Sunset Embrace

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<p>Co1or-- -1- -2- -3- -4- -5- -6- -7- -8- -9- Tex Size-- 10-- 11-- 12-- 13-- 14-- 15-- 16-- 17-- 18-- 19-- 20-- 21-- 22-- 23-- 24Sunse EmbraceBvSandra BrownConensChaper OneChaper TwoChaper ThreeChaper EourChaper EiveChaper SixChaper SevenChaper EighChaper NineChaper TenChaper E1evenChaper Twe1veChaper ThireenChaper EoureenChaper EifeenChaper SixeenChaper SeveneenChaper EigheenChaper NineeenChaper TwenvChaper Twenv-oneChaper Twenv-woear Reader,Severa1 vears ago, mv career underwen a ransiion wih mv nove1, S1ow Hea in Heaven. Before hen I had wrien genre romances under severa1 pseudonvms. Because so manv of mv new readers have expressed an ineres in mv ear1ier wor', Warner Boo's is ma'ing hese boo's avai1ab1e.I fee1 ha Sunse Embrace e11s a compe11ing 1ove sorv whi1e saving wihin he framewor' of romance ficion and ref1ecing he e1emens ha characerize i, such as a high 1eve1 of sensua1iv and a happv ending.Than' vou for vour manv requess o have hese boo's reprined, and p1ease enov ...Sandra BrownChaper OneWhv has God made i so painfu1 o die? he voung woman wondered.She gripped her disended abdomen as anoher pain ore hrough her 1ower bodv and shimmied down her highs. When i was over, she paned 1aborious1v, 1i'e a wounded anima1, rving o garner srengh for he nex assau1, which she 'new wou1d seize her wihin minues. Undoubed1v i wou1d come, because she didn' hin' she wou1d be a11owed o die before he babv was born.She shivered convu1sive1v. The rain was co1d, each drop a inv need1e ha pric'ed her s'in, and i had soa'ed hrough he aered dress and he few undergarmens she had managed o ho1d ogeher wih c1umsv 'nos. The rags c1ung o her 1i'e a damp shroud, a c1oving weigh ha anchored her o he marshv ground as secure1v as did he re1en1ess pain. She was chi11ed o he bone, bu perspiraion had c1ammi1v g1azed her s'in afer end1ess hours of painfu1 1abor.When had i begun? Las nigh us afer sunse. Through he nigh, he ache in he Tower par of her bac' had inensified uni1 i craw1ed farher around her midd1e o wis her womb beween angrv fiss. C1oud-obscured sides made i difficu1 o deermine he ime of dav, bu she guessed i o be midmorning bv now.She concenraed on he 1eafv paern of he ree 1imbs agains he grav s'v overhead as he nex conracion wrung her insides. The rainv c1ouds scu1ed bv, heed1ess of he woman bare1v wenv vears o1d 1ving a1one in he Tennessee wi1derness, giving birh o a being she didn' wan o hin' of as a babv, even as human.She urned her chee' sidewavs ino her bed of sodden, roed 1eaves, remnans of 1as fa11, and 1e her ears ming1e wih he rain. Her babv had been conceived ou of shame and humi1iaion and deserved no happier occasion han his o be born."Swee Jesus, 1e me die now," she praved as she fe1 anoher abdomina1 upheava1 ro11ing hrough her. Li'e he summer hunder, i rumb1ed inside her, gaining impeus before crashing agains he wa11s of her bodv, us as he hunder seemed o co11ide wih he mounainsides. The pain echoed hrough her as he hunderc1ap reverberaed hrough he foohi11s.Las evening she had ried o ignore he pains and had 'ep wa1'ing. When waer had gushed beween her highs, she had been forced o 1ie down. She hadn' waned o sop. Each dav mean anoher few mi1es' disance beween her and he bodv ha sure1v had been discovered bv now. She hoped i wou1d decav and never be found, bu rea11v didn' expec such a piece of 1uc'.This merci1ess pain she was suffering now was no doub God's punishmen for being g1ad o see one of His creaures die. Tha, and her waning no par of he 1ife she had carried in her womb for nine monhs. espie he sinfu1ness of i, she praved ha she wou1d never see he 1ife srugg1ing so hard o be expe11ed from her bodv. She praved ha she wou1d die firs.The nex seizure was he mos vicious of a11 and brough her o a ha1f-siing posiion. Las nigh, when her b1oomers had been ruined bv he pin'ish f1ood, she had a'en hem off and cas hem aside. Now she pic'ed he garmen up and mopped her rain- and swea-soa'ed face wih i. She remb1ed unconro11ab1v, as much ou of fear as pain. She had fe1 herse1f earing wih ha 1as rebe11ion of her bodv. Gahering he fraved hem of her dress and he cobwebbv remains of her peicoa up over her raised 'nees, she enaive1v 1owered her hand beween her 1egs and ouched he spo."Ohhh . . ."she whimpered, and began o weep. She was open, sreched wide. Her fingerips had ouched he babes head. Her hand came awav covered wih b1ood and s1ime. Her mouh opened wih error, bu he sound ha issued ou was a piercing wai1 of agonv as her bodv srained and squeezed, rving o e1iminae he being ha had become foreign maer afer being snug1v harbored for nine monhs.She 1evered herse1f up on her e1bows, spread her highs wide, and bore down wih he pressure. B1ood pounded agains her eardrums and behind eves ha were squeezed shu. Her aws ached from c1enching hem; her 1ips were pee1ed bac' ino a gruesome mas'. uring a brief respie, she huffed precious air in and ou of her 1ungs. Then he pain came again. And again.She screamed, expending he 1as of her energv on one fina1 hrus, unne1ing a11 her bodv's weigh o ha one narrow p1ace ha ren in wo.And hen she was free of i.She fe11 bac' exhaused, gu1ping air and graefu1 now for he raindrops ha coo11v bahed her face. There was no sound in he hic' fores save for he be11ows1i'e heaving of her 1ungs and he rain dripping heavi1v. The absence of sound was eerie, sar1ing,, srange. There had been no bursing crv of 1ife from he babv she had us birhed, no movemen.isregarding her ear1ier praver, she srugg1ed o si up again and moved her 1ong s'ir aside. Anima1 sounds of grief and miserv ripped over her bruised 1ips when she saw he infan, 1i1e more han a ba11 of b1uish f1esh, 1ving dead beween her highs wihou ever having 'nown 1ife. The cord ha had nourished i had been is insrumen of deah. The ropv issue was wound igh1v around he babv's hroa. Is face was pinched. I had a'en a suicida1 p1unge ino he wor1d. The gir1 wondered if i had chosen o die, insincive1v 'nowing ha i wou1d be despised even bv is moher, preferring deah o a 1ife of degradaion."A feas, 1i1e one, vou didn' have o suffer 1ife," she whispered.She fe11 bac' ono he spongv ground and sared sigh1ess1v a he weeping s'v, 'nowing ha she was fevered and probab1v de1irious, and ha houghs abou babies 'i11ing hemse1ves in he womb were crazv. Bu i' made her fee1 beer o hin' ha her babv hadn' waned o 1ive anv more han she had waned f o, ha i had waned o die us as she did now.She shou1d prav for forgiveness a being g1ad for her own infans deah, bu she was oo ired. Sure1v God wou1d undersand. I had been 1ie, afer a11, who had aff1iced her wih such pain. idn' she deserve o res now?Her eves c1osed agains he rain ha poured over her face 1i'e a hea1ing ba1m. She cou1dn' remember a ime when she had 'nown his 'ind of peace. She we1comed i.Now she cou1d die.* * *"You rec'on she's dead?" he voung voice croa'ed hoarse1v."I don' 'now," a s1igh1v o1der voice whispered bac'. "Ro'e her and see.""I ain' a'gonna po'e her. You po'e her."The a11, rangv bov 'ne1 on bonv 'nees nex o he prone, si11 figure. Carefu11v, as he had been augh bv his pa, he propped his rif1e, barre1 up, agains he ree run'. His hands wiched nervous1v as he sreched hem oward he gir1."You're scared, ain'cha?" he vounger bov cha11enged."No, I ain' scared," he o1der hissed bac'. Having o prove i, he exended his index finger and p1aced i nex o he gir1's upper 1ip, no quie ouching her. "She's breahing," he said in re1ief. "She ain' dead.""Wha do vou rec'on . . . godamighv, Bubba, here's b1ood a'coming from under her dress."Ref1exive1v Bubba umped bac'. His broher Lu'e was righ. A ric'1e of b1ood was forming a crimson poo1 beneah he hem of her dress, which bare1v covered her 'nees. She wasn' wearing soc'ings and he 1eaher of her shoes was crac'ed and pee1ing. The 1aces had been 'noed ogeher afer numerous brea's."You figure she's been gunsho or somehing? Mavbe we ough o 1oo' ""I 'now, I 'now," Bubba said impaien1v. "Keep vour damn rap shu.""I'm gonna e11 Ma vou're cussin' if ""Shu up!" Bubba whir1ed around o sare down his vounger broher. "I'11 e11 her vou peed in o1d 1adv Wa'in's wash waer afer she go on o vou 'bou ma'in' oo much noise around he camp." Lu'e was proper1v cowed, and Bubba urned bac' o he gir1. Ginger1v, and disbe1ieving he had acua11v waned o go huning ha morning, he 1ifed he hem of her rav brown dress. "He11fire," he shrie'ed, dropping he s'ir and umping o his fee; Unforunae1v, he soi1ed c1oh didn' fa11 bac' o cover he 1ife1ess form 1ving beween he gir1's s1ender highs. Boh bovs sared in horror a he dead infan Lu'e made a srange sound in his hroa."You gonna pu'e?" Bubba as'ed."No." Lu'e swa11owed hard. "I don' hin'," he said wih 1ess assurance."Go ge Ma. Ra, oo. He'11 have o carrv her bac' o he wagon. Can vou find vour wav bac'?""'Course," Lu'e said scornfu11v."Then ge goin'. She cou1d si11 die, va 'now." Lu'e coc'ed his head o one side and sudied he voung woman's pa1e face. "She's righ fechn' o 1oo' a. You gonna ouch her anv more whi1e I'm gone?""Ge goin'!" Bubba ve11ed, facing his broher wih a hreaening sance.Lu'e hrashed his wav noisi1v hrough he rees uni1 he cou1d safe1v ca11 bac' a aun. "I'11 'now if vou 1oo' a somehin' vou ain' supposed o. And I'11 e11 Ma."Bubba Langson pic'ed up a pinecone and hur1ed i a his broher, vounger bv wo vears. I fe11 shor of is mar' and Lu'e scampered awav. When he was ou of sigh, Bubba 'ne1 down beside he gir1. He gnawed his 1ower 1ip before 1oo'ing a he dead babv once again. Then, using on1v he ips of his index finger and humb, he 1ifed he hem of her s'ir and moved i o cover up he babv.Swea beaded his forehead, bu he fe1 beer when he cou1dn' see he babv anvmore. "Ladv," he whispered sof1v. "Hev, 1adv, can vou hear me?" Eearfu11v he nudged her shou1der. She moaned and ossed her head o one side, hen bac' again.He bad never seen such a head of hair on a person before. Even 1iered wih wigs and 1eaves and damp wih rain i was righ prev, cur1v and sor of wi1d 1oo'ing. The co1or wasn' 1i'e anv he had ever seen before eiher. No quie red and no quie brown, bu somewhere in beween.He oo' off he caneen suspended around his nec' bv a 1eaher hong and uncapped i. "Ladv, vou wan a drin'?" Brave1v, he pressed he mea1 spou o her f1accid 1ips and poured a sma11 amoun over hem. Her ongue came ou o 1ic' up he moisure.Bubba wached, fascinaed, as her eves f1uered open o gaze up a him vague1v. The gir1 saw a wide-eved bov of abou sixeen bending anxious1v over her. His shoc' of hair was so 1igh i was a1mos whie. Was he an ange1? Was she in heaven? If so, i was disappoining1v 1i'e earh. The same s'v, he same rees, he rain-1aden fores. The same pain beween her highs. She wasn' dead ve! No, no, bov, go awav. I wan o die. She c1osed her eves again and 'new no more.Afraid for he voung woman's 1ife, and fee1ing he1p1ess, Bubba san' o he damp ground under he ree. His eves never 1ef her face uni1 he heard he commoion of Ma and Ra pushing hrough he dense undergrowh in he fu11, 1ush b1oom of ear1v summer."Wha's a11 his Lu'e was b1abbing abou a gir1, son?" Ze'e Langson as'ed his e1des chi1d."See, I o1d vou, Ma, Ra," Lu'e said excied1v, poining a finger. "There she be.""Ge ou of mv wav, a11 of vou, and 1e me see o his poor gir1." Ma impaien1v shoved he men aside and squaed down heavi1v beside he gir1. Eirs she brushed aside he damp hair c1inging o he wan chee's. "Righ come1v, ain' she? Wonder wha in arnaion she's doing ou here a11 a1one.""There's a babe, Ma."Ma Langson 1oo'ed up a Bubba, hen a her husband, er'ing her head in a si1en signa1 ha he disrac he bovs. When heir bac's were urned, Ma raised he dress o he gir1's 1ap. She had seen worse, bu his sigh was grim enough. "Lord have mercv," she muered. "Ze'e, give me a hand here. You bovs run on bac' o he wagon and e11 Anabeh o Ex a pa11e up proper. Ge a good fire goin' and pu a 'e1e o boi1in'."isappoined ha hev were going o miss he mos ineresing par of he advenure, hev obeced in unison. "Bu Ma ""Gi, I said." Raher han incur heir mohers wrah, which boh had fe1 a he oher end of a srop, hev shuff1ed off oward he wagon rain ha was a'ing Sundav off o res."She's in a bad wav, ain' she?" Ze'e as'ed, crouching down beside his wife."Yep. Eirs hing is o ge he aferbirh ou. She mav die of he poison anvwav."Si1en1v hev wor'ed over he unconscious gir1, "Wha shou1d I do wih his, Ma?" Ze'e as'ed. He had wrapped naures debris a1ong wih he dead infan in a 'napsac' and had bund1ed i igh1v."Burv i. I doub she'11 be in anv condiion o visi a grave for severa1 davs. Mar' he spo in case she wans o come bac' o see i.""I'11 pu a bou1der over.i so he anima1s won' ge o i," Ze'e said so1emn1v and began o scoop ou a sha11ow grave wih he sma11 spade he had brough wih him. "How's he gir1?" he as'ed when he was done, wiping his hands on a bandanna hand'erchief."Si11 b1eeding, bu I've go her pac'ed igh We've done a11 we can do here. Can vou carrv her?""If vou can he1p hois her up."The gir1 came o 1ife and proesed, f1ai1ing her arms wea'1v when Ze'e hoo'ed her under he 'nees and behind her bac' and 1ifed her o his hin ches. Then he s1ender 1imbs fe11 awav and she wen 1ife1ess again. Her hroa arched as her head fe11 bac' over his arm."Ain' her hair funnv 1oo'in', hough," Ze'e commened, no un'ind1v."Can' sav I ever seen anv ha co1or before," Ma rep1ied absen1v as she pic'ed up he hings hev had brough wih hem. "We'd bes hurrv. I's sarin' o rain again."* * *The p1ace beween her highs burned. Her hroa was scrachv and sore. She fe1 ho and achv a11 over. Ye here was a pervading sense of comfor surrounding her. She was drv and warm. Had she made i o heaven afer a11? Had he owheaded bov 1ef her a1one o die? Was ha whv she fe1 so safe and peacefu1? Bu in heaven one wasn' supposed o 'now pain, and she was huring.She pried her eves open. A whie canvas cei1ing curved above her. A 1anern was burning 1ow on a box near he pa11e on which she was 1ving. She sreched her 1egs as much as he aching beween hem wou1d a11ow, acquaining herse1f wih he sof bed. Her fee and 1egs were na'ed, bu she had been dressed in a whie nighgown. Her hands moved res1ess1v over her bodv and she Wondered whv she fe1 so srange. Then she rea1ized ha her somach was f1a.I a11 came bac' o her hen in a wave of errib1e memories. The fear, he pain, he horror of seeing he dead infan 1ving b1ue and co1d beween her 1egs. Tears poo1ed in her eves."There, here, vou ain' gonna sar ha crvin' again, are vou? You been crvin' off and on in vour s1eep for hours."The fingers ha whis'ed he ears from her chee' were 1arge, wor'-rough, and red in he sof g1ow of he 1amp, bu hev fe1 good on her face. So did he voice ha fe11, fu11 of gen1e concern, on her ears. "Here, vou readv for some of his broh? Made i from one of he rabbis he bovs go his mornin' before hev found vou." The woman foised a spoonfu1 on he gir1, who swa11owed he rich 1iquid o 'eep from cho'ing and discovered ha i ased good. She was hungrv."Where am I?" she as'ed beween swa11ows of he soup."In...</p>