Excerpt from Love Divine

If you click on the Look inside feature at Amazon, you can read the beginning of the novel, but just for kicks I decided to post a little excerpt from Chapter 3, so here it is:

From Love Divine:

Lauren stood in the driveway of the beach house considering the enormous cardboard box, thin and tall, that stood against the door of the garage. While she studied the box and the threatening rain clouds in the sky beyond, she heard footsteps on the road behind her and turned to see a woman jogging around the corner and up the hill, her headphone wires swinging with her stride. Lauren received no insight from the jogger, so she returned to her contemplation of the box, exposed to the elements by some inconsiderate delivery service. She decided she would do him a favor by moving it.She knew that someone was living in the house; Mrs. Tripp had said something about her son coming by, and she had seen a car in the driveway a few times. But there was no sign of him now, and the clouds were moving fast. Carrying the box under the relative shelter near the front door seemed like the best thing to do. She gripped both sides of the box, half her height but only a couple of inches thick, and lifted. It was heavier than she had expected and she put it down to get a better hold on it. Then she lifted it again and managed to carry it towards the front door, but her foot slipped on the loose gravel alongside the drive, the box dropped on her toes and a part of the cardboard ripped off in her hand.She brought the box to rest on her unbruised foot and hobbled towards the wall to lean it against the door. She heard the sound of footstep on the road again, another jogger by the sound of it, but she was too engrossed in the damage she had done to look behind her. Instead, she got down on one knee to inspect the damage of the ripped cardboard. She forgot all about the box, however, when she saw what was inside it. It was a painting, and she pressed her nose to the box to get a better look at the myriad of colors under the glass. It was an enchanting glimpse, and she pushed the ripped cardboard down to see as much as possible.
“You like it?”
She fell back onto one hand and looked up at a black-haired young man in shorts and T-shirt and running shoes standing on the cement path behind her.
“Oh, I’m so sorry. I just wanted to move it somewhere dry—” She stood up, and then straightened the bent cardboard with a guilty look. “I didn’t mean to rip it.”
“It’s alright. Doesn’t look like you hurt anything.” He wiped his face with his shirt collar. “Are you the gardener by any chance?”
“Sorry, yes. I’m Lauren Phelps.”
“Benjamin Tripp.” He held out his hand to her, but before she could take it, they heard an enormous bark and her dog came tearing around the house, pushed passed Benjamin and crashed into Lauren’s knees, sending her back a step and into the doorpost. “No, Dante!” she commanded, seizing him by the collar.
“And this must be your dog.”
“Yes, it is.”
“His name is Dante?”
She shrugged. “I was taking a class in medieval literature when I first got him.”
“Ah-hah. You like the painting?”
“Oh, well, I couldn’t really see it. I was just curious—”
He looked carefully at her for a moment and said, “Come inside with me. We’ll take a look at it.”
“Are you sure? I don’t want to bother you—”
“Come on. Come take a look.”
“Just let me tie up Dante’s leash.”
He has a good face, she thought. It was a handsome face that invited one to look longer than was really necessary. She followed him into the house knowing that the warmth of his invitation was almost as compelling as the picture. He must be good with people. Good with women flashed in her mind for a brief moment, and she immediately categorized him as out of her league. As if I had a league, a reflection that made her smile privately to herself. She took note of the muddy sneakers he had kicked into the corner beneath a fragile, three-legged table and a black abstract sculpture that might have been a woman, or might have been a goat.
He had carried the picture easily and now he pulled it from the box and leaned the frame against a wall.
“Have you seen the house before?”
“Once. Your mother showed me the way into the garage. I may need to get some tools from time to time, clippers, gloves, that kind of thing—Oh.”
The painting was beautiful; a bath of color that drew her in until she was standing in front of it.
“That’s my Chagall,” he said, from across the room, where he was leaning the empty box against the wall. “I’m never happy without my pictures, so I brought a few of them along. Only I forgot this one and didn’t have time to pick it up myself. You like it?”
“Oh. Oh yes. I’ve never seen—I’m sorry, I’ve just never seen anything like it before.” She spoke in a quiet, reverential voice. “What is it?”
“It’s Adam and Eve. The garden of Eden.”
“It does look like paradise.” He couldn’t help seeing the unmistakable sincerity in her face, with one hand in her pocket and the other across her body holding her elbow. Minutes passed by and she didn’t say anything.
“Take a look at this one,” he said after a while. “This is Matisse.”
“That’s beautiful too. I never imagined—” she stopped.
“It’s so real. Almost more real than reality.”
He leaned against the counter now and watched her without disguise, unnoticed, as she went from one frame to the next. “I never thought of putting it like that. You must be an art lover?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know anything about art.” She had moved on to the simple drawing he had hung up a few days ago.
“What’s this one?”
“Marc Chagall again. Ruth and Boaz.”
She studied it for a while, and then turned to look at him with a curious expression on his face. “Chagall was Jewish,” he added, “and he used a lot of Biblical events.”
“I never imagined the stories like this. I’m so glad that somebody did. But what kind of paintings are they?”
“Cubism mostly. Picasso is the premier. The yellow one over by the wall is one of his. But there are many interpretations. Not everyone cares much for it, I find. But I don’t know how I could live without it.”
“I’m like that too—with some things.” She went to a black and white print in the corner and he followed after her a few steps behind, charmed by her look of pure delight. She looked almost pretty standing there, moved and enraptured by his pictures, drinking them in as he himself had done again and again. But now she had lost some of her ebullience and her forehead was wrinkled.
“I like it with my mother’s black clock. I don’t why. It seems fitting for some reason.”
She looked intently at the whitened cross and the figure on it and said, “I don’t really like pictures of the crucifixion.”
“I don’t always like them either. I’ve never understood why artists get so worked up about Jesus Christ anyway. I’ve always thought of him as just an ordinary guy.”
“But he wasn’t,” she said, without turning around. “He wasn’t an ordinary guy at all.”
“Well, maybe he did a few miracles or something, but history is full of things that no one can really explain. I’m sure there’s some practical explanation for it all that we just can’t figure out, like how they built the pyramids.” He laughed, but Lauren remained quiet with her attention fixed on the frame. “Can you imagine if he were here today—what he’d say to all these Christians? He’d probably tell them I’m dead already! Get over it.” He laughed again and she turned to face him with a serious eye. It wasn’t a look of reproach or anger or anything like that, but she looked hurt. “Sorry, I’m just running my mouth. I’m like that sometimes. I didn’t mean anything.”
“I know you didn’t,” she said, and moved sadly away from the wall. After a glance at the clock she said, “I should be getting home. Dante’s going to start barking for me. Thank you for showing me the pictures,” she said, and she smiled then.
“You’re welcome. If you ever want to take another look, just let me know.”
She moved towards the door and was gone.
“Poor girl,” he said to the empty house. “So many freckles.” But he found after a few minutes that he was actually thinking of her eyes. They were not remarkable, not at first, but they opened up like a deep well— He stood watching paradise for a long time, as the light of the lowering sun altered the intensity of color, and the long shadows reached around the room.

Thanks for reading! You can read the rest here.

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