The Other Side of Silence
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by Celia Ashley
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Romance
Description: From the first day she met him, everything about the tall, dark stranger with the beautiful amber eyes set Sunny's blood on fire. But just who was Roger? Where had he come from? Who had he been? No one knew, not even Roger Macleod. Rating: Contains mild violence, adult language, and graphic sexual content.
eBook Publisher: New Concepts Publishing, 2006
eBookwise Release Date: June 2008
3 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [120 KB]
Reading time: 74-104 min.
Prologue"If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life,it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat,and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence."George Eliot 1819-80; Middlemarch (1871-2)
Roger struggled for a moment against the binding of his hands, and then relaxed. In fear that he would attempt escape, they could not let him walk freely to the scaffold. He understood this.
He drew a deep breath beneath the loose blouse, grown soiled in his long days of confinement. The air was fragrant with crisp smoke and fallen leaves and the lingering autumnal chill, the breeze wafting away baser scents from his nostrils. He did not want his last memory to be one of the prison's foul odors, nor of the rank press of bodies gathered round below to witness his hanging.
Mounting the steps to the scaffold, Roger lifted his head, his dark unbound hair flying in the wind. The minister walked at his side, muttering prayers from the open book in his hands. Roger could see the bald patch on the man's pate, the place at his shoulder where the seams of his frock coat were separating, the dirt beneath his nails as he trailed his fingers along the printed words to hold his place on the fluttering pages. The preacher was a short man and, even had he not been, Roger would have been considerably taller. He'd always been distinguishable by his height, taller by a full head and more than most men he had ever known.
Perhaps had he taken into consideration the ease with which he might be identified by his height he would have chosen a different occupation. Ah, well. There was nothing for it now but to accept his fate.
Red-coated soldiers lined the yard and the lane beyond in an attempt to keep order. With a twist of amusement to his lips, Roger watched the pickpockets ply their trade. A particularly enterprising young lad was hawking what were purported to be locks of Roger's own hair. Well, let him be. No one had come to sever even a strand from his head, but if these citizens were willing to part with their hard-earned coin for a fraudulent and morbid memento, then so be it.
None of them remembered, of course. Why would they? Why would they recall that a winsome lass had given her life for his own, in order to keep him from the hangman's tree? And for naught, as here he stood anyway, waiting for the noose to be slipped about his neck.
His heart wrenched in his breast as he thought of her, of young Janet Black, the innkeeper's daughter. Misguided, mistaking a kiss in the dark as a promise of more, placing herself in front of the soldier's muskets. God, he would make it up to her if he could, but there was no chance of that now, was there? She was dead, because of him. He had not loved her, but he would now, if he could, just to do right by her. He would care for her for the rest of her days ... but she had none left to her. And neither did he.
They'd driven him in the cart past her grave, there at the edge of the kirkyard, just to torment him, he supposed. He recalled the leaves skittering across the ragged grass up against the headstone. Recalled as well her father's eyes watching him, dark as his daughter's own but without the joyful laughter Roger remembered. Winsome, yes, she had been so, and kind-hearted. He should have loved her while he had the chance.
The minister's voice grew louder, as if trying through the strength of volume to make him pay attention to the words. Roger raised his eyes to the sky, to the skein of geese winging overhead in the bright, bright blue. Their disharmonious voices called to him, spoke to him of limitless freedom, of distant places, of the passing of the bountiful seasons and the start of the long, cold winter. Of Janet's grave beneath the snow. Of his own.
His eyes watered in the sun and he lowered his head, dark hair drifting across his brow. The noose was slipped around his neck and he stepped forward, planting the soles of his boots on the mark in the boards at his feet. His gaze fell on a place just beyond the crowd, caught movement there, tried to seek it out, to follow the flutter of long black hair blowing back from a face as fair and delicate as a dove's. She was there, she was there, young Janet, ghostly with the sun shining right through her skin, her clothes, telling him in silence not to be afraid. He tried to answer her that he wasn't, but the words would not come. Her eyes held his, those dark blue eyes like midnight, and he felt the vibration of the platform beneath his feet, felt the sudden plunge, heard the passage of rushing air in his ears, of exploding blood in his heart, and then ... nothing.