Big news is coming again… but not quite yet. Sorry!
Reminder: If you want to be the very first to know, sign up for the newsletter and get a bonus of a free exclusive ebook in The Grimm Star Universe, The Lost Chapter.
Update: right this minute The Spinning Wheel, the first book in The Grimm Star Saga: First Light is on pre-order everywhere. So is Personal Pan, the first book in A Comfort Food Romance series.
But, for now, here’s the beginning of the book I’ll be writing in the rough one chapter at a time in the newsletter and the next week posting here so that anyone can get caught up.
The voice in the forest
There was a fly slamming itself into the lightbulb of the ugly beige lamp bolted down to the side table. Maybe, she thought, she should try and shoo it away.
But her hands remained in her lap, and her eyes remained on the shadow cast by the hopeless endeavor of the fly to get into the light.
“Arabella,” the small woman with the severe bun behind the glass at the counter said, reading off a clipboard she held too close to her face.
There was no reason for her to read Ara’s name. Ara was the only person sitting in one of only two chairs in the small vestibule. She could have just said hey you.
“Yes?” Ara said, standing up and reminding herself to focus on what the woman said. She was so close. The last thing she wanted was to be derailed by a flub as she walked out the door. She just had to keep her shit together a little while longer.
“Someone is here to pick you up, so you may leave now.” The woman said. She put the clipboard down and started typing, staring at her monitor.
The clacking of her keys was a discordant rhythm to the fly’s slow and steady battering of himself. But that made sense to Ara.
Not even in her most out of control fantasy did she ever think the soundtrack to her departure would be anything resembling harmony.
Ara’s bag was small and still she had to lean to the other side, gripping it with both hands as tight as she could to walk the few steps to the door.
Juggling the bag, leaning it against her hip, she shoved at the door.
For a second, it wouldn’t open.
Her heart started hammering in her chest, and when it finally gave, she had to suck down breath after breath. Dragging the air into her lungs and reminding herself again and again that it had opened. It had. It was over. She was on the other side of the door.
Winter air, crisp and clean, washed over her face, sweeping a loose curl across her eyes.
She let her hair stay, obstructing her view, long enough for her heart rate to slow and her soul to grow used to being outside again.
It didn’t entirely stop the nerves from coursing through her. It didn’t entirely stop her concern that she was going to do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, and wind up right back where she started.
Ara swiped her curls out of her face and looked around for her ride.
Trenton was striding along the walkway toward her, a broad smile on his face.
But a quick scan of the mostly empty parking lot and the walkway behind her step-father proved what she had suspected.
Her mother wasn’t there.
Not that her mother’s absence would have ever surprised her. Not one day of the twenty-two years that Ara had been alive had her mother been a different person than who she was.
“Arabella,” Trenton said, taking her bag from her and giving her an air kiss near her cheek.
“Hello, Trenton.” Her voice was still weak and crackling like she had been screaming for a long time.
The wince that passed over his face was small, but she caught it, no matter how much he tried to smile through it.
“We are so glad you’ll be coming to see the manor. I’m sorry you weren’t able to be there when we first moved in, I will bring you to the mausoleum to pay your respects after we get you settled in.” He moved off down the stairs, not bothering to slow his pace or check if she kept up with him.
Ara sighed. At least she knew her mother and her step father hadn’t changed.
“Yes, I’m very sorry about my grandmother. She was an amazing woman,” she said, trying to keep up with him on legs not used to even that speed.
“She was.” He nodded back at her, his smile softening to something nearing sincerity. “Thank you.”
He reached the car before she did, tossing her bag into the back seat before climbing behind the wheel.
Grabbing the handle of the car door and getting in made the hairs on her arms stand on end. It shouldn’t have been frightening to get in a car. The engine roaring to life shouldn’t have made her grip on the seatbelt so tight it dug into her palm.
But not being in a car for a year while someone plumbs the depths of every possible fear a person could ever have could do things to a mind. And she had enough to handle where her mind was concerned.
They drove for an hour, in silence. If she had scripted the drive to her new home, a place she had never seen before, with the only father she had ever known, it would have been exactly the same. And like so many other times they were together, it was the opposite of how she wanted it to be.
At the edge of town, they turned onto a lane with large estates on either side. Large homes on sprawling grounds she was used to, but these homes were out of another era.
“Interesting that the manor is in the same town as…” She let her sentence hang, knowing it was what he wanted.
“Yes, well. Your grandmother was very concerned with your well being. She arranged for everything.” He turned the car again, down a lane with no houses visible to either side, instead there were just giant, looming evergreens.
She sat up as he slowed and pulled up to a massive ornate wrought iron gate.
Leaning out the window, Trenton typed a code into a panel in the side of a stone plinth with a light on top of it.
The gate moved, slowly yawning open, and he got them up and going again.
On the other side of the gate, the trees continued. They cast shadows along the lane, light sneaking in through their canopy overhead in small splashes along the ground.
Automatically, the headlights of the car turned on, making the way seem even darker by comparison.
“How long has the manor been in your family?” She asked, looking out into the woods as they passed, seeing no end to them and the gloom deepening further into the private forest.
“You must call it our family,” he said, his voice taking on that false note of cheer that made her want to roll her eyes like she used to as a teenager.
“So how long has it been in our family?” Technically, he was right. She had his last name, she was named after his great grandmother, and she was the only heir. But she always knew she didn’t look like a Blackwell. And if she forgot, the people in their circle were quick to remind her.
“The manor was built in the late 1800’s.” He went on, talking about the history of the grounds, the workers, their family history.
But she was stuck on the age of the home she was about to call her own. The amount of history the house had seen was daunting. If she thought too much about the fact that it was older than some states, her head would be done in. And the last thing she wanted was to have her mind reeling anymore than it already was by simply being away from that place.
It seemed to take forever for them to exit the woods and before them a large yard spread out, completely surrounded by more thick trees.
The house was in the center of the cleared space and Arabella knew why he insisted on calling it the manor.
Aged though she was, her roof had seen better days, and workers were crawling all over it putting in new slate, she was bigger than any private home Ara had ever seen. Her family had always been surrounded by the wealthy who loved nothing more than to be ostentatious about the size of their dwellings and showing them off at lavish parties they called charity events.
Doors, four times the size of the one she had walked out of not long before, loomed at the center of the dark brick building, and all she could think of was how heavy they would be to open, and if she would be stuck inside this building too.
Well, what do you think? What do you think will happen next?