Monster Mash Countdown with #lovingthebook
Day 4 – Where the river bends by @elsawinckler
I have been reading love stories for as long as I can remember and when I ‘met’ the classic authors like Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Henry James The Brontë sisters, etc. during my Honours studies, I was hooked for life.
I married my college boyfriend and soul mate and after 43 years, 3 interesting and wonderful children and 3 beautiful grandchildren, he still makes me weak in the knees. We are fortunate to live in the picturesque little seaside village of Betty’s Bay, South Africa with the ocean a block away and a beautiful mountain right behind us. And although life so far has not always been an easy ride, it has always been an exiting and interesting one!
I like the heroines in my stories to be beautiful, feisty, independent and headstrong. And the heroes must be strong but possess a generous amount of sensitivity. They are of course, also gorgeous! My stories typically incorporate the family background of the characters to better understand where they come from and who they are when we meet them in the story.
“Kalinda Evans works for the Anglo-Boer war foundation in Canada. She’s sent to South Africa to make sure everyone who lost their lives in the war will be remembered. On her drive to the guest farm in Kimberley, South Africa, Kalinda picks up a female hitchhiker and is startled when just moments later, the woman vanishes. Kalinda would be convinced she was dreaming…except there’s still a white lace handkerchief on the passenger seat.
Extreme sports enthusiast and computer game designer Zack Carter is always after the next big challenge. He’s far too busy for romance and adheres to a three-date rule, until he meets his parents’ latest guest. When she relays the story of her mysterious experience, Zack’s family shares the local ghost story. Kalinda and Zack work together to solve the puzzle of the ghost and how it all ties in with the war and the work Kalinda is doing.
As their attraction grows, Zack realizes he no longer feels the need to prove anything to himself. He only needs to prove to Kalinda that he’s more than a good time.”
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Cussing, he kicked a stone that was lying on the pathway. Probably all the talk about the damn ghost that was also affecting him.
He knocked on the door. And waited. Knocked again. “Kalinda!” he called out. “Are you—”
The door flew open and his brain stopped working. In one second flat, all his blood pooled way below his middle and he went rock hard.
She simply took his breath away. Her long hair hadn’t been combed, she wasn’t wearing any make-up and her cheeks were wet with tears.
“What the hell? Kalinda?” Concerned he put out his hands towards her but she smiled, eyes sparkling.
He swallowed. She was wearing red shorts and a satiny strappy top thing that just didn’t quite reach the top of the shorts. She clapped her hands and jumped up and down. He couldn’t breathe. Why wasn’t there any oxygen in the room? It was clear she wasn’t wearing anything else underneath the sexy get-up.
“Zach, I’m fine. You won’t believe what I’ve discovered; come and have a look.” She grabbed his arm and started pulling him inside. “Come, you have to see this.” He resisted and she turned around. “What is your problem?” she asked, impatiently.
Swallowing, he shook his head. “You’re my problem,” he got out. “Please get dressed.”
Stunned, she stared at him for a few minutes before comprehension dawned. She blushed a fiery red before she quickly turned around and sped towards the bedroom. The last thing he saw was a long, sexy leg disappearing around the corner.
He groaned out loud and leaned against the wall. Gulping in some much-needed air, he closed the door behind him. One of the boxes he’d brought back yesterday was standing on the coffee table; the floor was covered in papers. He sat down, but Kalinda’s bedroom door flew open and he hastily got up again.
“Please sit. I’m sorry about … I wasn’t thinking.”
“Neither was I,” he said succinctly.
She inhaled sharply “Zach, please.” She sat down opposite him. She’d changed into a top and pants. And she’d put on a bra. Her hair had been brushed, but she still wasn’t wearing any make-up. And he couldn’t stop staring at her naked mouth.
“What I discovered…”
He caught the last few words of her sentence. “Um … what?”
But she was already pointing at a notebook she had in her hand. He made another effort to try and listen to what she was saying.
“The wind last night.”
“Wind? I don’t remember hearing the wind last night?”
“Yes, there was a wind. Trust me, I know. I had to get up and close the window. And then I heard the one inside was also open and when I switched on the light, I saw half the contents of the boxes on the floor. And then I discovered this on top of one of the boxes. Look!” Excitedly, she handed him what was obviously a very old notebook.
“What is it?” he asked while opening it. For a second, ice-cold air moved down his body.
“It’s hers. Susan Mayers’s. I’m sure of it.” She sniffled and wiped her cheeks. “I’ve cried so much.” She started talking quickly, as if she was afraid her words wouldn’t be able to catch up with her thoughts.
“She writes about her Boer lover. How they met. I don’t know how well you know your history but during the Battle of Paardeberg, on 21 February, Lord Roberts sent a message to General Cronjé, offering to escort the women and children of the Boers to safety through the British lines and also to send them doctors and medical help.”
She moved to sit beside him and took the notebook from him. “Look here,” she said and opened the notebook. “When Roberts made his offer, some of the medical staff prepared to go across to the Boers; nobody thought it would be a problem. Remember, at that point, they’d been fighting since the seventeenth? Many of the Boers were wounded. Horses and cattle had been shot; the smell must have been unbearable. Cronjé left the medical wagons behind at Bossiespan, so at this point the Boers had no medical help. But Cronjé refused Roberts’s offer to escort the women and children to safety and only agreed to accept his offer of medical help, on the condition that the doctors and nurses stay with the Boers until they moved away. Roberts refused and withdrew his offer. This exchange of letters took place over the course of a whole day. The next day Cronjé asked for a hospital to be erected on the west side; Roberts refused, probably because that would have meant the British wouldn’t be able to attack the Boers from the west.”
Zach couldn’t take his eyes off Kalinda. Her hands, her eyes, her whole body was telling the story.
“What I didn’t know and what I certainly haven’t read in any history book was that, according to this diary, in any case, a medical doctor and two nurses actually went across to the Boers before Roberts’s final decision not to help them. The doctor and nurses were taken to the wounded Boers. I’m positive one of the nurses was Susan Mayers and I think this notebook is her diary.”
“How can you be sure? Did you come across her name somewhere?”
“No, but listen to what she writes about one of the Boer soldiers who took them to the wounded.”
“Two of the Boers met us halfway to escort us to the wounded. They both wore hats and at first I couldn’t see their faces properly. But when we came to the river, one of them took my hand to help me down the muddy bank. I looked up into a pair of clear blue eyes, the colour of the sky on a bright day. And I knew immediately that he was the one I’ve been waiting for all my life. Even though he was fighting on the other side. Just for a moment his grip tightened on my hand and I could see some reflection of what I was feeling in his face. To think that I would meet him in this place, during this war, under these circumstances was not something that I could ever have imagined. I do not know if I will ever see him again, but I will always remember his face, his gentle touch.”
Kalinda pointed to the following page. “Here she describes how they had to struggle over the dead animals, the terrible stench, the way groups of children sat around crying and the desperate situation the wounded were in when they found them. They were lying on bales of hay on the mud, their wounds only covered by tobacco leaves. You can image what the wounds looked like.”
“I still don’t see how you can deduce that this is Suzie’s diary?” Zach said as his eyes slid over the yellowed pages.
Kalinda quickly paged through the notebook. “It’s somewhere here. She describes the relentless attack on the Boers over the next seven days, the gastric fever they contracted because of the contaminated water, their eventual surrender and she writes in detail about the wounded soldiers she tended to. And in between she mentions him, her Boer lover. Apparently they saw one another again two days later, at which point they declared their love to one another.
Zach snorted, skeptical.
“I know, I know,” Kalinda said. “She doesn’t write in detail what happened between them but listen to this—