‘An epic love story that is beautifully told.’ The Sun
‘An epic love story that is beautifully told.’ The Sun
Burning Embers is a contemporary historical romance novel set in Kenya in 1970. It depicts the developing attraction and love between a young and naive woman, Coral, who has come home to Africa, the land of her birth, and Rafe, a handsome, virile, commanding plantation owner who carries a dark secret heavy in his heart. It is an evocative and passionate story of coming of age, of letting go of the past, of having faith in a person and of overcoming obstacles to love, set against the vivid and colourful backdrop of rural Africa and its culture.
Coral Sinclair is a beautiful but naive twenty-five-year-old photographer who has just lost her father. She’s leaving the life she’s known and traveling to Kenya to take ownership of her inheritance–the plantation that was her childhood home–Mpingo. On the voyage from England, Coral meets an enigmatic stranger to whom she has a mystifying attraction. She sees him again days later on the beach near Mpingo, but Coral’s childhood nanny tells her the man is not to be trusted. It is rumored that Rafe de Monfort, owner of a neighboring plantation and a nightclub, is a notorious womanizer having an affair with her stepmother, which may have contributed to her father’s death.
Circumstance confirms Coral’s worst suspicions, but when Rafe’s life is in danger she is driven to make peace. A tentative romance blossoms amidst a meddling ex-fiancé, a jealous stepmother, a car accident, and the dangerous wilderness of Africa. Is Rafe just toying with a young woman’s affections? Is the notorious womanizer only after Coral’s inheritance? Or does Rafe’s troubled past color his every move, making him more vulnerable than Coral could ever imagine?
Set in 1970, this contemporary historical romance sends the seemingly doomed lovers down a destructive path wrought with greed, betrayal, revenge, passion, and love.
The plane was in the air for more than an hour. They flew over blue lakes, torrents, and streams that snaked through the vast plains, and long savannahs with dry river beds foaming, great gashes of red, yellow, and white in the earth. At last they came out on a glade. Coral could see a narrow brook and a darker fringe of immense acacias down at the bottom. Slopes of golden grass over six feet high lay on either side of the watercourse. Up behind came solid gray cliffs; their silvery peaks rose and vanished into the heavens, holding captive the sagging mist of the afternoon.
The plane touched down in a valley surrounded by snow-capped mountains, and though the scenery was dramatically beautiful, for some reason Coral felt uneasy.
“It’s taken us a little longer than I thought,” Rafe said as he pushed open the cockpit cabin roof door, braced his feet on the wing of the plane, and jumped to the ground, “but we’ve arrived.” Coral wriggled out of her seat and gingerly stepped onto the wing, sitting on it for a moment as she scanned the surroundings. There was something eerie about the place, as though they were not alone — the uncomfortable sensation that they were being stared at by wild creatures — and she had a vague sense of foreboding. A shadow must have touched her face because Rafe frowned. “Is anything the matter? You seem troubled.”
Coral smiled down at him, not wanting to spoil the moment. “It’s very wild, very beautiful. You seem to have a predilection for enchanting, remote places.”
“In fact, this place isn’t as remote as you might think — it’s on the edge of a Masai village. There’s actually a road not far from here that runs straight to Narok, close to Lady Langley’s plantation.”
Rafe raised his arms to help her off the aircraft. He lifted her toward him, and she felt his strong torso against her breasts. She could sense a heart thumping uncontrollably; was it hers, or his, or both? She couldn’t tell. As he set her down, she gazed up at him. “Oh, Coral, don’t look at me with those eyes. I can’t vouch for my reaction if you do,” he said, his voice sensually low. He let go of her shoulders, gently pushing her away a little. Taking a hamper and a blanket out of the plane, he added, “Let’s have a spot of lunch and a glass of wine.”
Though the afternoon sunshine was beginning to fade, the air was still hot and heavy. Coral was struck by the awesome silence that surrounded them. Not a bird in sight, no shuffle in the undergrowth, even the insects were elusive. They climbed a little way up the escarpment over the plateau and found a spot that dominated the view of the whole glade. Rafe spread out the blanket under an acacia tree. They ate some chicken sandwiches and eggs and polished off the bottle of cordial. They chatted casually, like old friends, about unimportant mundane things, as though they were both trying to ward off the real issue, to stifle the burning embers that were smoldering dangerously in both their minds and their bodies.
All the while, Coral had been aware of the need blossoming inside her, clouding all reason with desire. She could tell that he was fighting his own battle. Why was he holding back? Was he waiting for her to make the first move? Rafe was laying on his side, propped up on his elbow, his head leaning on his hand, watching her through his long black lashes. The rhythm of his breathing was slightly faster, and she could detect a little pulse beating in the middle of his temple, both a suggestion of the turmoil inside him. Rafe put out a hand to touch her but seemed to change his mind and drew it away. Coral stared back at him, her eyes dark with yearning, searching his face.
The shutters came down. “Don’t, Coral,” Rafe whispered, “don’t tease. There’s a limit to the amount of resistance a man has.”
A flash of long blue lightning split the sky, closely followed by a crash of thunder. Coral instinctively threw herself into Rafe’s arms, hiding her face against his broad chest. She had always had a strong phobia of thunderstorms. Now she knew why the place had seemed eerie, why there had been no bird song or insect tick-tocks, no scuffling and ruffling in the undergrowth. Even though the skies when they entered the valley had not foretold the electrical storm that was to come, just like with the animals, her instinct had told her that something was wrong. But she had been too distracted by the turbulence crackling between her and Rafe to pay attention to the changing sky.
Rafe, too, was shaken out of his daze and turned his head to see that the sun had dropped behind the mountain. Dense clouds had swept into the valley and were hanging overhead like a black mantle.
“Where did that come from? No storm was forecast for today?” he muttered, jumping up.
There was another tremendous peal of thunder, lightning lit up the whole glade, and again another crash. Then the heavy drops of rain came hammering down against the treetops, pouring down through the foliage.
A wind was starting up. Without hesitation, Rafe folded the blanket into a small bundle and tucked it under his arm. He slung the hamper over his shoulder, and lifting Coral into his arms, he climbed his way up to the next level of the escarpment where a ledge of rock was jutting out and found the entrance to a cave where they could shelter. Coral was shivering. She tucked her face into his shoulder, her fingers tightly gripping his shirt. She was completely inert, paralyzed by fear. They were both drenched.
There was no way they would be able to get back to Narok tonight. Coral knew from her childhood that storms were always long in this part of the country, and through her panic she prayed that he wouldn’t be piloting that little plane back in this howling gale. At least here they were protected from the storm. It was not yet completely dark. Rafe looked around, still holding her tightly against him. Coral couldn’t herself as she sobbed uncontrollably.
“Shush, it’s all right,” he whispered softly in her ear. “It’s only a storm. By tomorrow morning it’ll all be over.” He brushed her tears away as more fell. “I’m going to have to set you down for a moment, Coral. I need to light us a fire and get you out of those wet clothes.”
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