‘A Rip in the Veil’ is the first book in The Graham Saga, Anna Belfrage’s time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth-century husband, Matthew Graham. On a muggy August day in 2002, Alexandra Lind is inexplicably thrown several centuries backwards in time to 1658. Life will never be the same for Alex. Alex lands at the feet of Matthew Graham – an escaped convict making his way home to Scotland. She gawks at this tall gaunt man with hazel eyes, dressed in what looks like rags. At first, she thinks he might be some sort of hermit, an oddball, but she quickly realises that she is the odd one out, not him. Catapulted from a life of modern comfort, Alex grapples with her frightening new existence. Potential compensation for this brutal shift in fate comes in the shape of Matthew – a man she should never have met, not when she was born three centuries after him. But Matthew comes with baggage of his own, and at times it seems his past will see them killed. How will she ever get back? And more importantly, does she want to? ‘A Rip in the Veil’ has been awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion.
Excerpt 2 – In which Alex Lind realises there is something very, very odd about the man who is helping her
Alex rested back against the cave wall and concentrated on breathing without hurting herself. She studied him from under her lashes, irritated to find he’d gone back to gawking at her. What was the matter with him? Had he never seen a woman in jeans before? She looked closely at him. Tall, broad in shoulders and chest, but thin and with an underlying pallor to his skin—as if he’d been ill, just recently allowed out of bed. His hair was cut unbecomingly short except at the back where some longer strands still hung on, his cheeks were covered by a dark, unkempt bristle, like the one Magnus, her father, would sport at the end of his summer holidays—so far nothing alarming. His shirt though. . . Worn linen that laced up the front, mended cuffs—all of it hand stitched.
Maybe his girlfriend had made it for him, or maybe New Age people believed in doing everything from scratch, in which case they needed a serious fashion update. She moved, scraped her foot against the rocky ground, and winced.
“Is it alright if I touch you?” he said. “It might ease somewhat if I wash the blood off.”
“Sure, go ahead, touch all you want.” Well, within limits of course.
He looked at her with a hesitant expression. “All I want?”
She made a huge effort to look him straight in the eyes, despite the fact that she could see two—no, three—of him.
“Help me, I’m not feeling too good.” She turned her head to the side and retched, but this time it was just slimy yellow bile that burnt her throat as she heaved. “Damn,” she said afterwards, keeping her eyes closed to stop the whole world from spinning. “I must have hit my head really hard.”
He spent quite some time on her forehead, close enough that she could smell him, drawing in the scent of sweat and unwashed male. She wrinkled her nose. Phew! How about some soap?
“What?” he said. “Did I hurt you?”
“No, I’m fine.” She wasn’t; her brain was banging against her skull, the broken skin on her forehead itched, her ribs were using her lungs as a pincushion and her foot. . . No, best not think about her foot, because it looked absolutely awful, with blisters like a fetter round her ankle and all the way down to her toes. She flexed them experimentally. It hurt like hell.
He poured some more water onto the rag he was using and wiped her face. She liked that, opening her eyes to smile her thanks at him. He smiled back, teeth flashing a surprising white in the darkness of his beard. He sat back on his haunches, a worried expression on his face.
“What?” Did she need stitches? Because she really, really hated needles.
“Your ribs, I have to do something about them.”
“Bandage them, so that you don’t shift them too much.”
“You’ve done this before?”
“Oh, so you’re a doctor?”
“A doctor?” He laughed. “Nay, lass, I am no doctor. But setting ribs is no great matter, is it?”
“It is when they’re mine.” She shifted on her bottom. “It won’t hurt, will it?”
“No, but I will have to . . . err . . . well, I must . . . the shirt, aye?”
“Well, you have to take it off.”
“Oh.” Where did this man come from? “That’s alright; you won’t be the first to see me in the flesh.” He looked so shocked she laughed, but the pain that flew up her side made her gasp instead.
He pulled his bundle close and rummaged in it, muttering something about having to find something to bandage her ribs with. Finally he extracted what looked like a rag and proceeded to tear it into strips.
He was very careful as he helped her out of her jacket and her shirt, and at the sight of her bra his eyes widened, but he didn’t say anything. She sat up so that he could wrap the torn lengths of cloth around her. His exhalations tickled her skin, and she took short breaths, staring straight ahead as his big, capable hands worked their way around her torso, a gentle touch that sent surprising and quite unwelcome tingles of warmth through her body.
She was aware of his eyes on her skin, on her neck, but mostly of the quick glances that returned time and time again to the lacy red bra edged with cream that cupped her breasts and lifted them high. She sat up straighter, shoulders pulled back. She peeked at him, met his eyes and looked away.
“What’s this?” He put a finger on the satin strap. Impossible; men that hadn’t seen a bra didn’t exist—not where she came from.
“It’s a bra.”
“A bra,” he echoed, tracing it round her middle. She jerked back, making both of them gasp.
“My apologies.” He raised his hands in a conciliatory gesture. “I shouldn’t. . . But there, now it’s done.” He gave her the shirt and averted his eyes as she struggled to put it back on.
Alex closed her eyes, trying to come up with a label to pin on this strange man. Isolated goat farmer? Recluse? Maybe he was an old-fashioned—extremely old-fashioned—Quaker, or maybe the Amish had set up a little colony up here in the Scottish wilderness.
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Cathie Dunn (@cathiedunn)
Thank you for hosting Anna Belfrage on your brilliant blog.