Today’s taster from my new romance novel, Sweet Entanglement, is narrated by Nicole, the female protagonist.
I hope you enjoy it!
“New Year’s Eve is cool with heavy cloud cover as we set out for St Pièrre and our midnight vigil. However, there is very little wind and I am comfortable in my indoor clothing and Edinburgh coat. Yves drives the Mercedes with Andy in the front and Cathy and me in the back. Georges, Beatrice and the boys are in their own car. We have brought candles. Our stomachs warmed by food and spiced wine, we are prepared for any change in the weather.
Villagers have already gathered in the square for the fireworks display. Rocket trails, exploding shells and coloured stars light the sky as we make our way to the church. Children and adults with sparklers hail us with New Year good wishes. The churchyard is almost deserted. A light burns at one of the graves on the far side framing two silhouettes, another family who have chosen the moment to mourn the passing of a loved one, or to celebrate their life.
We light our candles and make our way to the grey and white marble stone that marks Emmeline’s last resting place. Cathy and Yves each have an arm round the other’s shoulder. Georges and Beatrice walk hand in hand. Their two boys, Gerard and Thomas, trail behind. Andy offers me his hand and I accept gratefully. He is warm to the touch.
We gather in silence round the marble memorial. I squeeze Andy’s hand, remembering the first time I came here with Cathy. Then, two years ago, the stone was spattered with bird excrement, obliterating the second date of the simple legend. Tonight, it is clean, adding poignancy to the occasion:
On my left, Cathy and Yves embrace. On my right, Beatrice and Georges. No words are spoken.
Andy whispers almost inaudibly in my ear. ‘Bonne Année, Nicole!’
‘Bonne Année, Andy!’ I mouth the words and focus my gaze again on the gold lettering on the marble.
Two years. Only three days of life; no life at all.
I haven’t appreciated it before but tonight the significance of the second date – the most bizarre coincidence of all – strikes me with full force. The realisation leaves me breathless. Are we truly in the hands of some whimsical fate, I ask myself? And did Cathy ask herself too, that June day in 2014 when I walked into her life? She once told me Yves had accused her of wanting to adopt me, but I can now see the same longing for a lost daughter in his eyes.
Glancing again to where Cathy and Yves stand silently in one another’s arms, I wonder about the strange, ethereal web which seems to connect our lives. My stomach is a flutter of quarks and gluons, and all those other tiny particles Andy talks to me about, but which I only dimly understand.
Had she lived, Emmeline would be almost exactly my age. Born on the seventh of January 1995, I came into the world near to the moment when she left it.”
Character Biography – Nicole Durand
Nicole was born in Bordeaux, France in January 1995. Her father Pièrre died when she was only twelve years old, and his death drove her mother first into depression, then to addiction. Nicole went to state school, did well in the Bac, but rather than go to university immediately took time out to earn money. In the summer of 2014, she was offered the job of housekeeper and companion to Cathy Ravel. While working in the Ravel home, she met and fell in love with Andy. [See Sweeter Than Wine.]
At the start of Sweet Entanglement, Nicole is nearly twenty-two and in the second year of her English language and literature course at Edinburgh University. She has made new friends and earns money tutoring French. Like Cathy, Nicole loves chocolate! Her favourite wine is Yves Ravel’s special dessert blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.