With: Beth Anne Miller
An eighty-mile trek across the rugged, stunning beauty of Scotland’s Isle of Skye isn't something I imagined myself doing. Ever. This isn't a trail for beginners. And I'm not a hiker.
But I have to finish it, even if it kills me. I have no choice.
With the ever-changing weather and relentless terrain, I’m in over my head.
Rory Sutherland, my guide on this adventure, is not happy. We clash with every mile, but we recognize a shared pain. Not only is the journey a struggle, but the tension between us is taut with unsaid words. And hope.
He’s broken. I’m damaged. Together, we’re about to make the perfect storm.
Excerpt from Under A Storm-Swept Sky
Rory is a guide leading a hike on the Isle of Skye. He’s been butting heads with Amelia, a hiker in his group, since the moment they met. Prior to this excerpt, Amelia heard Rory having a bad nightmare in his tent. She went in to help, and it didn’t go the way she expected it to. This comes right after that.
I watched Amelia run from my tent as if she were being chased. What the hell did I just do?
I remembered the dream—of course I did. It was always the same one. I was on top of a mountain. The fog had rolled in so quickly that I’d lost my bearings. I was utterly blind, frozen because I didn’t know where the edge was. A voice came from somewhere nearby—I couldn’t tell where—telling me to stay put, that he was coming for me.
But I panicked, the mist so thick, so pervasive, that I couldn’t breathe. I had to get out of there. And he kept telling me not to move, that he would find me, his disembodied voice calling out to me, over and over.
Always the same dream, and it always ended the same way.
Except this time, when the dream changed, when the voice calling to me changed. I knew that voice; it had been shouting at me earlier. Then it was pleading with me. A hand was on my face, and warmth surrounded me, driving away the chill.
I’d opened my eyes, and her beautiful face was so close to mine; her body was so soft and warm against me, like a living blanket.
I’d kissed her, my body coming awake as if from an endless sleep, feeling for the first time in so long. I’d held her close, my body burning for her, wanting more, needing more. As if I was still caught up in a dream—of a completely different kind.
But it hadn’t been a dream. I’d really been holding her, kissing her, feeling her body move against mine.
And then she ran out of the tent.
I needed to see her, to apologize.
I peered outside. Amelia’s tent was all zipped up. The last thing I wanted to do if she was asleep was wake her and make her revisit the whole thing. What I needed to say could wait till morning.
But there was no way I could stay inside that tent. Not now.
I gathered up my sleeping bag and the mat underneath and stepped outside, shivering slightly as the cool breeze touched my sweaty skin. I placed the mat on a relatively pebble-free spot, then laid the sleeping bag on top of it.
Returning to my tent, I felt around for the flask I’d set aside earlier. I ducked back outside and slid into my sleeping bag, zipping it up to my waist. I didn’t know what time it was—late enough for it to be truly dark, the sky flickering with stars.
Just a few yards away, the waves lapped softly against the shore. I opened the flask and took a sip. The whisky slid down my throat, warming my chilled body. But I didn’t feel as warm as I had when I’d kissed Amelia. Don’t go there.
I took another sip and stared at the sea. Though my earlier swim had cleared my head a little bit, it hadn’t purged the memories that haunted me. Nothing truly could, but sometimes they were a little farther out of reach.
But not after today, and likely not for the rest of this week. And if Amelia hadn’t heard me, hadn’t brought me out of that nightmare, it would have been even worse.
I pictured the way she’d looked just a few hours ago, her brown eyes flashing, her face flushed, her chest heaving as she got closer and closer to me in her rage. She was so beautiful, and even though she was shouting at me—we were shouting at each other—all I could think of was how badly I’d wanted to kiss her, to see those eyes flashing with desire instead of anger, to see her cheeks flushed from passion, to see her chest heaving because I was taking her breath away with my kisses.
And now I had kissed her, but it hadn’t exactly gone the way I’d imagined it might. Not only that, she’d run from me.
I’d f**ked everything up.
She was a hiker in my group for a week, and then she’d be on her way home. I’d just needed to get along with her. And now that would never happen.
I took another sip of whisky, then lay back, zipping the sleeping bag up to my chest. I stared at the stars and breathed in the cool sea air, longing for a few hours of dreamless sleep.
About the Author:
After a college semester aboard a schooner, I knew that one day I’d have to write about the exhilaration of being on a ship under full sail. That story, heavily fictionalized, became A STAR TO STEER HER BY.
In addition to horses and the sea, I have a fascination for all things Scottish (including, but not limited to, men in kilts), which I've explored in all of my writing. My next book with Embrace, UNDER A STORM-SWEPT SKY, set on the Isle of Skye, will be out in April 2018. I’m a native New Yorker working in the publishing industry and am looking ahead to my next trip.