Chapter 5 of The voice in the forest and a gift! (i swear it isn’t an April fool’s joke)

first things first, do you like free books?

Okay, okay, I know. Everyone does. Silly question. And yes, THIS is the thing I was talking about that isn’t a prank. This month and in the coming months, I am going to be occasionally sharing some great opportunities with you to find a new author and some new books.

For today, there are three promotions I’m going to tell you about, check them out and see if there are any new stories for you to love. The truth is, I am a reader as much as I am a writer, and I always support books and their creators. It doesn’t matter how fast I write, I will never be able to keep up with how fast all of you can read. So it will not hurt my little feelings if you have a long list of authors you read. I mean… as long as I’m one of them. (I’m deciding whether it’s too cheeky to put a smiley face here… I’m going with too cheeky, but make no promises one won’t appear later)

The first promotion is for free books that introduce you to our worlds. For example, The Lost Chapter, the free ebook exclusive to my newsletter is in this promotion for people who want to sign up for this newsletter as well. Think of these as a free door to new universes.

The second is for books that are fairytale retellings or reimagining that are for sale, like The Spinning Wheel and The Spindle. No two fairytale retellings are alike, and I have a very obvious soft spot for these. 😉

The last this week, but certainly not the least, is a promotion for free books like all of mine in The Grimm Star Saga: First Light that are genre mash ups. Is The Grimm Star Saga: First Light series sci-fi or fantasy? In my head, it’s equally both, and these stories are all like that. Exploring new ways to tell stories within genres. I personally love stories like this, the hard to define.

And for a little bit of extra fun news, just because I thought it would be great if everyone went and checked out these blogs and the people who run them, Personal Pan has been featured by a bunch of blogs, Facebook groups, and Instagrammers this week. I have been sharing the links to all their blogs, groups, and social medias on my own feeds on Facebook and Instagram. 

Come on by the Facebook group:…

the page for Darlene Everly:…

and find me on Instagram at:…

And now, for the 5th chapter of the voice in the forest

Remember: this is a book in the rough, typos and twirling grammar and all. So, forgive the mess, it’s still under construction.

Chapter 5

Darkness began to fall, the sky turning from steel grey to an angry bruised purple. And still Arabella sat in the courtyard, digging in the ground that was too cold for planting. 

Her fingers ached, her short nails were caked in dirt, but the smell of it, the rawness of the earth in her hands, cleared her head.

There was no way she was still hallucinating, not after all she went through. And telling her doctors was out. As far as they were concerned, she had to remember that they were agents of her mother. There was a power of attorney after all, her mother could request whatever records she wanted. 

It made her feel perpetually five years old, but there was little she could do about it until she ‘demonstrated a prolonged period of stability.’ She wasn’t there for the pronouncement in court, but it didn’t matter. The words on the official looking paper she was given while in the ward rang in her head as if some menacing version of god spoke inside her mind.

“Well done, court system,” she mumbled to the thorny vine she yanked on, “If I didn’t hear voices before, your ugly statements about my mental health made me hear ones that are completely conjured from my imagination.”

Part of her found it funny to try and think of a description of the made up voice that repeated the phrase. She decided it was like an evil version of Morgan Freeman, devoid of the honeyed tones and calming quality of his particular version of a deity, and more tinged in menace.

Pulling on the stubborn vine with more force, gritting her teeth, her hand slipped. The thorns shredding their way through the skin of her fingers and palm. 

It opened up ugly, jagged lines, that stung and made her suck in a breath through her teeth.

“Damn it,” she said, looking around herself and realizing just how dark it was growing, the sun long since fallen from the sky. 

“Okay, I can do this.” She turned and faced the house, the looming quality of it wasn’t diminished in the low light. If anything, the way the colors had bled out of the world as the clouds and night rolled in, made the manor look more otherworldly, more in a pocket of its own version of reality.

But curling her wounded hand, holding it in front of her with her other one, the blood beginning to pool in her palm, she knew that no matter how much she didn’t want to face going back inside, she was out of time to pretend she didn’t have to.
Inside, the change in temperature was enough to make her cheeks hurt and her nose begin to run. She swiped at it with her good hand and tried to remember where the nearest bathroom was. 

A servant came out of a door on her left, and turned away from her to head down the hall. 

She opened her mouth to call to the older woman, and shut it again.

What if the older woman with the low bun walking away from her wasn’t really there? What if she was just another figment of her imagination?

If she called out and the woman wasn’t real, would her mother find out?

No one else was around that Ara could see, so she swallowed a shaky breath and asked, “Excuse me?”

The woman turned around, her face open and kind, a small smile on her face.

“Yes, dear?” she asked and Ara took a deep breath, her heart rate slowing down.

“Please.” Ara nodded and held out her hand, opening her fingers so the woman could see the bloody mess of her hand. “I was working in the garden beds in the courtyard and some thorns got me.”

“Oh, my.” The lady said, rushing toward her and steering her down a different hall that passed under a set of stairs she hadn’t noticed before. “Okay, come on with me then, we’ll just find Henry and he’ll fix you right up.”

They went through what seemed like a maze of corridors and finally arrived at a heavy mahogany door that didn’t have a handle. 

Whoever the lady was, she pushed against the door with her behind, swinging it open onto a room that looked like it would make more sense in a school somewhere. 

A young man with strikingly dark eyes and eyebrows against tanned skin and blonde hair sat at a desk that was too small for the piles of papers littering the top and chewed on the end of his pen while he squinted at a notebook in his hand.

Behind him on the wall was a giant old chalkboard, it looked like something approaching a schedule was scrawled on it in an even hand, but crowding the semblance of sanity were scribbled notes in a cramped and frenetic script.

The entire room was filled by long white folding tables that she associated with people having kids birthday parties in parks. Not that she was ever invited to the kinds birthday parties she connected the tables to, but she had walked by one or two in her life.

“Can I see it?” His voice was soft and velvety, but it made her jump she was so distracted by the room. 

Somehow she missed the older woman making her way across the room and his coming to stand directly in front of her.

“Yeah, um, I just need a sink to clean it and get a bandage, but I don’t know where anything is,” she said, thrusting her hand out and trying not to trip over her words. Mostly she failed at the last part.

He raised a skeptical brow and a wry smile as he took her hand and nodded. 

“That’s not how this is going to work. Gretchen brought you in to me, and I’m going to make sure your hand is taken care of properly.” He gestured for her to turn around, keeping his other hand on her wounded one, holding it like it was some kind of platter he needed to be careful not to knock anything off of.

“Where are we going?” she asked, turning before she got the answer.

“I’m going to take you to the kitchen. It’s where the first aid kit is. You should probably know that anyway if you’re going to be doing more gardening. Although, you know we have staff for that, right?” He smiled and it softened his face, making her blink and look away.

“And you are?” she asked, trying to get her bearings in the coversation. She couldn’t look at him, she had to at least learn his name.

“Henry. I used to work for your grandmother, Arabella,” he said, with a dip of his head like a truncated bow.

She swallowed, it would never not be weird for people in the house to know exactly who she was and for her to have no idea about them. As if the didn’t matter and she was somehow important. 

It made her want to hide under a table.

“People call me Ara,” she said as he pushed open a door twice as wide as she thought it should have been.

On the other side was a gigantic kitchen. If she thought the dining room as large, it was dwarfed by the sea of kitchen she walked through.

“I don’t think your mother would appreciate it if the servants grew too informal with you and started calling you Ara. I’ll stick with your whole name. It’s lovely. Here,” he said, pulling a stool over to a small sink in a large copper island. 

She sat down and bit her lip, letting her eyes wander through the kitchen, noticing the abandoned quality to most of the space.

A stream of warm water flowed over the cuts in her hand making her suck in a breath and flinch.

“Terribly sorry, but we do need to scrub the dirt out of the wound a bit.” He turned her hand over and inspected the scratches, his face soft like he was looking at a small child’s injury.

It made her grit her teeth and the sting in her hand suddenly mattered less, even as he began to scrub at it with soap and a rough sponge. 

Brown tinged water flowed into the sink with streaks of her blood following it down the drain, she looked away, back toward a darkened corner of the kitchen.

She couldn’t quite make out what was over there, but it looked like it might have included an antique hutch. 

Trying to make it out, one of the shadows around it moved.

Tada! I hope you like it, even though you’re watching the duty disaster as it gets built. As always, happy reading!

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