Happy Valentines’ Day!

{This scene takes place after the ending of FEARLESS and before the beginning of BREATHLESS, in February of Tasmyn’s junior year.}

The Florida sun warmed my face as the wind whipped my hair back.  We had the top down on the Mustang as Michael drove the country roads that led us toward Sawood, Michael’s family nursery where we both had part-time jobs.

“So. . .” Michael almost had to shout to be heard above the wind.  “Tomorrow is Valentines’ Day.”

I narrowly avoided rolling my eyes. “Yup.”

“What do you want to do?”

I closed my eyes.  “Ignore the whole day and just get through it?”

I felt Michael’s sigh before I heard it. “Tas, it’s a day for lovers.  It’s a celebration of being in love. . like we are.  Let’s do something fun.”

I didn’t answer, and he turned down the gravel road that led back to the nursery and to his own house. We parked as we usually did in the driveway near the Sawyers’ beautiful cabin.  Michael pulled up the parking brake, turned off the car and shifted to look at me.

“C’mon,” he cajoled.  “What’s wrong with Valentines’ Day?”

I made a face and didn’t meet his eyes. “Oh, where to begin?”  I began counting off my fingers. “It’s a holiday invented by the card companies to make single people feel awful about themselves.  I’ve dreaded every single Valentines’ Day since middle school. Do you know how it feels to be the only girl in the class who doesn’t get roses delivered to her in the middle of class? Who doesn’t get asked to the dance? It was horrible.”

Michael draped an arm over my shoulder.  “But this year will be different.  You have me.  I have you.”

I refused to give in. “Yeah, that’s great for us.  But what about all the other girls who have to get through tomorrow without any love?”

He tilted his head considering, absently twining his fingers with mine. “Would it make you feel better if I had flowers delivered to all of our single friends tomorrow?  Would it relieve your guilty conscience?”

I shook my head.  “No.  That’s nice, but it’s not the same.  It wouldn’t make them feel any better.” I dropped my head to his shoulder and nuzzled his neck.  “But I love you for making the offer.”

Michael tightened his grip on my hand. “Okay.  So where does that leave us?” This is my first Valentines’ Day with a girlfriend–with the girl I’m going to love forever. I want it to be perfect.

We sat in the quiet of the woods as I considered.  A few birds twittered at each other from the tree tops, and I heard something rustling in the bushes near the deck.

“You know what?” I said finally.  “The truth is that every day we’ve been together has been Valentines’ Day for me–I mean, in the best way. So whatever you want to do tomorrow is fine with me.  I promise I’ll behave and I might even make you a card. Okay?”

He pulled me closer and covered my mouth with his own.  When I wasn’t sure where his thoughts ended and my own began, he leaned his forehead against mine and murmured, “I promise that every day, for the rest of our lives, I will make up for all your lousy Valentines’ Days. I love you, Tasmyn.”

A Word From Nell

It was always my mother.

She is my earliest memory.  I can still see her dark eyes laughing down at me, smell the sweet undefinable scent that surrounded her. When she held me close, her hair fell like a drape, and only the two of us existed.

I knew she was important, special. Wherever we went into King, everyone deferred to my mother, spoke to her hushed respectful tones.  They sensed the power just as I did, but they were not part of her as I was. They were outsiders, even the ones from the Old Families.

She made a game of that, of teaching me to suss out who came from which family. We walked down the sidewalk, and as we passed people, she murmured softly, only for my ears.

“Magician.”

“Contortionist.”

“Shifter.”

Our home was my playground and my school room. It was the grandest house in town, built by old Gravis for my ancestor Sarah.  There were secret closets, hidden passages and cryptic words carved into the stone of the fireplace.

I was four the first time she took me to the clearing.  We parked near the lake at full darkness and trudged down a gravel path. When we reached the boulder, she led me into the woods.  I wasn’t frightened, and she was proud of that.

The others were already there, gathered in a circle, dressed in long dark robes. I wasn’t permitted within, but I perched on a log just outside.  After the chanting ended, my mother spoke for several moments in a language I couldn’t understand.  And then she turned slightly and beckoned to me.  I stepped forward hesitantly and took her hand.

“Focus on the center, Nell,” she whispered. “Bring the fire.  Make it burn. Concentrate.”

I screwed up my eyes and tried to obey. At first, there was only silence, the sounds of the woods.  She tightened her grip on my hand, and suddenly power surged through me. My eyes flew open and I stared at the rock pile in the center of the ring.

A bright flame danced merrily among the stones.  She released my hand and smiled down into my eyes.

“It’s a beginning.”

 

Tangibility!

I’m not even really certain that this is a real word, but if it’s not, it should be. Because that is the only way to describe seeing your book in actual bound print for the first time. It feels so much more real. . .tangible. . .

In case you haven’t guessed, the proof copy of FEARLESS arrived today.  There was a good deal of girly squealing and jumping around courtesy of my youngest daughter and me. And right now I’m sitting here writing a post I didn’t plan to write today (I had something totally different in mind), because it IS a day that needs celebrating.

My joy in this day doesn’t lessen the happiness I felt when my book was epublished by Amazon. I think the point is that each milestone is another step in the journey; I realize more and more that each rewrite, edit, query and rejection only serves to make the celebration days that much sweeter.

As soon as I have a date for the book’s print availability, I’ll share it here.  Meanwhile, you can help me by posting reviews on Amazon, subscribing to my page’s updates via email (that’s the link below the Facebook button, over on the sidebar), liking my Facebook page and following me on Twitter (see the button on the sidebar!). This is REALLY important, and it helps get my book’s name and reputation out there.

And join me in celebrating!  Yipppeeee!!

 

How Michael Saw It

With tweezers poised above the glass sample dish, Marly slowly lowered the new pollen onto the already-harvested grains. She held her breath and tapped down ever so slightly–

The door to the greenhouse swung open and slammed shut behind her son. Marly gritted her teeth and suppressed a sigh.

“Hey, Mom.”  Wandering among the tables covered with tiny seedlings, Michael absently fingered a leaf.

“Hi, sweetie.”  Marly slipped off the glasses she wore only for precision work.  “How was school?”

“Ahh–what? Oh, yeah, it was good.” He leaned gingerly against one of the less-populated tables, stuck his hands into the front pockets of his faded jeans and faced his mother. “Yeah, it was. . .good.”

Marly studied her son.  He needed a haircut, she noted absently, but it was the expression in his eyes that caught her attention. She had gotten a vibe that something was wrong, but now, looking at him. . .she realized that he wasn’t brooding or mad. Instead, his eyes were bright with banked excitement.

“Okay, spill.”

His mouth tilted into a familiar half-grin, Michael raised his eyebrows and feigned ignorance. Marly shook her head and fixed him with a steady gaze. “Not gonna fly with me, bud.  Something good happened, and you’re going to tell me. Now.”

He never could hide anything from her.  A grin broke across his face.  “Mom, I met her.”

If she had any doubt about his meaning, the joy in his voice erased it.  “Her?  You met. . .a girl?”

“Not a girl, Mom.  Her.”

Marly caught her breath.  “Are you sure?”

“It was just like Dad said.  And Poppy. I saw her standing outside a classroom. . .just in the walkway.  Nell was going after her about something–you know how Nell is.  And I–”

“Nell?” Uneasiness shot through Marly.  “What was Nell doing?”

Michael shrugged impatiently. “What does Nell always do?  She was getting in her face about their chemistry class, how Tasmyn shouldn’t be in it–I don’t know.  I just broke it up, and Nell walked away mad.  And then Tasmyn–”

“Tasmyn.”  Marly tested it.  “Pretty name.  Different.”

“Not just pretty. Gorgeous. I mean, Mom–absolutely drop dead beautiful. I can’t wait for you and Dad to meet her.”

“Whoa there, buddy. You’re moving kind of fast on this. You meet her today and you already want to introduce us to her?”

Michael ran a hand through his hair, a gesture of impatience Marly knew well.  His dad did the same thing.

“I’m telling you, Mom.  It’s her.  It is.  Today I met the girl I’m going to love for the rest of my life.”