR MINERVE, LANGUEDOC-WINTER SOLSTICE, 1208

In a cave scoured deep into the limestone above the Cesse River, Raoul d'Aran shook with fever. He sat huddled with his hands tucked under his armpits as a chill wind needled through his sweat-soaked wool cloak. With his remaining strength, he clenched his heart around his hot rage. But it was the grief that threatened to overcome his reason as images spilled across his fevered vision. He saw the villagers trapped in the church of Saint-Maurice, felt their bodies crushed against the wooden doors, heard their fists pounding on the shutters, and his nose burned with the smoke that filtered into the sanctuary.

"Paloma." Raoul released his wife's name into the shadows of the cave. "Oh, my girl." He panted and tried to swallow the sobs that pushed against his throat. "Wait for me," he prayed. "I'm nearly there."

The night deepened, and the scrub and stone around him sank into the dark. Raoul's face dropped to his bent knees, but he jolted awake when his rough cloak scraped the gash on his cheek. Cursing through clenched teeth, he touched the wound; his finger came away black with blood. He retched at the stench of rotting flesh and spit into the earth beside him. The violent motion caused his vision to swim, and he moaned in pain. He lost the struggle with consciousness, and his breathing slowed until the rise and fall of his chest was nearly imperceptible.

His fever dream brought him to a river where willow branches stretched to the shore. At the sight of water, his legs buckled, and he fell to his knees. He plunged his head below the river's surface, gasping and spluttering as the icy water filled his belly. Retreating to a shallow pool a few feet away, Raoul scrubbed the grime from his face and hands. The moonlit water reflected the bruises of fatigue under his eyes and the wound on his face that had sealed in a thick, black line.

The water rippled, and a dimly lit room with a long table and a floor of smooth stone floated into view. A figure entered the tableau and approached Raoul without hesitation. As the details of the apparition sharpened and fused, he saw a woman, her bare skin luminous in the low light. Her long hair curled around her shoulders in an amber veil. His eyes traced the outline of ribs beneath the swell of her breasts, the hollow of her hips, and the carved muscles that rippled down her thighs to the ridge of her knees. The woman stopped just short of the window, revealing the full relief of her face, and Raoul started back in shock. Then joy coursed through him as though a flock of goldfinches had taken flight under his skin.

"Paloma," he breathed in wonder and leaned closer. The red-brown curls were not his wife's gossamer blond, and the eyebrows and lashes were distinct in color and shape, but Paloma's silvery-green eyes, the color of olive leaves, looked out from a face formed by the same delicate curves. She was as beautiful and distant as the moon.

Stepping backward, the woman's gaze met Raoul's. Her mouth opened as if to scream, her hands shot up, and her palms struck the glass between them.

"Paloma?" He pressed his hand flat against the cold pane, but a trace of wind ruffled the water, and the scene disappeared.

In the cold cave, Raoul's clenched hands released, and a thin chain bearing a silver pendant streamed from one fist. The pendant fell flat in the dirt. It was a cross with an open center and three bound points on each side: the Occitan Cross, the symbol of the Languedoc resistance. The necklace had once belonged to his wife. Paloma. His chest rose as his lungs sought the cool air. His chest fell and did not rise again.

Outside the cave's entrance, countless stars pricked the night with icy light. A great raptor landed with a murmur of wings at the cave's entrance and paced on three-pronged talons. Its keen eyes picked out the black mass of a man huddled in the blue shadows, his head slumped against his chest. With a cry that tore into the sky, the bird flew away from the specter of death.

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In Another Life 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great Mystery, Beautiful Love Story!
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings An interesting twist of history, fantasy and romance in this book. Lia Carter lost her husband and now her job and has decided to go back to her roots to finish her research and recenter her life. This book centers around a religion that has real historical roots and the book is based on a historical fact - an assassination and the fall of this religion to Catholicism. As a religious studies major in college this book did it for me - I loved it. The part of religious studies that I loved was the study of how religion fits into history and how much history and religion go hand in hand, no matter the religion you practice you can enjoy reading how the rise of Catholicism affected this "heretical" religion from the past.
KrisAnderson_TAR More than 1 year ago
In Another Life by Julie Christine Johnson is a romance novel. Lia Carrer is a widow and she is returning to France to start again. Her husband, Gabriel died under mysterious circumstances (he was a professional mountain bike racer). He was in the Tour D’Arques (in France) when he was hit by Mercedes. The car that hit him was never found. Lia quit working on dissertation, and her work as a professor suffered as well. Lia lost her job at Cascade University. Lia decided it was time for a new start. She will be staying at Le Pelerin, a cottage belonging to a friend. Lia meets Raoul Arango who draws her into an old mystery dating back to 1208. Lia and Raoul will have to research the past to unravel the mystery. In Another Life is a good novel to help you go to sleep. The novel contains quite a bit of history as well as many descriptive sentences on scenery, country, food, house, etc. I was just not drawn into In Another Life (I did not find it entertaining, engaging, nor enjoyable). I have to admit that I had to work to finish this story. I give In Another Life 2.5 out of 5 stars. It just went on for too long. Some writers have a knack for combining history with fiction and making it interesting and magical. Unfortunately, it did not happen in this novel. I received a complimentary copy of In Another Life from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
LauraFabiani More than 1 year ago
In Another Life is a well-written, atmospheric novel that takes you into Southern France both in modern day and during the medieval era. Lia Carrer is a historian who has studied the Cathar history and beliefs which include reincarnation. When she returns to Languedoc in France, where she had previously lived and where her husband Gabriel died in an accident during his bike race eighteen months previous, she must come to terms with where her life is heading. Lia meets up with her close friends and begins the healing process. She also falls in love with Raoul, meets Lucas, a brooding photographer who enlists her help as he is creating a book on the Cathar history, and reunites with Jordi, a priest who shares her love of Cathar history. Unbeknownst to Lia, the three are connected and entangled in the history of 1208 when the Pope sanctified a crusade to exterminate the Cathars. In Another Life reminded me of Susanne Kearsley's books, which I've enjoyed tremendously. Julie Christine Johnson deftly transported me to Southern France with her lush descriptions and keen eye for details. I enjoyed learning about a time in history I knew little about. I also enjoyed the mystery of those who came from another life because I am a fan of time travel, but in this case it was clearly reincarnation, which has less appeal for me. I liked Lia and felt for her struggles and I loved her relationship with her close friends. I must admit I had mixed feelings about her relationship with Raoul and the way the story ended. Her relationship didn't seem real to me and I didn't see how they fell in love. There was a lack of passion that was present, which ultimately made sense seeing he had this in his former life. I can't say more without revealing the plot so I'll stop there, but this book felt somewhat anticlimactic to me. Too many loose plot threads too. I was left with a slew of questions at the end. Apart from this, I truly did enjoy this novel. I loved the author's writing style and the way she built the aura of mystery. I liked how she easily portrayed family life in Europe and the struggles of a mourning young widow. These were strong points that resonated with me and that appealed to me. Fans of Susanna Kearsley will surely enjoy this debut novel. I certainly look forward to reading more from this promising author. Content: There is profanity - 2 f-words - one explicit sex scene, some violence in the form of sword fighting Note: I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
When I first started reading this, I wasn't sure that I was going to like it. However, the longer I read it, the more I liked it. While it was kind of unbelievable, the author made it feel like it could happen and I just went with it and it really made a good story. I found myself really wanting to know what happened back in 1208. Mostly because three of the characters in the story were reincarnated from that era and they remembered everything that happened to them during that time. Of course, the fourth main character looked exactly like the love interest of two of the reincarnated characters. Yeah I know it sounds hokey, but it really was a good book. I really enjoyed it and was very entertained. I actually stayed up way too late reading it. I was thinking I would get a couple of hours in and go to bed. Nope, that did not happen. And, I could not wait to get back into this morning. Huge thanks to Sourcebooks for approving my request and to Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review. I was certainly pleased with my request.