The Water Bearer

Saturday, March 21, 2009

1st Chapter of The Water Bearer!

The Water Bearer by Wendi Christner
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Chapter 1

Seven years after Cassidy Strumond set the fire that consumed her
parents, the scent of ash still lingered in the newly sprouted corn and in the
wide blades of grass that blanketed the rolling hills; only, nobody seemed to
smell it but her.

Two years of community college were under her belt and her first days
at the university were just a summer away. Cassidy rolled her diploma over
the worn floor planks of her grandmother’s back porch and watched Jared
Walker’s horse, Delilah, clomp across the stone footbridge that spanned a
stream separating her family farm from his.

Extending from the sleeves of a t-shirt that looked like he’d slept in it,
were the arms of a young man who worked outside and handled livestock
for a living. His pointed boots stuck out from the frayed legs of his jeans,
and the outline of his thighs pressed against the easy fitting denim. Details
Cassidy had only recently begun to notice. He looped Delilah’s reins around
the porch railing and lowered himself onto the steps.

“Is that what you wore under your graduation gown?” She shook her
head, knowing the answer before his lopsided smile betrayed him.

“Figured if I was gonna wear a dress, I’d better look like a man
underneath. What’d you wear under yours, a suitcase?”

Her bare calves and feet stuck out beneath the hem of the navy blue
polyester gown. “Nothing.” She laughed as the implication registered on his

“You shameless liar.”

“Wanna find out?” She took hold of the zipper at her throat.

“There’s something bad wrong with you, you know that?”

“Yeah, I know.” Cassidy squinted at the branches of a massive oak in
the middle of the pasture. “I’ve been told enough times.”

Beyond the oak, on the back acres of the property, were the ruins of her
childhood home, reduced to a charred foundation and three concrete steps
that led to an emptiness she could taste in her soul. From this rubble, the
odor of her every nightmare emanated. As long as she stayed here, she
would live with the smell of death.

One short summer, and she could put this place and its constant
reminders behind her. The solace she sometimes found in the cornfields and
pastures beyond her bedroom window; the giant oak at the top the hill;
Samson, her palomino—and Jared—her best friend, would never be enough
to hold her or to erase the memory of what she’d done.
All she wanted was to leave the pain behind, to find a place in the world
that wasn’t scarred by her actions, a place where the ghosts didn’t live.

She tugged his sleeve. “Come to Tampa with me. I’ll bet the city could
use another cowboy.”

His gaze fell to the grass between his boots. They both knew he had to
live at home and commute to the small university just across the state line in
Alabama. A farm the size of the one he grew up on would need more than
just his father to manage it, but more than that, Jared loved the farm. He
would make a life there in the rural rolling hills of north Florida. He
wouldn’t be happy anywhere else.

“Just one semester in Tampa?”

“Heard they don’t even sell boots south of Ocala.” He smiled, but
Cassidy could see the sadness in his eyes.

She stood to go inside. “Saddle Samson for me. He needs to get used to
you handling him anyway.”

“You’re not ever coming back, are you Cass?” He wasn’t looking at her,
focused instead on the pasture. It was more of a statement than a question,
and they both knew the answer.

What Jared didn’t know, what he couldn’t understand, was why. And
she didn’t have the words that would make him understand.

This place would always be about fire to her. She would always smell
the smoke, feel the heat. The sun would blaze one minute burning her skin,
and when that season passed, the maples beyond the pastures would set the
horizon ablaze with their red and yellow leaves, or a thundercloud would
roll in and turn the sky as gray as smoke. As close as she and Jared were, he
could never feel what she felt. He could never understand how long a fire
could burn.

“Hurry up and get decent,” he said. “I’ve got a graduation present for

Cassidy went inside and changed. When she came out again, his back
was pressed against a porch post, his fingers wrestled in his pockets, and his
cowboy boot tapped out a rhythm on the wood. Samson was standing
nearby, too proud to be tethered to the house.

“What?” she said as she mounted her horse.

“I didn’t say anything.”

A thin line creased his forehead and a frown dipped the corners of his
mouth. “You’ve got that look.”

“The look I was born with.” He straightened himself and grabbed
Delilah’s reins.

“You look like your Daddy.”

A cloud settled in Jared’s eyes, but he didn’t respond. Cassidy nudged
Samson with her heel, and the palomino took off at a trot.

Jared and Delilah were soon alongside.

At the top of the hill, Samson stopped next to the trunk of the oak, but
before Cassidy could step down, Jared grabbed the reins and pulled them
from her hands.

She grabbed at them and jerked back, but he didn’t let go.

“Trust me,” he said.

She held tight, stretching the leather taut between them.

“Cass, please just come with me. I promise I have a reason.”

If there was one person in the world she could trust, it was Jared. She
released her grip, and the knotted strips of leather fell against his wrist.
He led Samson down the hill. Over her right shoulder she could see the
small iron gate to the family cemetery. At least they weren’t going there.

They crossed the pasture and climbed another hill. Under the shade of a
cluster of small oaks, he dismounted and waited for her to do the same. She
hesitated, and Samson flapped his lips in protest. Jared said nothing, just
stood there with his hand out for her to join him.

She planted her feet on the ground and took his hand. “This better be

They left the horses in the shade, and she followed him to the cement
steps that led to the emptiest place in the world. Moss had begun creeping
up their risers and onto the treads. In some places on the hilltop the weeds
and grasses were nearly waist high, but beyond the steps, the ground was
flat, carpeted with green moss—the concrete foundation of what had once
been the home she shared with her parents.

Her heart raced in her chest. She tasted acid at the back of her throat,
and her ears roared with the thunder of ravenous flames, the sound that
ripped through her nightmares.

“It’s ok.” He steadied her with his arm. “I’m right here.”

She let him lead her up the steps and over to what resembled a benchshaped
topiary. Undoubtedly, it was one of the trusses not completely
destroyed by the fire, and now upholstered by creeping jade moss. He tested
the timber’s stability with the toe then heel of his boot, then motioned for
her to sit. They sat together, neither speaking, until Cassidy steadied her

The place was nothing like the inferno of her dreams. The damp moss
was cool to the touch. Life was all around. Birds chirped, a lizard scampered
over a stack of bricks, and water pooled in the uneven concrete foundation.

“Why did you bring me here?”

In her palm, he placed a chain with a small silver medallion. On the
surface, a bare-chested man balanced on the flayed tail of a mermaid, and an
urn tipped over his shoulder. The silver had tarnished and the edges were
rubbed with wear. Cassidy had seen the zodiac emblem a million times. The
charm had belonged to Jared’s mother and he’d worn it since they were
kids, never once taking it off.

“I’m a Leo.” Her voice was as soft as the breeze that brushed the grasses
on the hill.

“I know.” He lifted the medallion from her hand. “This is my sign. I
thought maybe you could use it more than me.”

She swallowed the lump that had lodged in her throat.

“Aquarius is the Water Bearer,” he said, reaching behind her neck to
clasp the chain. His fingers brushed her skin, leaving a rash of goose bumps
in their wake. The chain settled into place, and the medallion dropped like a
quarter between her breasts. The warmth of his touch still lingered on the
silver, and her heart swelled.

At that moment, she understood what it would mean to leave Jared
behind. She fought for a witty comment, something to break the tension,
something to make them laugh. But she could only stare at the gift he had
given her, blurred by the tears burning her eyes.

He reached for her hand again. His thumb massaged the ridges of her
knuckles, and he squeezed as if he’d never let go. “When you’re ready to
put this fire out, maybe you can come back home.”

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Friday, January 30, 2009

A wonderful compliment!

I just got the nicest email from a wonderful author who read The Water Bearer.

Stacey Joy Netzel wrote: "The Water Bearer has been waiting a LONG time...just finished a few minutes ago and the ending made me cry! You have such a way with your writing in this book, it was so natural, and felt like I was 'watching' a movie about my own friends. Such great characters, and wonderful, funny, witty, touching dialogue! Thanks for a great read!!

Some of the exchanges Jared and Cass had were LOL funny--most especially the ones in church!!"

Stacey is an amazing author, and this was such a heart-warming compliment. If you haven't checked out Stacey's books you really should.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Another Great Review!

4.5 Pixies! "...THE WATER BEARER is a touching romantic novel with characters as rich as the soil they farm. Although in a contemporary setting, they echo the small-town overtones of the past in an area where life doesn't change much despite a new millennium. Jealousy, small minds, and long-held grief are just as volatile as love, compassion, and empathy in this little farming community. Rich in emotional impact, THE WATER BEARER is a story to curl up with in a cozy armchair, relaxing into the plot and resonating with the characters. The intriguing addition of paranormal elements gives a deeper background to the story line and an opportunity for further unfolding of the characters. The underscoring theme of love and redemption makes THE WATER BEARER a story well worth reading." - Frost, Dark Angels Reviews

You can read the full review here

buy link (ebook)
Available in print on Amazon and

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Water Bearer is available in PRINT!

I'm so excited! The Water Bearer is available now on Amazon and

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Another great review!

5 STARS! "The Water Bearer is a beautiful love story. Cassidy and Jared share a great love. Readers will come to love both of them and to know that they belong together. The plot flows smoothly. The secondary characters were not intrusive, but instead added much to this story. Lilith was the perfect antagonist. She will certainly bring a smile to your face. The Water Bearer will bring smiles, laughter, a few tears, and a lot of pleasure to each reader. Don’t miss this one, The Water Bearer is sure to be a favorite." - Debra Gaynor, Review Your Book

To read the full review, click here.

Buy The Water Bearer here!

A great review!

I got my first review for The Water Bearer!

4 CUPS! "...Ms. Christner has a fantastic story. The idea that love lasts forever is so beautifully represented in this story. I also liked a lot of the minor characters because they were as central to this story as Cassidy and Jared. The difficulties both Cassidy and Jared have to overcome make the ending so poignant. Love stories can be so varied in how they deal with death. I have to say that this one is the most emotional I have read so far."- Krista, Coffee Time Romance

To read the whole review, click here.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

It's the little things

I just wanted to share my new bookmark for The Water Bearer. What is it about nifty paper products and office supplies that really gets the blood pumping?