Anne Davis has returned to the house where she grew up, trading her glamorous Manhattan lifestyle for a harsh winter on a wind-whipped New England island. Her marriage has crumbled in the wake of a tragic accident. Now she has returned to the home on Salt Whistle Raod that has always meant shelter, security, family and love. When she awakens one snowy night to a fire that roars through the old house, Anne escapes--but runs back into the blaze to save something so precious that it's worth risking her life for. It is that reckless act of blind desperation that sets a miracle in motion.
A young woman who is emotionally scarred by the death of her daughter gets a second chance at love. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 25, 2005
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Excerpt from Home Fires by Luanne Rice
The fire started in the tangled old wires behind the bathroom heater. At first there was no flame, only a core of intense heat. The wires' frayed insulation, gray weave with the texture of a man's jacket, began to smolder. One spark popped, then another. The orange line crackled to the panel board, causing a momentary blink of the house's microwave, stereo, television, and alarm clocks.
In that instant the portable phone beside Anne Davis's bed clicked, resetting itself Usually the sound would awaken her, but tonight it barely penetrated her deep sleep. She had been traveling all day; it had been months since she had slept well. She half turned toward the bedside table, but she was engulfed in a sweet dream that would not release her.
Tendrils of blue smoke wisped through the wallboards three rooms away. They dissipated like ghosts into the thin winter air. Flames licked the wall from behind, trying to follow the smoke. They raced in all directions, searching for cracks. One line of fire spawned another, and another, all crazy to escape. They filled the space like agitated spectators in an arena crammed beyond its capacity. They sped down the wires, and that was all it took. When the electrical system exploded, the flames burst through the wall in one thunderous blast. The house was on fire.
It was another Karen dream that enveloped Anne as she slept. A dream of hazy images, clear bliss. Karen in her arms. At the beach, with Matt nearby. The sun's heat sensual and intense. Anne's nose pressed against Karen's skin, the spot where her neck and shoulder met, smelling of summer. Baby sweat, Coppertone SPF 40, salt water, chocolate from a Good Humor bar. Karen's weight on Anne's lap, and the sound of waves lapping the shore.
A clack. Sounds from the outside world.
Anne shifted, her face burrowing into the pillow, anything to preserve the dream. The family on summer vacation. Matt, Karen, and Anne together on a beach blanket. The hot summer day: she had it back, that feeling of joy and closeness. It was perfect, and so very real. She could touch Matt's leg, lick salt grains from the nape of Karen's neck. All her senses were awake; contentment throbbed through her body like lifeblood.
Then the house exploded.
Anne jumped out of bed. For a second she didn't know where she was. She started for Karen's bedroom, just yards away, then realized she wasn't in their New York apartment. She had come to the island, to her family home, the place where she'd grown up.
Smoke drifted in from the hall, under the closed bedroom door. Shivering in the dark, Anne touched the door with her hand. It felt scorching hot. Grabbing a bureau scarf, she wrapped it around the brass knob and pushed. Fire roared inward, burning her hand as she slammed the door.
She ran to the window and saw the snow glistening orange a long drop below. Her room was on the second floor, and the land sloped steeply away. In the distance, coming from town, she heard a siren. She returned to the door and touched the knob, as if to check that it hadn't somehow, incredibly, cooled down. Then, with no other choice, she turned back to the window.