Sunday, December 4, 2016

NEW BOOK SAMPLE: Chapter 2 of Kindred (The Birthrite Series, #2)

Hi all,

Hope everyone had a great weekend! On Thursday, I was at a Christmas event with the museum. We had a display and I discussed folk and herb healing while wearing 18th century attire (this week I will be editing photo and video of the events I've been doing...I'm WAY behind on that). I also had a great gig yesterday with my historical music group at a reenactors Christmas party and tomorrow, I'm starting a fitness challenge with a new fitness challenge group. I am blogging all about that journey on my new fitness blog if you want to follow me. :)

For those that follow me on Facebook, I promised another excerpt of Kindred (The Birthrite Series, #2) if I was feeling generous. :P And I am! Here is Chapter 2!

I will still revise it at least once more before release (I'll be announcing an actual release date here soon) but this is basically it. :)

And as I did with the previous sample, I do have a jump cut just before the excerpt as there are spoilers for those that haven't yet read or are currently reading Descent (The Birthrite Series, #1). But if you've already read Descent or haven't read it completely through yet but don't mind spoilers, read after the jump. :)




CHAPTER 2

He ran through a dark forest, feeling his wife’s presence and frantically searching for her. His voice was drowned out by the wind howling through the trees. The urgency of having to get to his wife was great as he sensed the danger she was in.
With each step, the shadows of the forest grew thicker, blinding his view as he continued through.
After what seemed like an eternity, he saw a clearing. It gave him a small grasp of hope in getting close to her, hope that he would be able to rescue her from the evil that held her captive. Pangs of dread threatened to pierce his core as he reached the forest’s edge. When he finally arrived there, his heart lurched upon what he saw. He was back in Plains and beneath a chilling midnight sky was the house on Muholland Road.
Whispering voices summoned, while others warned him of the danger his wife was in. As the urgency to get to her grew, he ran up onto the porch and burst through the door.
His stomach jolted upon seeing the interior of the house. It was not the house he had known for eighteen years. When he looked out the foyer window to the yard and neighborhood, he saw that he was no longer in Plains.
With his wife still at the forefront of his mind, he heard the distant, mournful calls that belonged to a murder of crows. He moved quickly though his unfamiliar surroundings until arriving at the kitchen in the back of the house. He crossed over to the window in the kitchen looking out to a vast field. A little way down was what appeared to be a small tool shed. Beyond that, a forest lined the horizon.
He started to once again call out to his wife but his movement froze when he saw a red glow permeate the brush. A hooded figure emerged from the woods before it quickly vanished. He could almost hear the hollow air around him as another presence entered the room. When he turned to face the individual in question, he was face to face with the dark-haired young woman he remembered too well, the young woman from room 410 at the old Fleming orphanage over a year ago. The strange but beautiful one who was from a time different from his own.
When he saw her at the orphanage, she had stared right at him though was unable to see him. But now she did see him.
Her dark eyes spoke to him, regarding him as if she thought that somehow, she should know him.
He opened his mouth to speak, barely managing to utter her name. "Joanna..."
She was indeed Joanna Livingston, a direct descendent of James Livingston. He wondered if he was perhaps inside her home, if this was where she had grown up.
As her dark eyes narrowed, he could feel heavy sorrow pulsing from within her. Something terrible had indeed happened to her, but what?
Finally, he found his voice. “Are you all right?”
Her eyes widened slightly before she took a step forward.
He spoke again. “Do you know where my wife is?”
Their gazes locked once more, and Matthew thought he could hear a light tapping on the floor beside them. When he looked down, he took a step backward. Blood was dripping onto the wood, coming out from Joanna's sleeve and running over her black polished thumbnail.
He gently picked up her wrists, which she did allow. He pulled back her sleeve, seeing the deep slash wound just by the vein.
The blood continued dripping onto the floor and a brief flash of his own daughter slicing her finger on an old Wallachian dagger entered his mind. Then he found himself staring into Joanna’s eyes once more, holding onto her slashed wrist.
"Why?" was all he could say to her.
She studied him for another moment before morphing into a rotting corpse and melting into the floor.
He jolted backward and a warning pierced the air, one that once again emphasized on his wife. Her presence was as dark as what he had felt at the Fleming Orphanage on the night he found her in the basement. Then the room suddenly darkened, and Matthew turned to see that a shadow was flying at him from across the room…

Matthew was wrenched awake, sitting up and taking in deep breaths as his heart raced. Panic and alarm pulsed throughout every fiber of his being. He immediately turned, hoping to see his wife still in bed beside him. Relief soothed him upon seeing that she was still there.
I couldn't find you…
He touched his wife's cheek, regarding her for another moment as he tried forgetting the details of his dream. Turning his gaze up to the dreamcatcher hanging from the ceiling, he focused on the energy pulsing from the beaded web and feathers, willing his equilibrium to normalize. In the last year, his sleep had been far from peaceful, but now it seemed to be taking on an even more sinister turn. He considered visiting the nearby Sioux reservation, hoping that perhaps it was something with his dreamcatcher that needed fixed. But for that time being, he decided to focus on the positive. Liz was recovering well, now able to eat on her own and her vocabulary was improving a little with each passing day. Matthew looked to the day when the woman he loved would be completely herself again, but deep down, he knew that she would never be. Not completely, at least. None of us will be...
As for their daughter, he received regular reports from Tahatan and Father Louis. Knowing that the young woman he still viewed as being his little girl had to be in hiding while expecting a baby was excruciating to him. He could only hope that the baby she carried would come into the world (whatever that world was) safely and in good health. And knowing that Carl was with her offered some relief.
Matthew repressed the urge to chuckle, recalling his initial feelings toward his son-in-law. At the time, Carl had the sort of reputation that would make any father concerned. And despite Carl's father having been a good friend since college, the slightest notion of Paul's son going with Dorothy hardly sat well with Matthew. But in the end, Carl proved himself more than worthy, demonstrating a willingness to do whatever was necessary to ensure Dorothy’s well-being, comfort, and safety.
After taking another glance at his wife, Matthew quietly got out of bed, his mind still active from the disturbing dream in which his wife was lost to him. He headed over to the window, thinking back to the first time he left his family's property behind. As a young man of eighteen, moving out to the metropolis of New York City under the guise of seeking out more opportunity was also his attempt at hiding the underlying childhood horrors still haunting him. In reality he was running away from it all only to walk into the belly of the beast.
(as though he had been lured there)
Looking out to the grounds, he saw the house across the field, the one that first belonged to his grandparents. Matthew was fifteen when Jonathan passed away and eighteen at the time of Kimimela's death. Last summer, his uncle Chaska, the eldest son and child of Jonathan and Kimimela, passed away in that house. Now only his older half-brother Joe and sister-in-law Leona resided there.
Having been present for Uncle Chaska's passing into the next life, Matthew was taken back to being in that very room when the spirits of his grandparents left their bodies. He was also present for both burials. It was just after Kimimela went to be with her Jonathan when Matthew left the family's property to escape a dark past. Now here he was, back again and sleeping in his childhood bedroom. After the horrific events from a year ago, there was a strong urge to return. Return home...
His eyes fell to the barn…that seemingly innocuous barn. Never would he forget the hellhound that attacked him in there when he was a boy of ten. Never would he forget the way his grandmother had regarded him after the incident, with such an eerie sense of knowing. It wasn't until after he returned to the family property permanently that Joe told him of the dream Kimimela had just after she and Jonathan discovered her pregnancy with Chaska. Their grandmother's dreams were almost always bizarre yet very prophetic. This dream involved a child running out from a barn, one that turned out to look just like Matthew. And I did run out of that barn...ran for my life...
He grasped the window frame. I'm forty-three, soon to be a grandfather, and still afraid of ghosts... But these weren't mere childhood fears of monsters in the closet. No…the monsters are quite real...
Matthew's thoughts materialized to a certain tree that stood in the far back area of his family's property. It was the tree he used to visit as a small child any time he felt sad and needed to talk. Yes, he would talk to the tree and many times he would swear to hearing it answer him. His 'mother tree', something often spoken of in Celtic and AmerIndian lore.
He had passed by that general area where the tree still stood many times since moving back in with his family, but could never bring himself to venture over. On several occasions, he felt as though the tree were calling to him and each time, he almost gave in. But then he would start to feel silly and turn the other way. Each time, there would be a pronounced sadness seeping into the air, as if the tree itself were mourning not only its loss of the little boy that once trusted her with his deepest secrets, but that boy's near loss of himself, his family, and his soul. Everything that made Matthew Charles Blake the core of who he truly was. And it was not his education or job in New York, and certainly not the house he had in Plains. All those materialistic things that I thought were so important... For many years, no matter how much he advanced in his education and job, he felt there was something missing, and it wasn't clear to him what that was until recently.
He glanced back at his sleeping wife, a tenderness permeating his core. Earlier that day, Matthew had been outside on the porch with her, looking through some old photographs and family letters. Among them were the letters he had sent to his parents when he was courting Liz. The content of the letters consisted of his cryptic words informing them of a lovely girl he had met, trying to tell them as much as he could while afraid of what their reactions would be should her identity be revealed. As he relived the memories with Liz, his old childhood best friend Dex stopped over.
Matthew had lost touch with Dex shortly after leaving Illinois to attend college in New York. Meanwhile, Dex stayed behind, continuing to work in his family’s farming business. Of course, the two had written to one another at first, and perhaps caught up a little during the times Matthew returned to Illinois over the holidays, but for the most part, there wasn’t much to talk about as they were part of two different worlds. Eventually, the letters and visits ceased entirely, save for the occasional small talk while running into one another during the holiday visits. Each time, it was evident just how far apart the two former playmates had grown. Dex would be in his work clothes and Matthew in his more distinguished business attire. Conversation was friendly, but stilted, as if the two men understood that they no longer had much in common. In addition, Matthew also struggled with his own position in the family as he had strayed so far from his roots. But he seemed to be finding himself again, starting to reconnect, not only with his family’s roots but also a childhood friend that had been somewhat forgotten.
Thoughts returned to his wife and the day he made the decision to seek her out after seeing her and Roxanne at the Harvest mixer, the day on which he had the feeling that everything in his life was about to shift.
Shortly after returning to his college dormitory (after managing to get Liz's attention and promising to write her as soon as possible), he received a telegram from Tahatan (who was studying at the time with a prominent medicine man and powowwer) congratulating him on his new relationship but also warning him to proceed with caution. But of course, Matthew was only thinking with his heart.
Courting Liz did involve many hurdles. Telegrams between him and Roxanne were also sent with cryptic messages indicating where they would discretely meet so he could get his next letter to Liz. And he still had a couple of those telegrams, along with Liz’s letters.
The tone of Liz's letters implied her great distress, and Roxanne had let on just enough for him to have an idea of what was happening within the Winthrop household. He knew he had to get her away, but the question of just how he would do that taunted him, especially when Tahatan told him of the dark dreams he was having that involved Winthrop estate. Then nearly a month went by with no word from Liz or Roxanne. No letters, telegrams, or anything.
Chills rose on his skin as the older Winthrop sister's words to him reverberated throughout his being.
I’ve seen what they can do...they have eyes everywhere…
His eyes stared out in the direction of his family’s burial grounds where his great-grandfather Charles Blake had been the first to be buried. He shuddered, suddenly alarmed over the thought of his own father and aunt Maya being the last two living children of Jonathan and Kimimela. Gerard was now eighty-three and Maya was just eighty and retired in Vermont, though she had come in for Chaska's funeral and sometimes the holidays.
Maya had been at home with her mother when Willow, the youngest child of Jonathan and Kimimela, mysteriously vanished. At the time, Maya was four-years-old and still had a year before she would be going to the schoolhouse with her older brothers. Willow had been in the girls' bedroom taking a nap as Maya helped her mother with preparing that night's dinner. When Kimimela looked at the clock and saw that little Willow was sleeping longer than normal, she sent Maya to check on her sister.
Even now Maya clearly remembered going into the room she shared with Willow, only to find that the little bed was empty. She searched other parts of the area but had to return to her mother, informing Kimimela of how the youngest one was not in her room. During her last visit to the property that Christmas past, Matthew questioned his aunt on the incident, and would never forget how her dark eyes regarded him. There was definitely reason why she – like him - left home at an early age. He could only imagine how it had been for her as a small child having to sleep in a room that reminded her of her missing little sister...

...Maya looked away from her nephew, as if deciding on whether to continue.
Matthew touched his elderly aunt's arm. Her white hair that had once boasted a beautiful golden color was softly pulled back, showing off the tawny complexion and dark eyes of her AmerIndian mother.
Finally, she glanced back at him.
“I thought I could escape,” she stated, her voice hardly above a whisper.
Matthew frowned, his heart thudding in his chest as his mind swam with more questions, not knowing which to ask first Finally, he said, “Escape?”  His heart skipped a beat as he had understanding for what she meant.
Maya gazed out to the field and the dark trees lining the night sky on the horizon. “Yes,” she replied. “For at least one night a week during the last seventy years, I have dreamed of her, seeing her walking through a dark void…searching...”
Matthew's breath hitched as he recalled his time inside a dark void two years prior, where he happened upon Willow.
He listened as his aunt continued. “No matter how far I traveled...she seemed to follow me...she followed me everywhere, including to the places I thought for sure I could escape...”
At seventeen, Maya left home and attended college at Oberlin, where she majored in history and archeology. While at school, she met the man she would marry, who was also studying archeology. The two traveled the world together, seeing many places and assisting and several archeological diggings.
“I saw her too,” Matthew blurted out.
Maya's eyes widened, but an understanding was there. Her face relaxed as she leaned toward her nephew. “I hated sleeping in that room after she vanished. I slept in my parents' bed with them until a couple weeks had passed. But then Mother started having her...problems.”
Matthew swallowed and nodded, recalling the story of the darkness his grandmother had gone through. The event that threatened to rip the family apart.
Maya continued: “But even after all that passed...I would wake up, in a state of half sleep and could almost swear to seeing her there in the room with me, sometimes even sitting on my bed. But after I was fully awake…she would be gone.” She paused. “It's as though she was stuck in a world somewhere beyond ours. Just close enough...yet not.”
Matthew shuddered. “I know...isn't that what Howahkan said the night before he left this Earth? That he could feel her presence nearby despite no one being able to physically see her.”
Maya nodded. “Yes...I remember that too well.” She looked back to him. “It's been two years since you've seen her, is it not?”
“Yes...two years...”
In that moment under the night sky, the two sat in silence, feeling a shift in the air, followed by a feeling of being watched and listened to...

...Matthew’s eyes were fixed out the window, staring toward the area where the small family graveyard was. Willow's was not the only empty grave out there. His Uncle Charlie, who at fifteen, ran away from home to enlist as a Union soldier during the Civil War and never returned. On the 50th anniversary of the war between the Union and the Confederacy, a mural was brought over from France to be displayed in historic Gettysburg. There was also a dedication ceremony, firearm, and cannon salute to those that had died on the battlefield or had gone missing in action. Gerard and some other members of the family had traveled out to Gettysburg for the event in honor of Charlie. The ceremony was moving, but the oppressing sadness of the family members whose relatives were missing hovered.
The third family member whose body did not rest beneath a headstone was Matthew’s older sister, Amy, who one day just disappeared. Just as Willow had...gone without a trace...
Since the events of two years ago, Matthew attempted tapping into the abilities he had tried shutting off and abandoning years ago as he wanted to find his sister, aunt, and possibly find out why Uncle Charlie never returned home. In war there are many possibilities...but at least maybe the family can have some closure...
The closest he came to was a quick flash in which he saw Charlie walking through a dark tunnel, lantern in hand as he led an unidentifiable group of people. It only lasted for a second, but was enough for Matthew to start trying to decipher it out before discussing it with the family. Perhaps Charlie was leading a group of soldiers in an ambush, or maybe he was among those that helped slaves escape to freedom by the underground railroads.
Neither scenario would surprise Matthew, as stories about Charlie always described him as being a daring young man with great leadership skills and a big heart. He often talked of helping poor Irish and AmerIndians rise up from their oppressive state someday. He was also known as the “family jester” as pranks and jokes were a constant with him. Had he lived, he would be eighty-seven now.
Thought of the underground railroads suddenly hit him. Everything seems to have a common ground of an underground tunnel...
A shudder traveled down his body as details of his dream played before him once more. He stared out at the moon, gripped by the same fear he felt in the dream. The celestial orb that shone upon the field of his family's property indeed held secrets, taunting him as he tried processing and making sense of it all. The skin on his arms prickled as he had a very sudden and uneasy feeling of being watched.
Liz... Fear for his wife had all his censors on alert.
His heart pounded as he turned around, nearly jumping back into the wall. His wife was sitting up in bed and staring at him. In the moonlight, her eyes seemed to give off a white, ominous glow.
Matthew looked away, refusing to believe what he was seeing. When he looked back, his wife was lying down again, fast asleep and without any sign of ever having been awake.
His heart pounded in his ears as he approached the bed, feeling horrible over being afraid of his own wife. But what did I see just now...?
He sat down on the edge, keeping his gaze fixed on her and searching for any sign indicating that she might have been awake. When there was none, he let out a shaky sigh and laid back down. He turned once more to face her before falling back into an uneasy sleep. A sleep in which an unidentifiable figure wandered through a dark forest, lost and alone. He could hear whispering. This time, the whispering was benevolent though sorrowful.
Roxanne...?
His steps abruptly halted when a figure blocked his path. Although he never formally met the young man staring back at him, Matthew knew who it was.
Brett...
The former young jazz musician's skin was ashen, his once handsome features sunken and gaunt. A pronounced rough rope burn circled his neck, and blood and tissue seeped out from where he had been disemboweled, soaking his clothing.

Terror seeped out from Matthew's core as he stared at the young man with whom his sister-in-law had fallen in love. A love that led to a horrific demise for both. Now that very young man stood, regarding Matthew and sending out a warning that pierced the darkness around them.

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