Home > The Heart's Ashes (Dark Secrets #2)

The Heart's Ashes (Dark Secrets #2)
Author: A.M. Hudson

Chapter 1

If I closed my eyes and listened to the hum of the day, I could imagine, as we rolled through the streets toward the old church, that it was sunny and the day was bright and airy.

But the truth cannot be veiled from the eyes.

Dark clouds shrouded the blue sky like a cumulus bowl, and though the dreary nakedness of winter was hidden under lush foliage, the town didn’t look pretty, like it normally did. It only looked grey and muddy and miserable.

When I awoke this morning to the spring day, the sun was shining through my window, bringing with it the warmth and happiness of moving on.

But all that changed when I left my heart with the rose.

“You nervous, honey?” Dad asked.

“Honestly?” I looked out the car window. “I’m calm.”

He roughly scratched his chin as he took a breath. “I feel like I rushed you into this.”

I smiled softly, exhaling. “You did.”


“No, I’m okay.” I let him take my hand. “I do love him, Dad. I’ll get used to the idea of marriage.”

“Oh, honey. Why didn’t you tell me you weren’t ready?”

Because you wouldn’t let me go back to Perth unless I was married. “It’s not a big deal, Dad. I want to marry him—one day—it might as well be now.”

“No, honey, it doesn’t work like that. You marry because you want to. Not because you plan to.”

I chuckled once. “It’s fine. Really. If I didn’t want to marry Mike, I’d have told you.”

“You just did.”

“No.” I laughed again, shaking my head. “I said I wasn’t really ready—not that I don’t want to.”

“Oh, Ara. I’m sorry.” Dad cupped his palm across his mouth and closed his eyes for a second. “I just—I didn’t want you to move back to Perth and...and fall pregnant—unmarried.”


“I know, I know. I’m sorry.” He raised both hands. “I didn’t want to see you make the mistakes your mother and I made.”

“Dad—” I slid closer and linked my arm through his. “I’m going to make mistakes, and yeah, this could be one of them—but how will I know what my mistakes are if I never make them?”

Dad looked up and laughed. “Now who’s the All-knowing?”

“Might say I inherited that from you.”

The car pulled up to the curb, and we both exhaled slowly. “But, you do want to marry him, don’t you?”

My heart raced with a mix of excitement and nerves as I watched everyone walking into the church. “Yeah, Dad. I do.” I think.

I rested a hand to my chest, shivering when a cold breeze swept across my face as the driver opened the door. A growl of thunder roared across the sky, and as Emily and Alana stepped out of the car in front of us, we all looked up.

Great. A storm. I hate storms.

The fresh, sugary scent of rain hid within the clouds, just waiting to find the small sliver of happiness I owned, and pour on it.

Dad, standing beside the driver, offered me his hand, and the weight of my dress fell instantly around my white ballet-flats as I stood up—no ruffling needed to fix the folds. “You okay, Ara?” he asked.

Before I could answer, the wind rushed in to steal my veil, but I caught it and held tightly.

“Looks like rain,” the driver said.

No kidding. Everything under the greying sky looked richer in colour, with more vibrant, deeper hues; the greens were dark, the white church, brighter, and the rich burgundy of spiky plants lining the cobblestone path looked blood-coated.

“Rain is good luck on your wedding day,” Dad said.

God, I hope so. A single ray of sunlight broke through the clouds then, and shone down on a sign near the car park that said “exit.”

Funny. Very funny.

But, my optimist mind ignored the miserable day and the uncanny, cliché warnings, and I looked at Dad, patting his collar and pockets frantically. “Everything okay, Dad?”

“Ara—I’m sorry. I forgot the flower.”

“It’s okay.” I looked at the buttonhole of his jacket, where he should’ve had a yellow rosebud. “No one will notice.”

“Here you go, sir.” The driver stepped up and placed the rose from his own jacket into Dad’s.

“Well, thank you, Byron,” Dad beamed. “You’re a real life saver.”

As Dad stepped back and turned to face me, my mouth dropped in disgust.

Red! Not red!

“Dad—” I started, but the driver smiled at me so warmly that I couldn’t speak—didn’t have the heart to tell him to get that thing out of here and destroy it. I swallowed back the tears instead.

Why red? There wasn’t supposed to be any red today.

“Everything all right, Ara?” Dad gently grabbed my arm and walked me onto the grass just as the bell atop the old church tolled once; everyone in the yard looked up.

“Sorry,” two young boys shouted down from the small rectangle window.

“Don’t they know that’s bad luck?” a woman scoffed as she headed up the path to the church, her heels clicking on the soft stones.

My stomach sunk.

“Well, I’ll just move this car and park it ‘round the side.” The driver smiled, and as he opened his door, the ring of a familiar tune on the radio brought my shoulders up around my ears. Providence—the song David dedicated to me by the lake, so, so long ago. My smile dissolved.

“Ara? What’s wrong, why are you so pale?” Dad leaned around to look at my face.

“Dad, I think—I think I’m making a mistake.” I stared ahead, not really looking at anything.

“Oh, honey.”

“Hey-you-two,” Emily beamed, but stopped dead. “Ara? What is it?”

“Cold feet.” Dad chuckled.

I glared at him. This is no time to laugh. What am I doing? I can’t go in there—I can’t marry Mike. I’m still in love with David. I’ve been searching for signs all day—something to make me stop, to change my mind—but I don’t need a sign. I know the truth in my heart.

“Let me talk to her,” Emily said and grabbed my hand.

Dad signalled to Vicki and whispered “Stall.”

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