#01 – Comfort
Lying in the water, next to Mark’s body, it was hard to believe he was dead when she felt so serene.
#02 – Kiss
It was electric, that first kiss, overwhelming him with how much he knew without ever meeting her before, and Mark knew she was Rosie, the Guardian, his forever.
#03 – Soft
His leather jacket was soft and smooth to the touch – a contrast to his stubbled face that Clare loved.
#04 – Pain
He never spoke again about the pain that first time they revived the Benison, and Clare was fine to keep it that way.
#05 – Potatoes
If Mark was impressed with the crop of manglewurzles back in the 1700s, the potato yield the year after the Benison was revived was even more spectacular, Clare thought wryly.
#06 – Rain
They let the rain beat down on their bodies, up on Barrow Beacon Hill, remembering what they had done this time last year and the commitment they had made – thought didn’t last long, however, when Mark’s hands crept underneath Clare’s shirt.
#07 – Chocolate
Clare savored the dark chocolate he had brought back to her from his trip into London, muffling a shriek as he dove across the bed to taste it from her mouth.
#08 – Happiness
Clare wasn’t sure how to reassure Sara in her letter that yes, she really was happy at Ravensmere with Mark.
#09 – Telephone
The cell reception at Stoke Raven was horrible, and nonexistent at Ravensmere – something about the Benison, perhaps, Mark thought.
#10 – Ears
He really had the nicest ears, Clare thought, as she traced her tongue up its curve, watching him shudder.
#11 – Name
A rose by any other name would sound as sweet, but he never calls her Clare, only Rosie.
#12 – Sensual
There’s something in the way his hands slide over her hips that Clare knows this is more than just a sex-thing, that there’s a reverence there that can’t be denied.
#13 – Death
When Mr. Aylward passed, it was like a weight lifted from Clare’s shoulders – they weren’t immortal, after all.
#14 – Sex
Sex with Mark is thrilling, amazing, and has all the passion she never had with Adrian; Sex with Clare is soulful, spiritual, and forges a connection Mark never had with any other girl.
#15 – Touch
One touch from Dr. McKinnon, and she was diagnosed – Clare only hoped to become that good.
#16 – Weakness
Mark knew she was his weakness – without Clare, he’d be like all the other Aylwards gone wrong.
#17 – Tears
Clare shed tears for her mother, for Brandon, for Vivienne; how did she and Mark end up at the center of this mess?
#18 – Speed
There was nothing better than to run away to Stoke Raven, racing over the hills on Mark’s bike when the estate became too much.
#19 – Wind
The wind whipped around her, blowing her hair into unseeing eyes as Clare danced hypnotically in the China Garden; Mark still felt it was eerie, even after all these years.
#20 – Freedom
At Ravensmere, Clare shed all those should and can’ts Adrian had hammered into her; she was wild, and free, and Mark’s.
#21 – Life
When Clare had imagined her future life, even before Adrian, she had never imagined being married to an Earl with an estate.
#22 – Jealousy
She had told Mark that she hadn’t spoken to Adrian since arriving at Ravensmere, but he still couldn’t help the jealous feeling in his gut when the man showed up in Stoke Raven.
#23 – Hands
His hands knew where to touch, in just the right spots, to drive her wild; he felt their shared existence, too.
#24 – Taste
The water was so strong, it fairly fizzed on her tongue as she drank it in, feeling as if she were invincible.
#25 – Devotion
They had to return, every year, to bring the Mother to drink; Clare spent the next year praying that Mark would not die, the next year.
#26 – Forever
It was funny, Clare thought, that kissing through a hole in a stone somehow meant forever, but if it didn’t mean anything, why was she scared?
#27 – Blood
When she asked about Bran, the blood drained from her mother’s face and Clare felt sick – was Mark her brother?
#28 – Sickness
Mr. Alyward lay on the bed, breath rattling in his throat, and Clare knew she’d do anything to uphold the promise she had made with Mark.
#29 – Melody
He brought her a music box back from Germany for her birthday, a tiny figure twirling in a garden that looked like the China Garden, even if the music wasn’t right.
#30 – Star
Clare liked to look up at the stars, sometimes, while she was on the back of Mark’s bike, and marvel at just how small and insignificant they truly were.
#31 – Home
Mark would never admit it, at first, but Ravensmere had always felt like home to him.
#32 – Confusion
They paged through books and journals, trying to find a clue, any clue, that would lead them to the Benison.
#33 – Fear
In the caves, the crystals seemed to magnify her fear; even as Mark plowed onward, Clare could tell he was spooked, too.
#34 - Lightning/Thunder
They sat curled up in a bay window on the third floor, bodies pressed up against the cool glass, watching the storm roll in.
#35 – Bonds
They were intertwined even before they were born, the bonds of the Benison and family inextricable.
#36 – Market
It was still unsettling, even a year later, to go to the shoppes in Stoke Raven – Clare always felt uncomfortable at the mix of reverence and deference she faced.
#37 – Technology
What could modern medicine do with the Benison – could they cure cancer, AIDS?
#38 – Gift
She had no idea what to give him for his birthday, so she gave him herself, in any way he wanted.
#39 – Smile
He’d look up at her and smile, when they were supposed to be researching, and Clare would flush uncomfortably; she was glad he liked his gift, but did he have to be so obvious about it?
#40 – Innocence
Her mother was innocent, Clare knew; even if Frances thought she had, she didn’t kill Bran.
#41 – Completion
They placed the crystal, gleaming and pure, back in its resting place; the Benison was safe for another year.
#42 – Clouds
The sun slid behind a cloud, and Clare shivered in the slight chill; Mark settled his jacket over her shoulders before she could say a word.
#43 – Sky
The sky was so blue in Stoke Raven, and Clare couldn’t help but love the molasses-paced, dreamy quality of the village.
#44 – Heaven
Mark doesn’t know if the pool of water, deep in the caves is heaven-
#45 – Hell
Or if the winding caves to the pool are hell; considering how long they’ve existed, it probably doesn’t matter.
#46 – Sun
She hadn’t thought about the sun when she stripped off her clothes and joined Mark in the river; the next morning, her sunburnt breasts reminded Clare of the importance of sunscreen.
#47 – Moon
He slid inside her as she lay on the grass of Barrow Beacon Hill, their only light the moon and the glinting rocks that surrounded them.
#48 – Waves
They went on a holiday after Clare finished her first examinations for university – Mark didn’t enjoy having to wear a swimsuit on the beach, but he did enjoy Clare bounding through the waves to tackle him on the hot sand.
#49 – Hair
Her hair was so very different from her mother’s – Frances had always said it was her father’s hair, but after Clare spoke with Mr. Aylward, she know it was from Rosamond the Strong.
#50 – Supernova
When Mark hurled the crystal into the waters, the faceted walls glittered and the water glowed golden – Clare felt like she’d seen the birth of a star.