Thursday, 22 July 2010

Excerpt Day - The Last Days of a Rake © Donna Lea Simpson


Air, the true staff of life, was becoming more precious with each deeply drawn inhalation. How many breaths did he have left, and what would become of that last, sweet draught? Edgar Lankin lay on his bed by the window overlooking his beloved London. Dark clouds gathered, shadowing the city in a premature twilight, as coal smoke obscured the cityscape, blurring the shapes of chimneys and steeples.

This was his last view, but it mattered not that he could see little through the smudgy panes. His gaze was turned inward. He was caught, tangled in a web of remembrance. Tormented by a vivid panorama through his brain of all his past sins and the little he had been able to do to rectify them, once he understood what harm he had done in his adult years. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust—when his soul took flight and his body was entombed, who would remember him with aught but anger and recrimination?

How odd, he thought, caught by the image, that after the final breath, the body was sent down, to be interred in the fond embrace of cool mud, while the soul—if one accepted the theology that he had shunned for most of his forty years—winged upward, lighter than air once released from its homely prison.

He sighed, rasped and coughed, the effort leaving him gasping for breath.

John Hamilton, his oldest friend, looked up from the book he was reading. "Lankin, old man," he said, leaning toward him and holding a cup to Lankin's lips. "How are you doing?"

After a cool drink of water, Lankin lay back, caught his breath and said, "I'm dying, John, and how are you?"

Hamilton sighed and shook his head, his eyes misting with friendship's fond sorrow.

They had passed such a comment every evening for the last week, as John Hamilton faithfully visited, but this evening Lankin knew his time left on earth was measured in hours, or maybe even minutes, to be followed by an eternity of nothingness before the final resurrection. What had he done in his life that was worth this moment of kind regard and infinite regret? Who had he touched, what had he accomplished? Who, beyond John, would mourn his passing?

"Set aside your book, John, and let us talk," he said, drawing upon reserves of strength that would dwindle quickly. "I fear this night and what it will bring."

"I'm at your service, my good fellow," Hamilton said, his gaunt, ascetic face gentle with compassion. "Of what do you wish to speak?"

The sun was descending, a brilliant ball of orange filtered muddily through the coal fire fog that drifted over the city. As silence fell between the two men, the last muted golden rays extinguished in the west, drowned by the distant ocean to rise for some other man's morning. Lankin's new philosophy, earned by the enforced thoughtfulness brought on by declining health, would not allow depression, but his spirits were declining from the knowledge that whatever he had been able to do to ameliorate the condition of those he had injured, his work was done now. It was his last sunset.

"Did I ever tell you about Susan?" Lankin murmured, turning away from the somber view and staring up at the ceiling.

© Donna Lea Simpson

The Last days Of a Rake

Author: Donna Lee Simpson

Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Historical Romance

Prequel to : Love and Scandal

Buy Link - FREE

In Love & Scandal, Collette Jardiniere is outraged when notorious roué Charles Jameson appears to take credit for The Last Days of a Rake, a novel she wrote under the pseudonym Colin Jenkins to satisfy Victorian convention.

Can a rake be true to himself, yet remain free from sin?

Edgar Lankin has lived the life of rake, a man who cares for nothing but the pleasures of the flesh. But it is the seduction—and abandonment—of a gentle maiden that turns him from mere gadabout to immoral cad. Too late, Lankin realizes his self-centered ways have left him incapable of finding enjoyment in anything. Now on his deathbed, he relates the shocking tale of his wasted life to John Hamilton, a school chum who chose a different path.

In telling his story, can Lankin find redemption for the trail of ruined lives he leaves behind?

Companion piece to Love & Scandal by Donna Lea Simpson

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