First Chapter of Wild Wales

First Chapter of Wild Wales

Aisling parked her convertible under the stars and started up the steep stone staircase leading to Dalwart Abbey, a fifteenth-century Scottish monastery perched at the tip of the cliffs jutting out over the Atlantic Ocean. The moon hovered like liquid silver over the sea as she climbed, and as she got to the top and replaced her stilettos, two dark owls swooped through the mist hovering over the grounds, stirring it with their wings. It was close to midnight, but Aisling was still working; the Wentworth wedding the next day was by far the most important event of her career. A copper wave of hair slipped suddenly out of the French twist at the back of her head, and Aisling pulled a hairpin from her inner jacket pocket and pinned it back into place as she walked.
The Wentworths were richer than the Queen, or perhaps Aisling was just recalling a recent quote from the London society pages, but the total bill for the event was already well into six figures, not including her services as the wedding planner. No expense had been spared for the only daughter of Hamish Surrey, the owner of the London Daily Times. It was the wedding that would elevate her to partner status in the event planning firm she’d been working with for a decade, Slate & Crystal Productions. Their clientele was elite, the waiting list famously long, and she was poised at the edge of a very lucrative offer as partner in the firm if this wedding went off without a hitch. Of course it would be flawless; she was Aisling Moss. A recent client had described her in an industry magazine as equally capable of running a wedding or the country, and it wasn’t far from the truth.
She walked through the double doors to the central lofted expanse of the monastery, surrounded by crumbling stone walls and golden lights strung from pillar to post in shimmering layers of opulence. Aisling glanced at her watch. The wedding flowers were being delivered in six hours and twenty-seven minutes, which would warm and soften the space, but even without them the look so far was perfect, marred only by the few scruffy workmen on ladders replacing bulbs.
Aisling stood in the center of the three-story monastery, the roof long gone and replaced by a million glittering stars and endless black silk sky. The four central walls had crumbled at the top centuries ago after the roof disappeared, but there were still twenty-four meters of towering stone stretching into the night sky. Cold November air swept in off the sea, ruffling Aisling’s hair and rocking the strings of lights like an invisible hand.
She turned and scanned the lights overhead, strung from the entrance to the far end of the building. It had taken most of the day, but finally there didn’t seem to be a single missing bulb in the hundreds of glowing orbs layered between the sky and stone under her feet.
“How long until everything’s done, lads?”
The foreman turned to face Aisling from the top of his ladder and scanned the room, dropping a screwdriver back into his shirt pocket. “The last of the spent bulbs have been replaced and are working now, ma’am, and I’ll be here in the morning to ensure they stay that way.”
“It looks beautiful, Eugene,” Aisling said, turning to him with a warm smile. “Thank you again for all your hard work.”
Aisling had observed early on that a common misstep made by top-tier wedding planners was to leave the details to the “day laborers,” as they often referred to them, and then treat them as such. Aisling figured out early in her career that the smallest details were often the most important, as were the people in charge of them, and had always been careful to treat every employee with respect, in every situation.
“Everything looks perfect, gentlemen.”
Aisling nodded to the crew as they packed up the ladders and equipment around her. Within minutes they were gone, and the silence settled heavy and reverent in the way it does only in a place of worship. Her footsteps on the stone floors echoed as she stepped outside the rear door to ensure the light above it had been replaced as well. She flipped the main power lever to the off position as she stepped back inside, pulling the heavy wood door shut behind her. The lights overhead darkened instantly, and she was left with only the moon, framed like a painting by the open walls reaching up to touch the handful of stars scattered across the sky.
Aisling flipped the flashlight app on her phone and shone it into the moonlit space. It was Caroline Wentworth, barefoot, clad only in pink satin pajama pants and a T-shirt emblazoned with “Bride” in tiny crystals. She walked the length of the aisle, a champagne bottle dangling precariously from her fingertips, until suddenly her face crumpled into her hands and her shoulders shook with silent sobs. Aisling gently took the bottle from Caroline and guided her to one of the bright white wooden chairs that had been delivered that day and arranged into perfect rows on either side of the aisle. Aisling had pulled a tape measure from her pocket after they’d finished setting them up and measured the angles of the corners herself, ensuring the left side of the aisle was a perfect mirror image of the right.
“What’s the matter, Caroline?” Aisling said with a discreet glance at her watch. “You should have been asleep hours ago. You have a big day ahead of you tomorrow.”
Caroline just shook her head and swiped at her flushed cheek with the heel of her hand. When she spoke, her voice was barely there, as if she knew what she was about to say shouldn’t be spoken aloud.
“I shouldn’t be crying about this.” She sniffed, eyes fixed on her pale bare feet against the cold stone floor. “I know it’s too late.”
Aisling pulled a pressed linen handkerchief from the inside pocket of her suit jacket. “Too late for what?”
Caroline stared at her hands, where she was twisting the handkerchief into the diameter of a wire, as Aisling’s stomach dropped. Over the last decade, she’d handled almost every issue imaginable for her brides, from late grooms to splashes of Cognac on bespoke silk dresses. She knew instinctively when a problem was serious. This was serious.
“Whatever it is,” Aisling said. “I promise it seems bigger now than it will in the morning.”
She watched her closely, hoping Caroline would take her advice and smile, then dry her tears and promise to go straight to bed. No such luck—not that Aisling really thought there would be.
“I have to tell you something.” Caroline hesitated, looking up at her and biting her lip before she went on. “I have to tell someone or I’ll go crazy.”
Aisling braced herself, her face a calculated balance of calm and concern. Caroline hesitated again, then looked up at the sky as another tear fell from her cheek to the unused handkerchief still twisted in her hands. Caroline was the kind of pretty that money could buy. She was a bit too thin, which Aisling knew was overweight by the moneyed set’s standards, and her features were attractive, but nothing quite kept them from fading quietly into the background. She tucked a lock of wheat-colored hair behind her ear and looked at Aisling.
“I read in a magazine once…” Caroline searched Aisling’s eyes. “That you’re a lesbian.”
One eyebrow shot up for just an instant before Aisling caught herself. It wasn’t easy to shock her; before tonight she’d thought it impossible. She didn’t know what she’d expected Caroline to say, but that was certainly not it.
“I am gay,” Aisling said, nodding, her voice so soothing the words seemed to drift into the air like faint curls of smoke. “But what does that have to do with your beautiful wedding?”
Caroline pulled her bare feet off the chilly stone floor and tucked them underneath her on the chair. She looked up at Aisling for a long moment, and when she finally spoke, her voice was a whisper.
It was just one word. But it had the power to change everything.
“I mean, I don’t know if I’m…you know, ‘gay,’” Caroline continued, the words coming thick and fast, as if the door holding them back had been flung open. “But I know something doesn’t feel right. The crazy part is, I’m the only one who sees it. Everyone else keeps assuming it’s nerves or cold feet or whatever they’re calling it, but I’ve always felt this way.”
Aisling took a breath, then thought longingly of the flask in her glove compartment as she asked another question she didn’t want to know the answer to.
“You’ve always felt what ‘way’?”
“Like I’m some stupid actor in someone else’s play.”
They both looked up as an owl the color of cooled ash swooped overhead, then perched on the highest point of the wall beside them. She stretched out her wings against the black night sky, the breeze ruffling the feathers, then settled and swiveled her head toward Caroline as if she were listening.
“But if I marry Harry tomorrow, I’m signing up to be on that same bloody stage for the rest of my life.” She looked up at Aisling, her eyes glittering with intensity. “And I’m not sure I’m willing to do that.”
Aisling thought for a moment before she answered. Over the years, she’d seen hundreds of nervous brides mistake wedding jitters for true misgivings, only to see them vanish like seaside mist as soon as the sun rose on their wedding day.
“You might not believe me, but I think you’ll feel completely different tomorrow. I’ve seen it happen a thousand times.” Aisling took her hand. It was cold, and surprisingly delicate. “You’ve been running around like a banshee for weeks. You’re exhausted.”
Caroline nodded, wiping a tear from her cheek with the back of her other hand.
“When did you know?”
“Know what?” Aisling said. “That I was gay?”
Caroline nodded. The late November air had grown cool around them, and the sound of the icy waves hitting the rocks below made it seem even colder. Aisling took off her suit jacket and draped it around Caroline’s shoulders.
“I guess I didn’t know for a long time. I was in relationships with guys when I was your age—”
“And how old are you now?”
“I’m thirty-three.”
Aisling winced at the words. She’d always assumed she’d be married and settled by now, but in- stead she’d worked her ass off to become the most sought-after wedding planner in the UK, which left her with about two hours per calendar year for dating.
“I guess I just kissed a girl one day and it felt like a puzzle piece slid into place.” Aisling’s voice was soft with the memory. “And the rest is history.”
Caroline slid her arms through the sleeves of Aisling’s jacket, which looked surprisingly hip with the crystal letters of Caroline’s T-shirt underneath it. She wasn’t wearing a bra, and the soft curve of her breasts and taut nipples added an edge to the look that was impossible not to stare at.
Aisling looked away briefly and refocused. It was time to steer the conversation in another direction, clearly.
“You fell in love with Harry for a reason,” Aisling said, looking back and squeezing her hand for emphasis. “You’ve been together for almost two years. That means something.”
Caroline looked up at her. “Do you think it’s just jitters?”
Aisling paused, wishing Caroline had asked her any question but that one. She took a breath and smiled, choosing her words carefully.
“Every bride has nerves the night before the big day. All you need to do is put this nonsense to the back of your mind and get a good night’s rest.” Aisling realized suddenly that she was still holding Caroline’s hand and subtly let go as she continued. “This will all seem like a dream tomorrow morning when you wake up and realize it’s your wedding day, the happiest day of your life.”
Caroline bit her lip, searching Aisling’s eyes. “Do you really mean that?”
Do I mean it? What if she really is gay and the poor girl is reaching out for advice?
Aisling squared her shoulders and reminded herself that this wasn’t her decision to make. Only Caroline could decide what was right for her, just like only Aisling could create the life she wanted for herself. And she knew what she wanted: the corner office in the corporate headquarters with the floor-to- ceiling windows and the ridiculously inflated salary.
“Yes,” Aisling said. “I do think it’s just nerves.”
Caroline ran her hands through her hair and looked up at the sky. It was a long moment before she looked back at Aisling and held her eyes.
“If that’s true.” Caroline’s words were slow and deliberate. “Then kiss me.”
There was a long pause while Aisling tried to make Caroline’s words fit another meaning. Any other meaning.
“Kiss me.” Caroline turned toward Aisling and the jacket fell open again, her sheer T-shirt clinging to her nipples.
Jesus Christ, Aisling thought when she realized that she was actually looking. Get a grip.
“You just told me that you think it’s just jitters, that I’m not gay,” Caroline said, her eyes dropping to Aisling’s mouth. “So I should feel that when I kiss you.”
“That’s definitely not a good idea.” Aisling shook her head slowly as she locked eyes with Caroline, who clearly wasn’t budging. “And not to mention completely unprofessional.”
“Fuck professional.” Caroline stopped herself and took a deep breath. “You told me you didn’t know if you were gay or not until you kissed a girl. Why should it be any different for me?”
Aisling sat back in her seat and rubbed her temples. This was a bad decision, the one coming together like a dark storm in the back of her mind. It was unprofessional. It was rash, immature, and completely out of character. And it was happening.
Aisling turned to face Caroline and slid a hand lightly around the back of her neck. She met her eyes and held them, bringing her slowly closer until she could feel the heat of her skin. She paused, then brushed Caroline’s lips with her tongue, tracing the shape of them, her touch as light as air. She felt her hold her breath as Aisling pulled her into the kiss, tongue stroking Caroline’s lightly until she felt her start to kiss her back. When Aisling finally pulled away, she touched her forehead against Caroline’s and kissed her again before she thought to stop herself. After, Caroline stood, swigged the rest of her champagne, then set the bottle back down on the chair. She walked back up the empty aisle, glancing back over her shoulder at Aisling before she disappeared through the main doors and into the night.
The next morning, Aisling was on her third espresso before she pulled up to the venue, thankfully just before the caravan of refrigerated trucks delivering 12,000 curated roses in soft shades of pale pink and dove gray, as well as the calla lilies they’d had flown in from South Africa. The sun had barely risen over the edge of the sea, but the press was already setting up cameras at every conceivable angle, carefully avoiding the boundary markers Aisling had set up for them. She’d called on the way and had one of her assistants deliver the message that any photographer that stepped even one foot over them would be escorted off the premises immediately.
Caroline was a Wentworth, one of the oldest and most powerful families in London, which meant there would be a handful of token celebrities attending the wedding. And where there were celebrities, there was always press jostling for the perfect shot to sell to the Daily Mail for their gossip pages. It was a necessary evil; high-profile accounts came with their own logistical challenges, but more press meant a higher commission and nationwide exposure for the company.
Aisling paused for a final look in the rearview mirror before she stepped out of the car. Her naturally wild copper hair had been tamed into a prim, tight bun at the back of her head, and she’d chosen her favorite herringbone suit with a pencil skirt that hugged every curve and subtly laced down the back, ending perfectly at her knee and accented by a silk blouse and tailored jacket. She’d learned a long time ago to stop trying to hide her lush, perfectly rounded ass; her waist was tiny and only drew more attention to it, so she’d finally just embraced it and found a good tailor.
She reached into her bag and dotted a bit more concealer under her eyes, smoothing it in with the tip of her ring finger. The smattering of light bronze freckles across her face had been completely hidden by foundation, and the only visible hint of her natural complexion were the golden-brown specks in her pale green eyes. Her lips had always been more sensual than professional, but there wasn’t much she could do about that, except to tone them down with understated Chanel lipstick.
The sky was a crystal blue as she walked up the uneven stone steps to the monastery, and the wind that swept up the steps from the sea carried a cold salt scent that Aisling had always loved. Autumn in Scotland was vast and regal with endless blue skies and icy sea sprays, warmed at the edges by groves of birch trees, the leaves crisp and so vivid they looked on fire.
She was based in London now with Slate & Crystal, but she missed the north and frequently lobbied for the accounts that would take her to northern England and Scotland. Aisling had grown up in Newcastle, just south of the Scottish coast, and toning down her distinctive accent was a constant struggle. Because of the proximity, the language and lilt of the Newcastle and Scottish accents were similar, and in the posh world of professional wedding planning both were seen as crass and unprofessional. Over the years she’d learned to sand the edges of her accent until she blended in seamlessly with the London elite, which was no easy task. Even now, when she was rushed or exhausted, her carefully guarded posh facade slipped quickly if she wasn’t careful.
The morning flew by in a rush of details, and before she knew it the guests were seated, the string quartet sat poised and ready at the front of the monastery, and only three minutes remained until the bride was scheduled to walk down the aisle. When Aisling saw Caroline round the corner of the vestibule on her father’s arm, she spoke quietly into the wire attached to her earpiece, cuing the string quartet to start the first familiar bars of Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March.” She greeted Mr. Wentworth warmly as they approached and touched Caroline softly at the small of her back as they faced the tall gothic doors leading into the monastery.
“Caroline, you look lovely,” she whispered. “Are we ready for this?”
As Caroline nodded, a tear fell onto her cheek and Aisling dabbed it silently then nodded at the attendants on either side of the doors to open them together on her cue. A bright swirl of flashbulbs and shutter clicks commenced, mingled with the requisite gasps of awe from the guests. As they started down the aisle, Aisling cued the doors shut and stepped back, pressing her back against the cool wall of the vestibule. She had forty-one seconds before they reached the altar at the end of the aisle, and she needed every one of them before she slipped in the monastery and took her place just out of sight to the right of the guests.
As she silently stepped in, the vicar was just beginning his opening remarks, and Aisling scanned the room for potential issues. A guest near the front had risen a few inches off his seat to get a clear shot of the bride and groom, enormous camera in hand, and the light from the chandeliers was glinting off his bald, oily head. She tapped her earpiece, nodded toward him, and watched one of her assistants quickly neutralize the situation. A minute later two women in the back-right quadrant were speaking behind their hands, eyes darting around at the other guests, and Aisling watched intently until one of them let out a muffled laugh. At that point, she stepped discreetly into their line of sight and locked eyes with the pair of them. They dropped their hands and regained their manners in a matter of seconds, and soon after Aisling heard the vicar start the vows.
Following British tradition, the groom was first, and she smiled as she listened to Harry repeat the vicar’s words to Caroline. His voice was clear and confident enough to fill the room, which she knew would translate well onto video. He placed the ring on Caroline’s finger, and the Vicar turned, smiling, to recite the vows for Caroline to repeat to her groom. He said the first two lines and paused, waiting to hear her voice recite them back.
The single word echoed off the stone walls like a gunshot and instantly silenced the room. The only sound remaining was the incessant clicking of the camera shutters, and time seemed to slow as Aisling watched two hundred people lean forward in their seats like a single wave falling onto the shore.
Caroline looked terrified as she glanced back at her parents in the front row, then closed her eyes and squared her shoulders. She looked back at Harry and dropped her hands from his.
“I’m so sorry,” she said, her voice as thin and fragile as spun glass. “I thought I could do this, but I can’t.”
“Do you have something you need to say, dear?” The vicar looked at her with kind eyes and closed the prayer book, holding it in front of him. Harry stepped back, glancing back slowly at his groomsmen in shock.
“Yes…” Caroline’s voice trailed off and she looked back at the vicar, who nodded encouragement. The air was thick and silent, and Aisling felt her world shift slowly under her feet. She leaned back against the cold stone wall behind her. For once, there was nothing to do but wait.
“I can’t marry you,” Caroline said to Harry, tears flowing down her face as she turned toward her family. “When Aisling kissed me last night, I—”
Harry stepped back up to Caroline. “Who the hell is Aisling?”
Caroline paused, then scanned the crowd and nodded to Aisling in the back.
“Aisling Moss, our wedding planner. I realized I was gay last night when she kissed me.”
Caroline’s mother raced to the altar and led her daughter through the side exit as flashbulbs and shouting exploded from every angle. The world she’d felt shift under her feet suddenly fell away completely as the room started to spin.

Two days later, Aisling saw the letter that had been slipped through her mail slot. She recognized the stationery as she picked it up slowly and sank down onto the cold marble floor of her apartment.
It was from Slate & Crystal’s lead attorney, writing to inform her of her immediate termination due to the pending lawsuit against the company being filed by the Wentworth family. She scanned the rest, picking up the key phrases gross misconduct and ten days to vacate the corporate apartment before she crumpled the letter in her fist and lay down on the icy marble floor. She’d been there two hours before she opened her eyes and noticed the second envelope. She reached over and picked it up, the floor still pressed cold against her back. The return address was Cwylldbridge, Wales. She ripped it open and scanned the letter, letting it drop to the floor beside her when the meaning of the words began to settle like a stone over her heart.
She heard herself say the word out loud, as if someone were there to listen.

Finn Morgan worked her meta spatula across the grill in the café kitchen, the metallic scrape slicing through the heavy quiet that hovered in the air after the staff had gone home. A glance at the grease-clouded clock told her it was after midnight, but cleaning the grill was the last thing she had to finish before she left for the night. She’d worked back- to-back shifts, and she had to be back at 6:00 a.m. to start it all over again tomorrow.
She stopped when she heard the back door to the café open, the hinges creaking as footsteps replaced the silence.
Fuck, Finn thought, dropping the charcoal block she’d just picked up and leaning onto the grill. Five more minutes and I would have missed her.
She’d been fucking Megan Harrison for three months now, which had started off as a distraction, but now it was becoming clear that Megan wanted more than orgasms. She wanted Finn. Which was inconvenient since she was her boss’s wife.
“Jesus Christ,” Finn muttered under her breath, then plastered a neutral look on her face as Megan teetered around the corner of the stockroom and into the kitchen. She was wearing skinny jeans and shy high heels, her signature outfit, with a strapless white top that Finn could see her nipples through. It wasn’t that she disliked her, she just wasn’t interested in anything more than watching Megan’s clothes hit the floor.
“Hey, sexy.” Megan said as she walked up to Finn and stood too close. “Got any energy left?”
“I was just about to head out the door, actually,” Finn said, finishing the last section of the grill with the brick and washing the black dust from her hands in the prep sink. She turned to Megan and raised an eyebrow. “It’s past midnight. Isn’t Brett wondering where you are?”
“He’s at the other restaurant.” She rolled her eyes. “Where he always is.”
The owner of the café and Megan’s husband, Brett, had opened some hipster pizzeria in Brooklyn last month and Finn hadn’t seen him at the café for weeks, not that she was complaining. Finn lifted her stained apron over her head and tossed it into the laundry bin, running both hands through her hair. Megan’s eyes dropped to the tight definition of Finn’s arms.
“Why do you like this place, anyway?” she said, kicking a dropped sponge under the prep table with the toe of her stiletto. “I could probably get Brett to hire you at the pizza place. He’s looking for a manager.”
“Nah,” Finn said, too quickly. “I’m good.”
“Well,” Megan said, stepping up to Finn and tracing her arm with her fingertip. “What do you want?”
Finn weighed her options. She could stay and fuck Megan, or she could try to explain to her that she was too wiped out, then end up fucking Megan anyway. She picked her up by the waist and sat her on the edge of the prep table.
“I want you to lose those jeans.”
Megan bit her lip as she removed her heels and slid her jeans and red lace thong down her legs. Finn stepped up between her thighs, reaching behind her to unzip her top and toss it to the end of the table. Brett had bought her a new set of tits last year for her birthday and Finn loved the way her hands looked wrapped around them.
“Do you have your strap-on?”
“Yep,” Finn said, brushing Megan’s nipples lightly with the back of her hand. “It’s in the walk-in.”
Megan looked confused and glanced toward the main restaurant refrigerator.
“I’m kidding. Of course I don’t have it here,” Finn said, laughing. “Why would I bring it to work?”
Megan smiled. “I guess we’ve never actually done it here, have we?”
They usually met at one of Megan’s empty houses. She was a real estate agent, and something about fucking in other people’s houses turned her on. The first time they’d hooked up, Finn drove to the address she’d texted her and walked in to find Megan standing naked in the living room wearing only a pair of glossy black stilettos. Her Instagram- worthy blond hair fell in waves over one shoulder, her tan legs were endless, and her nipples were already hard. Megan had walked over and dropped to her knees, then unbuttoned Finn’s jeans and taken every inch of her strapped-on cock into her mouth. Finn still remembered her red, glossy lips and wet tongue sliding up and down the length of it. Needless to say, she’d brought it every time after that.
“But…” Megan hesitated, her fingers playing with the button on Finn’s jeans. “I don’t know if I can come without it.”
Finn wrapped Megan’s legs around her hips. “Trust me,” Finn said, her fingers sliding deep inside Megan as she spoke. “You won’t even remember I have one when I’m done with you.”

It was two thirty in the morning when Finn finally walked into her apartment and dropped her bag on the couch. Well, technically, it was her best friend Tamara’s apartment, who’d let her move in when the shit hit the fan with Finn’s girlfriend a year ago. There was a note on the table.
Go through your mail already. If you don’t, I’m going to fill out those Visa applications you’re always getting and go shopping.
Shit. That was the last thing she felt like doing. Well, maybe not the last thing. Listening to Megan ask her again when they were going on a “real date” was the last thing.
Finn pulled a Corona out of the fridge and popped the top, watching it as it pinged off the tile floor and rolled under the oven. She needed to figure out how to slow the Megan thing down before she got her ass caught by the boss. The obvious solution was to quit her job, but that just seemed like too much trouble. She made decent money there, rarely had to talk to anyone, and she didn’t hate it. But she didn’t love it, either.
Before she worked at the café, she and her ex, Casey, had been co-owners of one of the top wedding catering companies in Brooklyn. They were always booked months in advance and it was the one thing Finn had ever done that she truly loved. Every day was different, and working with her girlfriend had been challenging, but worth it. Until the day Finn proposed and Casey’s answer was hopping on the next flight to Mexico. The ring was still sitting in the stupid velvet box on Finn’s windowsill, shrouded in dust, a reminder that love was a fairy tale she didn’t care to buy into again.
She walked over to the pile of mail and rifled through it, dropping all the junk mail into the trash. The last envelope was marked “par avion” and had several odd-looking stamps on it. She ripped into it and unfolded the typed letter inked on thick, professional stationary. Finn flipped the envelope over and checked the return address. Cwylldbridge, Wales.

Dear Ms. Morgan,

This letter is to inform you that your paternal grandmother, Rose Morgan, died peacefully of natural causes on 18 November 2019. Please accept my deepest condolences for your loss.

As your grandmother’s solicitor and the executor of her estate, I wish to inform you that your presence is requested at a reading of her will on 2 December 2019 at 4:00 pm at my office in Cwylldbridge. Any questions regarding travel or accommodations can be directed to my assistant at the number listed below.

Please understand that per instructions from Ms. Morgan, if you are unable to attend the reading, any claim you may have had to her property holdings or estate will be considered null and void.

Sincerely yours, Padraig Clydd

Finn sank to the floor, holding the letter to her heart, until dawn warmed the floor with unwelcome sunlight. She finally stood to grab her gym bag slouched in the corner of the living room and started taping her hands and wrists. She wound the tape around and around, ripping it off with her teeth and swiping at her tears with the back of her hand as she threw her boxing gloves into the bag. She turned her cell phone off and slammed the door behind her as she walked down the steps of the brownstone to the sidewalk, crisp, weightless leaves swirling in the breeze around her feet.

Late that afternoon, she unlocked the door to the apartment again and turned on her phone as she unwound the tape from her hands. She winced as it pulled the dried blood from her knuckles, leaving raw patches of wet skin. She flexed her fingers and gritted her teeth against the searing air hitting the open wounds, making her slightly nauseous as she leaned on the entry table. She listened to her phone ping as seventeen text messages flashed across the screen, all from either the café or Megan.
She picked it up, sent both the same two-word text, then went to her room to start the hot water for her shower. She passed her windowsill as she walked into the bathroom and paused, turning the ring box over in her hand as the dust stirred and hung in the sheer, fading sunlight. She set it back where it had been for a year, then opened her laptop.
Right, she thought as she clicked through the Delta Airlines website. I’m buying a two-thousand- dollar ticket to some town in Wales I can’t even pronounce. What could possibly go wrong?

Wild Wales will be available July 1st on Amazon,, or my publisher’s website,

Let me know what you think of it!