Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Space Between: An Outlander Novella by Diana Gabaldon

Joan MacKimmie is on her way to Paris to take up her vocation as a nun. Yet her decision is less a matter of faith than fear, for Joan is plagued by mysterious voices that speak of the future, and by visions that mark those about to die. The sanctuary of the nunnery promises respite from these unwanted visitations . . . or so she prays. Her chaperone is Michael Murray, a young widower who, though he still mourns the death of his wife, finds himself powerfully drawn to his charge. But when the time-traveling Comte St. Germain learns of Joan’s presence in Paris, and of her link to Claire Fraser—La Dame Blanche—Murray is drawn into a battle whose stakes are not merely the life but the very soul of the Scotswoman who, without even trying, has won his heart.

Excerpt via Gabaldon's Facebook Page:

Michael shot Joan a brief glance but then turned back, narrowing his eyes against the wind as he thought.

“Well . . . there’s the sort of nun that prays all the time—contemplative, I think they’re called. I see them in the cathedral all hours of the day and night. There’s more than one order of that sort, though; one kind wears gray habits and prays in the chapel of St. Joseph, and another wears black; ye see them mostly in the chapel of Our Lady of the Sea.” He glanced at her, curious. “Will it be that sort of nun that you’ll be?”

She shook her head, glad that the wind-chafing hid her blushes.

“No,” she said, with some regret. “That’s maybe the holiest sort of nun, but I’ve spent a good bit o’ my life being contemplative on the moors, and I didna like it much. I think I havena got the right sort of soul to do it verra well, even in a chapel.”

“Aye,” he said, and wiped back flying strands of hair from his face. “I ken the moors. The wind gets into your head after a bit.” He hesitated for a moment. “When my uncle Jamie—your da, I mean—ye ken he hid in a cave after Culloden?”

“For seven years,” she said, a little impatient. “Aye, everyone kens that story. Why?”

He shrugged.

“Only thinking. I was no but a wee bairn at the time, but I went now and then wi’ my mam, to take him food there. He’d be glad to see us, but he wouldna talk much. And it scared me to see his eyes.”

Joan felt a small shiver pass down her back, nothing to do with the stiff breeze. She saw—suddenly saw, in her head—a thin, dirty man, the bones starting in his face, crouched in the dank, frozen shadows of the cave.

“Da?” she scoffed, to hide the shiver that crawled up her arms. “How could anyone be scairt of him? He’s a dear, kind man.”

Michael’s wide mouth twitched at the corners.

“I suppose it would depend whether ye’d ever seen him in a fight. But—”

“Have you?” she interrupted, curious. “Seen him in a fight?”

“I have, aye. BUT—” he said, not willing to be distracted, “I didna mean _he_ scared me. It was that I thought he was haunted. By the voices in the wind.”

_That_ dried up the spit in her mouth, and she worked her tongue a little, hoping it didn’t show. She needn’t have worried; he wasn’t looking at her.

“My own da said it was because Jamie spent so much time alone, that the voices got into his head and he couldna stop hearing them. When he’d feel safe enough to come to the house, it would take hours sometimes before he could start to hear _us_ again—Mam wouldna let us talk to him until he’d had something to eat and was warmed through.” He smiled, a little ruefully. “She said he wasna human ’til then—and, looking back, I dinna think she meant that as a figure of speech.”

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