Saturday, August 1, 2015

CHAPTER PREVIEW FROM KINDRED (THE BIRTHRITE SERIES, #2)

Hi everyone,

I will be posting my review of The Vanishing American tomorrow evening, along with other news that is happening in my corner.

In the meantime, enjoy a full chapter preview from Kindred (The Birthrite Series, #2).

Also, the awesome blog Unusual Historicals is featuring Descent (The Birthrite Series, #1) as well as a giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of that book along with the novelette, Sacred Atonement (The Birthrite Series, #1.5).

So check out the feature of Descent on Unusual Historicals, followed by a Q&A that will be featured tomorrow. :)

Now without further ado, here is a chapter from Kindred. As I stated before, Dorothy's cousin Cletus is introduced in Descent but only gets a cameo appearance. In Kindred, he takes center stage a little more. :)








CHAPTER 2
Pennsylvania Railroad Station in
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

1

Cletus awoke at around five 'o' clock in the evening as the train was pulling in to the station. His eyes glanced out the window, seeing the town of Wilkes-Barre.
After the train came to a slow halt, he rose and collected his carry-on bags. Other passengers started filing off as he remained, staring in almost a trance out the window at the town that was only a mere couple of hours out from where his cousin had grown up.
It would be quite easy to drive out there...
Awareness suddenly hit him like a splash of icy water when a voice asked, "Are you all right?"
Cletus jolted slightly as he turned to see a rather attractive young female regarding him in a rather amused, but flirtatious way. Her hair was light brown, and her deep blue eyes were set off by the blouse she wore.
Cletus inhaled, collecting his equilibrium as he replied. "Yeah...yeah I'm fine. Just a little tired from traveling, that's all. Thanks." He motioned for her to go on ahead of him.
When she did, he started down the aisle behind her.
As they reached the door, she turned back to him. "Where are you coming from?"
His heart began to pound. "Ohio."
"I see. Do you have family out here?"
"Friends, actually. And a distant cousin."
"I see. You're visiting I take it."
He nodded.
There was a rather awkward pause as they stepped out onto the pavement and new passengers began getting on board the train.
"My name is Christina," the young woman said. "I'm actually from Delaware. I'm moving here though because of a job. I was recently hired as a hospital receptionist. I'm not too terribly excited about leaving my family, but I suppose we should all be grateful for employment these days."
"Yeah, definitely," Cletus agreed.
"I have to stay here overnight," she continued, obviously not ready to allow them to go their separate ways, "and then I have to board a train to New York. Plains, actually."
Cletus flinched as a vision of the town and his cousin's old house flashed through his mind.
"Are you sure you're all right?" she asked, bringing him back to the present.
"Yeah...I'm fine. Just experiencing a bit of lag."
"I'm actually a little hungry and was going to get something to eat."
Cletus regarded the young woman for a moment. As his cousin Dorothy was, he was quite good at reading people. And this girl was definitely hoping that he would volunteer to join her. His blood raced at the notion and he knew that if his friends, Patrick, Rob, and Grant, were here, they would be encouraging him to accept her subtle invitation. The young woman was attractive and seemed to have a good head on her shoulders. But as with most other girls he knew and met, he knew he would not be pursuing anything. Because this woman was not her. The girl he had seen in his dreams so many times. The one he could feel was meant for him. (It was both a blessing and a curse)
"Well, good luck with everything," he said. "My friends are waiting for me here. It was nice meeting you, Christina."
He turned away quickly, never looking back as he felt her disappointed gaze.
Not too far away, Reginald and Gail were waiting for him. Relieved, Cletus smiled at them and waved.
Reginald grinned. "We were starting to wonder if you backed out."
Cletus approached the couple, shaking hands with Reginald. "Sorry," he replied. "It took a little while to finally wake up."
"Yeah, well we did see you get off the train but didn't want to interrupt as it seemed you were making a new friend."
Cletus's eyes shifted from Reginald's. "Only small talk."
"Well in that case, I see even more family resemblance between you and Dorothy. How was the trainride?" Gail said, giving her girlfriend's cousin a brief hug.
"Long," Cletus replied as the three started heading toward Reginald's car. "Nothing but cows and fields as far as the eye could see."
"How exciting," Reginald laughed.
Upon arriving at the Johnsons' car, Reginald opened the trunk for Cletus to set his suitcase in. Then he held the passenger door open for his wife.
As Cletus settled into the back seat and Reginald and Gail were in the front, there was a brief moment with a sense of melancholy crept around the trio. This was especially evident as Reginald glanced back at Cletus through the rear view mirror from his place in the drivers seat. There was something evident in the other young man's eyes, and Cletus could feel that same energy radiating from Gail.
Then in an instant, the moment was broken and Reginald started the car, ready to pull it out of the station and onto the road.
Finally, the silence between the three was broken when the young man in the drivers seat asked, "So how's life in Ohio?"
"Well, as I said in my last letter, I'm working a lot," Cletus replied. "Trying to help mom and dad with bills and such, along with trying to save up for my own car."
Reginald sighed. "I completely understand. It took me a good year to save up for the vehicle I have now. By the way, we tried making the couch as comfortable as possible. You're absolutely sure you don't want our room? It's still up for grabs."
"Oh, I'm positive. Thank you, though," Cletus replied. "But the couch is fine."
"Well, if you change your mind. As of this moment, we can only afford a one bedroom apartment. Hopefully that will change, but with the economy the way it is, we can only play it by ear."
"It gets especially interesting when our families come to visit," Gail added. "Someone always ends up on the floor."
"Yeah, usually me," Reginald said. "Of course we allow our parents or siblings or anyone else visiting our bedroom. Then Gail gets the couch and I'm on the luxuriously comfortable floor."
"Take one for the team, sweetheart," Gail said, leaning in to kiss her husband's cheek.
"And my back's always screaming at me the next morning," Reginald quipped.
Gail's dark eyes eyed Reginald, as if to say, And you know I always take care of that afterward.
Cletus watched the couple as immediate thoughts of his cousin Dorothy and her husband Carl entered his mind. The thought also conjured images of the young Romany woman he was seeing in his dreams. The young woman with whom he felt and strong connection and attraction to. He thought of the young woman Christina back at the station, feeling bad about dismissing her the way he had. But leading her on wouldn't be right either. Somehow, some way soon, he and this young Gypsy girl were supposed to meet. How, he was unsure. But eventually, it would happen.
Recently, Cletus had also brought good news to Reginald and Gail of Jimmy's having been recovered from Hell and Linda giving birth to their now one-year-old daughter, Meredith. Jimmy and Linda had also managed to repair their relationship and were living in the same chateau together. Jimmy was also being trained for a place in the Sanctuary and a high ranking position on the Council. While it wasn't completely understood by either of the present three what exactly this Sanctuary and Council were, it was still a surprise to Reginald and Gail what Jimmy's position was. In high school, Jimmy had been a rather popular football player who didn't read much other than pulp thrillers and anything he was made to for school. Upon graduation, his plans were to marry Linda and switch from working part time to full time at his father's mechanics garage. But two Novembers ago, plans for everyone's future had been changed.
Cletus's thoughts were interrupted when Gail turned around in her seat.  "There are a couple sites we'd like to show you while you are here," she said. "Also, we attend Mass at St. Jude's in Mountaintop on Sundays."
Cletus raised his eyebrows. "We? You mean you're taking the plunge and joining the fold, Reg?"
"I'm considering it," Reginald said. "Staying in touch with Father Louis has been a huge help, if you know what I mean."
And Cletus did.
Father Louis, the man who was the priest at Gregory the Great Church in Plains, had been present for all that had taken place in November of 1931. It was in that moment that Cletus began seeing the town in his mind's eye again. Visions of the library with its founder, James Livingston's portrait, so life-like and staring back at him. The eyes of the nineteenth century patriarch stared into him before he saw his cousin's old now vacant home, and then the Fleming Orphanage. He was taken to Gregory the Great Church, where he could see Father Louis once again, sitting in his chamber and looking over what appeared to be documents of great importance.
Then the visions left him, and he could see Gail turned and looking back at him, her brown eyes studying him. Cletus gave her a brief reassuring smile, which she returned with a more wistful one. There was an understanding between all three that plenty of discussion would be had later.
Finally, Gail broke the silence. "On the way to Tahatan's, we pass though Elmhurst. There is a beautiful set of gothic buildings inhabited by an order of monks. Maybe we can stop and have a look on our way there."
Cletus nodded. "Sounds great."
"Who wants to get a bite to eat?" Reginald added.
"I wouldn't mind," Gail said.
"Me neither, "Cletus replied. "I could definitely go for a burger."
Reginald grinned. "It's settled then."
Within a few minutes, the car was pulling up to a diner.
Throughout their time inside the restaraunt, the group discussed college, jobs, and other aspects of their lives not related to the events experienced in Plains. At that time, all three chose to avoid what really needed to be discussed in favor of a few sweet moments of normalcy.

2

Later that night, after Reginald and Gail had retreated into their bedroom, Cletus made himself comfortable on the couch. This actually isn't so bad...
He started recounting the evening with Reginald and Gail. After leaving the diner and arriving at the apartment, the three stayed up for a little while longer, talking into the night. They did touch briefly on what would be discussed at Tahatan's. Now it was just Cletus. Alone in a small, dark sitting area.
His eyes started adjusting to the dark as he looked out at the moon in the sky. He could hear the sounds on the street below. How different this was from his rural life in Ohio.
As his mind started to wander, his eyes grew heavy. He started to drift and two little boys appeared in front of him. One with dark hair and the other light. They were in a field playing with a ball as they ran about. In the distance he saw a hooded figure standing beside a young man at the edge of the forest. The young man was dressed in the nineteenth century attire of a peasant or a slave. As Cletus drew closer, he could see the young man's dark complexion and wavy black hair that reached the collar of his shirt. He felt a certain kinship with the young man, and - after seeing his features - knew who the young man was.
Nicolae...
Cletus could some resemblance between him and Dorothy's friend Jimmy. He turned back to see the two little boys disappear in front of him and the scene turn from day into night. The field around him disappeared and Cletus found himself on a road. Up ahead was a sign indicating where he was.
He walked toward the sign, feeling the pavement beneath his feet and the wind rustling his clothes. When he was close enough, the moonlight shone onto the sign, lighting it up so that he could read the letters Hunters Highway inscribed into the wood. Above were two arrows pointing in directions opposite from one another. The arrow on top read Stone Creek and the other Pinewoods. Both towns where 25 miles from where Cletus stood.
As he started feeling a draw toward Pinewoods, his eyes suddenly snapped open and he found himself back on the couch in the apartment. He turned over to face the window, feeling his insides jolt as a shape appeared in the window. A face.
He sat bolt upright, and the shape disappeared.
Cletus tried forming a rational explanation to what he had just seen, but there just wasn't one.
Chills started enveloping his body as he glanced about the dark room. It was then he heard a whispering. Feeling frozen to where he was, he tried listening in order to make out the words, but they proved inaudible.
As his body slowly regained mobility, he considered knocking on Reginald and Gail's bedroom door, but he could not move quickly enough. It was as though he were trying to travel through quicksand.
Soon, the whispers died down, only to be overtaken by the sounds of a piano playing a familiar piece by DeBussy. The song to the moon...
Finally, Cletus was able to move and rose fluidly from the couch. He flinched when his foot touched an icy wooden floor. His eyes darted about, and breath hitched upon seeing his whereabouts. The Fleming Orphanage surrounded him as the summer breeze turned into a crisp, autumn chill. All around him, leaves were falling from their branches, blanketing the ground. He felt a pull, one that was compelling him toward the woods. He could feel his cousin Dorothy's presence, and the danger she was in here.
Confused and disoriented, he continued looking around, calling out to her. But she was nowhere to be found.
The woods and the empty buildings of the former orphanage seemed to mock him. Then he heard a distant howling off somewhere, followed by the humming of a familiar tune. All the Pretty Little Horses...
Cletus tried taking a step in the direction of the hill. He knew it would take him away from the property, but suddenly the wind started up and it was as though invisible arms were holding him back. He heard the howling again, only it was much closer this time. It sounded unlike any animal he knew of.
A foul stench began seeping out from the buildings. When Cletus turned, he beheld the windows of the buildings glowing a deep red. 
(Blood red)
The stench of death, decomposition, and decay engulfed him and in that moment, he knew he was not alone.
His body stiffened upon hear a bloodthirsty growl right behind him. He tried turning to see what it was, but once again, his feet seemed planted to the ground. He could hear it - whatever it was - inching closer. As the creature's breath assaulted Cletus's nostril's it let out a roar before pouncing, pushing Cletus forward…

Cletus was jarred awake, relieved it see the early dawn filtering into the room. As he sat up, he realized he was lying on the floor. Thankful that Reginald and Gail were still asleep, he looked back toward the couch, his temples throbbing. He rose to feet, taking up the blanket and returning to the couch. That was when he caught a glimpse of his feet. He stared down at them and the traces of dirt that were on them.
His blood raced in his ears as he tried coming up with a logical explanation for why there would be dirt on his feet.
Maybe Gail isn't a very good housekeeper...
But a look around the small apartment suggested differently.          
Cletus sat down on the couch, running a hand through the dark strands of his hair as he tried recalling the details of the dream. But all was slowly fading from memory. He folded up the blanket and took a final glance at the morning sunrise before heading toward the washroom with and image of the Felming Orphanage branding itself into his mind.








*****

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