Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Forever After; Cascade


a hanover falls novel

Deborah Raney

Lucas Vermontez was a proud firefighter like his father. Now, not only has he lost his father and his best friend, Zach, in the fire at the Grove Street Homeless Shelter, but the devoted rookie can no longer do the work he loves after being crippled in the tragic event. When friendship with his buddy's beautiful widow turns into more, he wonders what he could possibly offer Jenna. Jenna is trying to grieve her husband's death like a proper widow, but the truth is, she never really loved Zach. His death feels more like a relief to her. But that relief is short-lived when she loses her home and the financial support of her in-laws. Now the secrets of her past threaten to destroy her future.

Lucas Vermontez clutched the mask to his face and forced out a measured breath, scrabbling to remember everything he'd learned in training. His air-pack fed a steady line of filtered, compressed air, but the thick bank of smoke in front of him carried him to the brink of claustrophobia.

The concrete beneath his feet shuddered. Next to him, he felt his partner, Zach Morgan, drop down on all fours. Lucas followed suit. Catching a glimpse of Zach, he wondered if his own eyes held the same wild fear.

He sucked in air and exhaled again, fighting panic. This was no training exercise. This was the real thing. Statue-still in the smoky darkness, he strained to discern the voices he was sure he'd heard seconds earlier. But his helmet and hood created their own white noise and no sound pierced them save the roar of the fire overhead.

A split second later, an explosion rocked the building, throwing him flat on his belly and knocking the breath from him. Debris rained down on them, and when he could breathe again, he scrambled for protection.

Zach motioned frantically behind them toward the entrance they'd come in. In the aftershocks of the explosion, the copper pipes overhead trembled and the thick wooden beams bowed beneath the weight of the building.

Lucas forced out a breath and counted, trying to slow his respiration. If the structure collapsed, they didn't stand a chance. They were in the belly of the beast––the basement of the former hospital that now housed a homeless shelter––with three stories stacked on top of them.

"Go!" He motioned Zach out, his own voice ringing in his ears.

Zach scrambled ahead of him, hunkered low trying to stay in the two-foot clearing beneath the bank of smoke.

Lucas sent up a prayer that they'd gotten everybody out. His father, the station captain, had radioed moments ago that all but one of the shelter's residents were accounted for. He'd ordered the crews to evacuate and had sent Lucas and Zach in to search for the missing man.

It always filled him with pride to hear Pop's commanding voice. Manny Vermontez was the best fire captain Hanover Falls—or the state of Missouri, for that matter—had ever had. And that wasn't just the opinion of a proud son. Pop had worked hard to get where he was, and the whole family rightfully had him on a pedestal, even if it sometimes caused conflict at home. Ma swore her prematurely graying hair came from having a husband, and now a son, who put their lives on the line almost daily.


He spun at the sound of Pop's voice. Not on the two-way like he expected, but insidethe building––down here.

"Pop?" He turned back, straining to see through the thick smoke. He saw no one. "Zach?"

His partner must have gone ahead to the entrance. Good. Zach would make it out okay. But what was Pop doing down here?

"Pop? Where are you?"

Nothing. The crew from Station 1 must have arrived. Either that or somebody was still trapped inside the building. Pop would never leave the control engine otherwise.

The smoke banked downward and he had no choice but to crawl on his belly, commando-style. He still had air, but everything in him told him to get out. Now.

But he couldn't leave. His dad was down here!

The building groaned and shuddered again.


There it was again. He rolled over on his back and propped himself on his elbows, trying desperately to figure out which direction the shout had come from. He listened for a full ten seconds but heard only the deep roar of the fire above him.

He started belly-crawling again, but in the orange-black he was confused about which way he'd been headed. He needed to follow the sound of Pop's voice. His dad would lead him out. But where had they come in? Everything around him looked the same. Panic clawed at his throat again.

Once more, he heard the voice. Weaker this time, but he didn't think he was imagining it. The old-timers told stories about hearing voices, seeing things––hallucinations––in the frantic moments where a man hung between life and death. But he wasn't in full panic mode––not yet. And he knew his father's voice.

He crawled deeper into the blackness, forearm over forearm in the direction of the voice, grateful for the heavy sleeves of his bunker coat. But he heard nothing now. Nothing except the raging fire and the ominous creak of beams somewhere above his head.

He stopped again and listened. He smelled smoke and the unique odor of the air-pack, but there was something else, too. Something had changed.

A new sound filtered through his helmet. The clanging of engines? A crew from Station 1 had been requested. That must be them arriving. But the sound was coming from behind him. He'd been heading deeper into the building.

He reversed his direction. Thank God for those engines. Their clamor would guide him out. The taut thread of fear loosened a bit. Help was on the way.

"Pop?" he shouted. "You there?" He waited for a reply before moving forward. His air supply seemed thinner than before. Smoke choked him. He couldn't stay down here much longer. He would have sold his soul for a two-way radio right now. He prayed Zach had gotten out...that his buddy would let them know he was still down here.

At that moment, a faint glimmer caught his eye. The voices of his fellow firefighters drifted to him. He crawled faster, heading toward the light.

"Hey! It's Vermontez!" Molly Edmonds shouted. "Lucas is out! Tell the chief!"

Lucas collapsed on the damp concrete outside and felt strong arms pull him out, then help him to his feet.

He stripped off his mask and hood, gulping in the sooty air. "Where's Pop? Where's my dad?"

"He went in after you!" Molly yelled over the roar of the blaze. "Didn't you see him down there? What about Zach?" She jogged back toward the building.

"Anybody seen the captain?" someone yelled. "Where's Manny?"

"Morgan's still in there, too!"

Yanking his headgear back on, Lucas stumbled to his feet and jogged after Molly.

He heard the men shout for them to retreat, but he didn't care. His father was in that inferno looking for him.

Molly disappeared into the mouth of the building. He followed. A split second later another explosion rocked the earth, knocking him to his knees. Oh, dear God! No! God, help me!

From Howard/Simon & Schuster

© 2011 Deborah Raney

Do not reproduce without permission.

Available in bookstores everywhere, or order online at CBD.com, amazon.com or other bookstores online.

Visit Deborah's website at www.deborahraney.com

* * *


by Lisa Bergren

What if you not only fell through time, but fell in love too?

Gabi knows she's left her heart in the fourteenth century and she persuades Lia to help her to return, even though they know doing so will risk their very lives. When they arrive, weeks have passed and all of Siena longs to celebrate the heroines who turned the tide in the battle against Florence—while the Fiorentini will go to great lengths to see them dead. But Marcello patiently awaits, and Gabi must decide if she's willing to leave her family behind for good in order to give her heart to him forever.

"A romantic tale that twists and turns with every page, Cascade is the ideal sequel to Waterfall. A riveting tale to the very end, this adventure follows Gabi back into the arms of the dashing Marcello as history unfolds. Bergren leaves us with only one question: Can their love transcend time? Read this book—you won't regret it. I could hardly put it down!"

—Shannon Primicerio, author of God Called a Girl and the TrueLife Bible Studies series

An excerpt from CASCADE….

"Mom, there are two castles within two miles of this site. The one we pass, every day, on our way in here, and the one over the hill, past the tombs." I reached out and took her hands. "We've been in both. But they were whole—full-on homes for people. Lots of people. Lia could sketch them both for you. One was inhabited by a man who fought for Firenze; the other, by a family who was loyal to Siena."

I glanced to the tent doorway, its flap still and hanging, and rose. I lifted the edge of my gown and showed her my wound, now nothing but a white scar on my skin. "Look, Mom. Check out the length of it. How it looks old? Like I got it five years ago, right?"

She blinked rapidly, as if she was seeing things. Trying to make sense of it all.

I dropped my gown and gestured to the bloodstain, directly over my scar. "It's bloody because I was bleeding like crazy, just a half hour ago. I got the wound in that castle," I said, gesturing in the direction of the Paratore ruins, "when Lia and I were fighting for our lives. There's something about the tomb, coming through time, that heals. It healed me."

She bit her lip, still looking at the blood.

I shook my head, irritated at how long it was taking to convince her. "How else could I get that scar? Without you knowing about it?"

Her eyes met mine. "It makes no sense."

"No," I said. "It doesn't. But look at the facts, Mom. Haven't you and Dad always taught students to catalog the facts and then move to theory?" I had her there. I'd heard her say the exact same thing a hundred times.

Her eyes flitted between us and then down at her hands, back and forth, still trying to puzzle it through.

If only Dad was here… He'd always been the more impulsive of the two. He followed his heart. Mom liked to consult her brain first, and there was no way that our story was going to be figured out logically. No way. Hadn't scientists been trying to figure out the whole time/space continuum thing for centuries?

Mom looked up at us then, unblinking. "Show me," she said slowly. "Let's go to the tomb now."

"In front of Manero?" I frowned.

"No," Lia said, shaking her head. "We just got back."

But I was nodding. "I need to go back."

"For what…forever?" Lia spit at me. "There's so much we don't know, Gabi. What if you get sick again, going back?"

"I won't get sick again. I was healed. Time has passed, both here and there."

"You don't know that."

"I do. We `left' about twenty-five minutes ago. But what'd we experience back in 1342? About twenty days, right? If we go—"

Mom held her hands up, silencing us both. "No one's going anywhere," she said. "I simply want you to show me exactly what happened. On site."

"She thinks she's in love with a dude named Marcello," Lia said accusingly, her distrusting blue eyes on me. "She'll do whatever she has to to get back."

Mom looked at me. "Is that true? You think you're in love with this Marcus person?"

"Marcello Forelli," I corrected, each lilting syllable twisting my gut. "And, uh, yeah. I fell pretty hard for him."

Mom's eyes moved from my face to my clothes again, as if she was trying to remember that there was scientific evidence to support our story. Otherwise, she probably would have dismissed it as some wild dream…like we both hit our heads or something.

"That's how she got hurt," Lia said, pressing now, sensing she had the upper hand. "I mean, she got hurt in a battle and I had to stitch her up, but she's in love with a guy who already has a girl. And then that chick poisoned Gabi!" She walked over to me, hands on her hips. "You really want to go back? Back to where I almost lost you?" She shook her head. "I can't do it, Gabs. Not after Dad. I can't deal with it. I'll lose it, seriously lose it, if something happens to you."

"Nothing is going to happen to anyone," Mom said, stepping up beside us.

I eyed the computer screen. Another ten minutes. Another ten days, for Marcello, thirty now that I'd been gone. Was he giving up? Giving in to Lady Rossi and the pressure to follow through on their marriage agreement? Had he guessed that she might have been poisoning me?


Copyright 2011 Lisa T. Bergren; do not reproduce without permission

Cascade, by Lisa T. Bergren, is the available now at fine bookstores everywhere, as well as online. Book One, Waterfall is out too, and Book Three, Torrent, releases September 1, 2011.

Link for Lisa T. Bergren: http://lisatawnbergren.com/

Link for "online" above: http://www.amazon.com/Cascade-Novel-Lisa-T-Bergren/dp/1434764311/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1305210612&sr=8-1

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