Gather the Bones by Alison Stuart
War leaves no one untouched.
The horrors of the Great War are not the only ghosts that haunt Helen Morrow and her late husband’s somewhat reclusive cousin, Paul. Unquiet spirits from another time and another conflict touch them.
A coded diary gives them clues to the mysterious disappearance of Paul’s great-grandmother in 1812, and the desperate voice of a young woman reaches out to them from the pages. Together Helen and Paul must search for answers, not only for the old mystery, but also the circumstances surrounding the death of Helen’s husband at Passchandaele in 1917.
As the mysteries entwine, their relationship is bound by the search for truth, in the present and the past.
A Lyrical Press Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781616504076 | Length: 100,000 words | Ebook Page Count: 276 | Publication Date: September 3, 2012
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Copyright 2012, Alison Stuart
All rights reserved, Lyrical Press, Inc.
The path flattened out and the trees cleared to reveal five granite monoliths silhouetted against the early morning sun, the Celtic warriors turned to stone by a druid’s curse of Charlie’s stories.
Helen slid from the saddle and tied Minter’s reins to a tree. Almost afraid to breathe, she walked toward the ancient stones. Two had fallen on their sides and two leaned haphazardly as if they would fall if she touched them, but the last one still stood tall and straight within the circle.
She placed her hand on the lichened and weathered surface, half-expecting to feel the beat of a living heart within the granite.
“You’re the archaeologist,” she said at last, turning back to Paul. “How old are they?”
He stood on the edge of the circle watching her, his hands thrust into the pockets of his trousers.
“No one knows,” he said. “I would say a couple of thousand years at least. If not older.”
“Are they on your land?”
He nodded. “They were here before the Morrows and will be here long after we’ve gone. Tony will tell you that on the Wellmore land, they have seven standing stones, but they’re nothing more than an eighteenth century folly. These,” as he spoke, he walked into the circle and sat down on one of the fallen stones, “are real.” He straightened his right leg and rubbed it.
Helen sat down next to him. A flight of birds rose from the trees above their heads, spiraling into the soft gray morning light. Charlie had loved Australia but this had been his home long before he met her, this was where he truly belonged. More than at any time since she had come to England the question nagged at her mind, the need to know how he had died, the need to lay his memory to rest and turn her face to the future.
“Paul…” Her fingers twisted the wedding band on her left hand.
“You’re going to ask me about Charlie?” he interrupted.
She looked down at the toe of her riding boot. “Am I that transparent?”
“No, but it’s the question you want answered, just as Evelyn does. That is why you came to England, isn’t it?”
Helen opened her mouth, the denial forming on her lips. “Partly,” she admitted.
Paul crossed his ankles and looked up at her. “I can’t give you the answer you want, Helen, because I don’t know. My memory of what happened between a mortar shell blowing up in front of me and waking up in the field hospital is a complete blank.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…”
He rose to his feet. “You have every right to ask, Helen, but you will just have to accept that you may never know the answer.” He started to walk away and then turned back to look at her. “And if you do find the answer, it may not be the one you want to hear. I had to write letters.” Paul took a heavy breath and looked up at the trees. “Every time one of my men was killed. The grieving mothers and widows would not have thanked me for honesty. We all take refuge in platitudes as a defense against the horror of reality. Let him go, Helen.”