Exerpt from Buried Heart by A. Y. Stratton

October 3 2011

To celebrate the anniversary of my first published novel I will be giving away copies of Buried Heart on The Romance Reviews, an internet magazine. Here's one of my favorite scenes, where the plot thickens--in more ways than one!

Buried Heart by A. Y. Stratton, 2009 from The Wild Rose Press

Excerpt, pages 30-33

Setting: January evening, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Lauren Richmond’s apartment, the day after she has rescued Professor Luis Hernandez from muggers

 “As I said last night, I was lucky someone like you showed up, someone with guts.” He lifted one eyebrow and glanced at her sideways. “You’re a nice surprise.”

“Why?”

“I didn’t, uh, expect you to look so, um—.” His knee began to bounce, and he glanced over at the fireplace.

“You have to finish that sentence. You didn’t expect me to look so what?”

He faced her and stroked the bristles on his chin.  “Last night you were a mystery of contrasts. All I could see was a gorgeous pair of legs beneath a giant coat and a pair of big eyes peaking through a huge wooly thing wrapped around your head.”  His eyelashes lowered as he grinned. “Brave and beautiful—that’s the surprise.”

Lauren had to look away from his admiring eyes. The jolt of power she’d felt in the parking garage filled her chest once more. “Thank you,” she said, as if men always showered her with such compliments.

She wished she could touch his wrist right where the hairs began on his arm. She also wished she could feel the muscle of his forearm and wondered whether his eyebrows were stiff or soft. If he didn’t start talking again soon, she’d have to fill the vacuum. “Um, I um, last night?” She looked up as Luis resettled himself closer to her. “Last night I heard you talk about your search for a mysterious codex. It sounded pretty exciting.”

Luis nodded and jiggled his foot. “It is.”

Lauren noticed his bootlaces had been broken and knotted in several places as she waited for him to say more, while he watched her with a hint of a smile.

“I think you said a codex is a primitive sort of book?”

The smile faded as he nodded. “Actually codex is the term for any ancient manuscript. The Mayans, my ancestors by the way, made paper from fig bark or deer hide and then they coated it with stucco. Instead of binding sheets together like our books, they folded the long pieces of bark like an accordion.” He demonstrated by opening his palm to the ceiling and then to the floor. “They used the paper to record their history and their scientific discoveries, particularly astronomy.” His voice took on the tone of the teacher. “Unfortunately for us, the Spanish burned most of them.”

“You mean the Conquistadors?”

Luis’s dark eyes came alive. “They’re the ones.”

“We never studied that in school. What did the writing look like?”

Luis ran his fingers back and forth through his hair, making some clumps stand up and matting the rest. “They used symbols, glyphs, drawings of animals, both real and imaginary in bright colors.” He waved his hand toward the fireplace where Lauren had hung her mother’s painting of an orange and red sunset. “Colors even brighter than those. To the Sixteenth Century Conquistadores it looked like the work of the devil.” His eyebrows slid up, and he shot a sideways grin at her. “I have to admit the first time I saw markings like them they gave me the creeps.”

“But the Spaniards tried to burn them all?”

He nodded. “And nearly succeeded.” The words shot out like bullets, and Lauren jumped. A muscle flexed in his jaw. “King Philip the Second ordered the extermination of the so-called ‘heresy’ in his realm. In the mid-sixteenth century the Bishop of Yucatan ordered his men to burn all Mayan records.” Luis’s voice faded away like the first rumble of a thunderstorm as he touched her elbow. “Imagine how you’d feel watching invaders burn all the books from the Library of Congress.”

“But some were saved?”

     “In the eighteenth century three Mayan codices turned up in the collections of European royalty, souvenirs Cortez gave out to whichever power would support him in his exploration. Everything they’ve found since has been a forgery or an indecipherable mess.”

     “Yet you think there’s another one?”

     “I do.” Luis licked his lips as his eyes drifted away from Lauren’s face to her neck, then to her hands and back again. “Are you sure there’s no kissing here?”