Author: Karen Aldous
Published: 18th April 2016
Hi All. Today on the blog it's my stop on the tour for One Moment at Sunrise by Karen Aldous and I am delighted to be able to share an extract with you. There is also a GIVEAWAY at the bottom of this post.
Evie Grant stamped her foot on the pedal, the wheels of her bicycle whirring through the silence of the Canal du Midi dawn.
‘Why do I always let Seb Wilde call the shots?’ she muttered through gritted teeth. Canal boats slumbered as she approached the Capestang Bridge, even the calm waters reflecting gold-crimson hues from the early morning sky failed to comfort her. She swiped another tear and, stretching out a leg to balance, almost kicked over a plastic bollard. She groaned, thinking how many times he had broken promises before, and as she thrust her foot again on the pedal, a vision of Seb’s face screamed beneath.
She clicked down two gears and sped up the bank, gaining momentum as she mounted the bank. As she reached the bridge, she peered up. But too late. In front of her appeared enormous black shire horses. Two of them were hurtling straight into her path, their hooves deafening as they struck the surface of the bridge. Instinctively, she squeezed on the brakes and steered her handlebars to the edge. The low stone wall offered little support but was all there was between her and a drop into the canal.
‘Oh God. No. Charlotte!’ she screeched her daughter’s name as a beast neared. His heavy chest was now feet away.
Fear ripped through her as she scrambled one leg across the wall gripping for life whilst forcing her body forward to balance and the other leg squeezing against the base of the wall as the bicycle tipped towards the canal. Panicked and helpless, she shrieked.
‘No, please no. Charlotte.’ Evie gripped the handlebars with every ounce of strength she could as she buried her head, the giant body mass and hooves thundering beside her with no room to move. With the thrust, her knee jerked, scrapping down into the wall whilst she tried to maintain the gripHer body remained rigid, inertly taking the full brutality of the momentum as the horse slammed past. Pain took her breath as the frame shook between her legs.
‘Aaargh… Char…lo…tte…’ With her teeth clenched so hard, she could barely say her child’s name. What would happen to her child? Aware that the horses were pulling a carriage, Evie retained her position fearing its strength as it approached. The wheels grind towards her.. She was going to fall and drown. Tightening her grip with her legs, she dared to keep one hand compressing the handlebar whilst reaching with the other for the solidness of the stone wall. Taking a deep breath, she squeezed every muscle, and closed her eyes as the thud of the hooves petered, but the roar of the carriage wheels followed. Evie pressed her weight once more into the
parapet, gritting her teeth and maintaining a grip on the bike but bracing herself for a final push. This was it, it was sure to hurl her over what was no more than a foot of stone. Who knew what was in that water? She must grip the wall, let the bike fall. She couldn’t panic. She won’t panic. Keep calm, keep calm. In her head, she rehearsed a flip of her body to free the bike. She had to lift and kick… let the bike go but grab the wall. Stay calm. The carriage lunged past.
Several seconds later, as the thundering subsided, realisation dawned. Miraculously, thankfully, she wasn’t in the canal fighting for breath and life. She peered around, still bent at an angle, dangling mid-air over the canal, a bright shard of light blinding her. Letting go of her chest, she wailed, ‘I’m alive.’ A poignant mix of straw and leather punched her nose. She let her head drop down. A rush of saliva slid from her mouth as she exhaled and numbness turned to pain.
‘Aarghh…ch. Thank you God… or whoever’s on duty. I’m alive.’ Movement caught her eye. A white knuckle loosened its grasp on the back of her seat. Searching, she met deep brown eyes glistening back. A calmness swept through her.
Keeping the frame of the bike within control, she allowed her wounded leg to restore its weight to the ground. The stranger reached out to steady her, clutching her shoulder. As she levered the bike upright, the mass of the weight was lightened by the aid of the knuckle owner. The thumping in her chest slowed and she blew out a heavy breath as she found both her feet and steadied herself on the handlebars.
‘I can’t believe I’m still here,’ she muttered to the man as she smoothed her face with her hand to confirm her existence. Then her lips began to tremble with relief and, in a blink, her eyes stung and released uncontrollable tears.
Trying to choke them back, she swallowed. ‘Thank you, I…I… I’m sorry, I should have been paying more attention.’ Her hand reached her helmet. Her fingers ran to her chin and unclipped the clasp, removing the helmet from her head. ‘Phew, sorry, I’m a bit shaken, my daughter still has a mother.’
‘That was a close call. I hope you’re all right?’ the male figure holding the saddle of the bike finally said, as a small assembly gathered.
Turning, she swept a clammy hand over her forehead. ‘Relieved, oh, so relieved. I can only think you must have stopped me from tipping over the edge,’ she sniffed, glancing at the buckled wheel of her bike. The stranger leaned it towards him to take the weight and pulled a face looking down at the wheel and her leg.
‘Are you ok? Wow, that was some grip, look at that wheel, but that leg looks nasty,’ he clutched his collarbone. But, well done, you saved yourself. I didn’t do much. Didn’t need to… but you’re shaking, I think we should sit you down and get that looked at. We have a medic here – somewhere,’ he frowned as he scanned the crowd.
Feeling her knees wobble, she nodded. ‘Yes. I need to sit down.’
With an arm still gripping her shoulder, her helper signalled with his head of dark unruly curls, ‘Jamie, here. Where’s Carl?’
The lad leaped forward, reaching for the bicycle, and shrugged. ‘Gone to get his bag, maybe?’
‘Ok. Bring the bike and ask Trevor to check the warning boards.’ He waited for the lad to take the handlebars, then, steadying her at the waist, held out his other forearm to Evie. ‘Hold on to my arm. It’ll keep you steadier.’
‘Thanks.’ She took the arm gratefully and, sheltering her eyes from the low rising sun, insisted, ‘I don’t need a medic. It’s a graze that’s all.’ As she stepped forward she felt weightless after all the muscle power she’d used in the last few minutes. She certainly appreciated a strong arm to prevent her legs buckling though, and his was definitely that. But then her senses began to return. She frowned as she looked up to him. ‘What warning boards? There were no signs on the path. Oh, a bollard. There was a… What’s going on?’
Karen Aldous enjoys village life on the edge of the north-downs in Kent with easy access to the buzz of London. Not only does she love the passive pleasures of reading and writing, she also craves the more active pursuits with her family and friends such as walking, cycling and skiing especially when they involve food and wine!
Karen gets much of her inspiration from her travels and if she had to choose, France, Greece, Switzerland, Italy and the USA would be her favourites. However, wherever she goes, she discovers a new character emerges in 'Karen's World'. She likes to write about strong independent women who can direct their own lives - but struggle to control them! And, of course there's always a gorgeous hunk or two!
This giveaway is for a £15 Amazon Voucher and a copy of the book as first prize and a copy of the book as second prize.