There is one place that has inspired my writing above all else. When I first started dating my husband, back in the day (high school!!), he took me to a cemetery. Of course, after the requisite creepiness wore off, I was rewarded with an amazing and inspirational garden: Tyrone Sunken Gardens. Here is a picture walk through of a scene in Stepping Stones. Tyrone is not only the inspiration for my novels, it’s also where the names came from (Stepping Stones, Broken Stones, Rising Stones) Enjoy!!
He rounded the car and opened the door. I was stuck in my seat. I absolutely did not want to be in a cemetery. He took my hand and forcibly pulled me out of the car.
“Trust me.” His words were soft, like coaxing a frightened animal.
I didn’t trust him, but I did get out of the car, not that he really gave me a choice. He led me around a small wooded area and then down a steep hill. The large archway at the top boasted ‘Tyrone Sunken Gardens’. It sat a mere two feet off the ground, as though it truly had sunk. He took his time, helping me down the uneven hill.
At the bottom, on the other side of a grassy plain, was a wooden foot bridge seated over a small stream. A huge willow tree dominated the mostly open space surrounded by woods on three sides and the hill we’d descended on the fourth.
The babble of the stream was loud enough to be soothing, but quiet enough to not distract from the birds and other active wildlife. Birds chirped happily and bushy tailed squirrels darted between the trees.
“It’s beautiful,” I told him, feeling more relaxed now that we were alone.
“It gets better,” he told me, grinning. “Come on.” He tugged on my hand and we crossed the unstable bridge.
He led me around the stream and through a stone archway. On the other side was a large circle of stones embedded in the ground and in the center of it all was a large sundial.
“Each of these stones,” Everett explained, “was quarried from a different state or country.” He led me to the nearest stone. “There’s an old story that says if you step from stone to stone, the one you fall off of will be the state you die in.” He watched me closely.
Running around on dew slicked stones sounded like fun to me. It was reckless and stupid—my kind of thing, lately.
“Let’s try,” I suggested, already stepping up on the nearest stone. Everett pulled me back.
“You sure?” He took it more seriously than I did.
I looked over the stones again. Some of them were pretty even, but others stuck out of the ground at odd angles. I shrugged, why not? I wasn’t superstitious or anything. I didn’t believe in fate, or ghosts or vampires or the like. This was life, plain and simple.
Everett waited for me to move forward before he followed. At first, I stepped carefully, taking my time and trying not to fall off. But after making it around once without falling off, I went faster, and Everett followed suit, nimbly jumping behind me.
We were on our third time around when I heard his shoe squeak and he fell. He landed in the grass with a huff, standing back up quickly.
“Which one?” I called back to him, still hopping from stone to stone, maintaining my balance.
“Pennsylvania,” he said, brushing off his jeans. His left side was soaked and muddy. He watched me continue to run from stone to stone. Eventually I got tired of not falling off, and lost interest in the game.
I stopped in front of him on Illinois. “What happens if I don’t fall off?”
He shrugged, “I’m not sure, I always fall.”
“From Pennsylvania?” I questioned.
Everett closed the distance between us and put his hands on my waist. My insides grew warm from the contact. His green eyes bored into mine. “It only counts if you fall,” he decided. With that, he lifted me into his arms and carried me outside of the stone arch before he put me down. “But why tempt fate?” He kept his hands on my waist until I regained my balance, which took a minute because being so close to him made me dizzy.
I stared up at him, surprised I hadn’t realized how much taller he was than me. I stood at a normal 5’7”, but I had to look up to see him—he was over 6’ tall. I watched in fascination as his eyes darkened, landed on my lips and moved in closer.
My stomach jumped into my throat. This was not something I had anticipated. I closed my eyes and waited, each second an excruciating delight. His lips brushed mine, and I was thrilled to find that the electricity applied to them too. My lips tingled, as did my scalp where he tangled his fingers into my hair. His breath was sweet, his mouth hot. I melted against him, unable to stand on my own.
The kiss was gentle, but with a restrained passion that I hadn’t known he had hidden inside. His lips found mine once…twice, and then he pulled away. His eyes were a deep, dark green like the forest at dusk. He sucked in a breath and then let it out in a rush.
“This isn’t what I expected,” his words once again mirrored my thoughts. He rested his forehead against mine, “This is wrong,” he told me, sounding sad and wistful.
“What do you mean?” I wondered, my voice a little breathy as my lungs tried to keep time with my heart. My head spun; Everett’s hands kept me upright.
Instead of answering, he kissed me again.
I would like to thank Chris Ringler for all of the color photos you see. I took the black and whites myself. You can read Chris’s blog about Tyrone HERE. I will be using some quotes from Tyrone in my books as well. I’ll add more about that later.
All the best,