I’m hesitant to share much of this book, because, in each scene, more key story elements are exposed. Still, the prologue, which is included in its entirety and the excerpt from Chapter Five seem satisfactory. They neither expose too little or too much.
Prologue – Misfire
A gun shot rang out, and ex-military sharp-shooter Roxanne Michaels hit the deck, her eyes seeking any movement as she eased her 9mm out of its holster. Roxi rolled into the cover of brush at the side of the trail and waited, breath steady, hand steadier, heart pounding.
To her left, through the trees, a brilliant, silent, flash of light exploded, flared upward, then died. Fire, liquid and seething, literally boiled toward her. She didn’t have time to even cover her head before it swept over her, its searing heat so intense, she felt her skin shrivel as she lost consciousness.
When next she opened her eyes, surprised to be alive, two black ones stared down at her. They belonged to a naked boy who couldn’t have been more than eight-years-old. “Ah…. .”
He put a hand out toward her, his skin so translucent that she swore she could see through to his very bones.
His fingers touched her, and she felt a static charge of electricity run through her body-not unpleasant, but extremely unnerving.
Staggering, Roxi rose to her hands and knees, her gun still clutched in her left hand. She holstered it, then sank gratefully to sieza. Breath shaky, she managed a “Hi.”
The boy blinked once in response.
“Are…are you alone?”
Opalescent tears welled in his eyes, spilling over to run down his cheeks. He turned and pointed.
Feeling shell-shocked, Roxi managed her feet, then shrugged off her pack and pulled a pair of her shorts and a sweatshirt from it. “You need to put something on,” she said, holding out the clothes. Her hands were shaking.
He just stared at her.
“Here. Let me help.”
The shorts were way too big to stay on his slim hips, but a piece of string from her backpack solved that problem. Rubber bands dealt with the too-long sweatshirt sleeves. She rubbed bug repellent on him, then let him lead her to where he’d earlier pointed.
There, two charred bodies lay twisted together on the ground. “Are these your parents?” she asked.
More tears rolled down the boy’s face.
~ ~ ~
From Chapter Five
Turning toward the matriarch, Nancy decided to broach the question of Carrick’s stay here, again. While she could no longer object to him remaining because of the age of his guardian, she could insist on visitation privileges…and would. The state empowered her, and she planned on exercising that power to the fullest extent possible. “Ms. Grove?” she said, raising her voice enough that it carried over the murmur of table conversation.
The room instantly fell silent, all faces turned to look at her. All movement stopped. Even the serving staff paused their constant activity.
“I wish to visit Carrick regularly, once every two weeks,” Nancy said.
Eyes traveled from one face to the next. The aged Ms. Grove put her fork down and touched a napkin to her lips. “Oh? And why might that be?”
“It’s the state’s duty to ensure that the child is adjusting properly and to help during the transition period,” Nancy said, using her diplomatic version of the answer. She had no doubt that people as seemingly wealthy and well-placed as the Groves were friends with, not just the governor, but probably Senators, as well. Maybe even the President.
“I don’t think that will be necessary,” the woman replied.
“This is not a request, Ms. Grove, but a state mandate,” Nancy said, trying her best not to let her voice get sharp.
Across the table from her, the deputy who’d brought her here began to shake his head, his eyes boring into hers as a frown creased his brow. He mouthed what appeared to be ‘no.’ She ignored him.
The ancient woman’s brows arched and she sat back in her throne-like chair. One hand reached for a gem that hung on a golden chain around her neck. “So you think you have a right and privilege to disturb us every fortnight, is that so?”
“I do, and I insist.”
“And if I refuse?”
“Then Carrick will leave with us today,” Nancy replied, “and my report will reflect your refusal to cooperate.”
Unable to prevent it, a smug satisfaction rose inside her. These people thought they were powerful, but, when it came to protecting children, Nancy had the power to bring them to their arrogant knees. She’d done it before, and she’d gladly do it again. “Of course, you may appeal, but appeals take months, sometimes years, to resolve.”
“And for how long will you require these visitations to continue?” the woman asked, her voice resonating oddly through the room.
A ticking started somewhere to Nancy’s left and, in front of her, her water glass began to tinkle, the fluid rippling. All the glasses began to similarly vibrate within seconds of one another, a shimmering hum gaining volume, like many wetted fingers rubbing rims of crystal wine glasses. Then the silver began to jingle, too.
Fighting distraction, Nancy focused on her goal. She formed her words in her mind before speaking, then spoke them clearly and precisely: “Until I personally am satisfied that Carrick is happy, safe, and completely well-adjusted to his new environment, and that this family is fulfilling his needs.”
All sound stopped. Nobody moved, all eyes upon the woman at the head of the table.
Nancy smiled…was about to say something, when the old woman suddenly nodded and rose to her feet. “Very well, Ms. Rutherford. If know us you wish, then stay you will.”
* * *
With a groan, Mog launched himself skyward. It might be the only remaining answer, but that answer brought sure doom and tragedy. The Rowan had not heeded. Now all would pay penalty.
“Rouse the Wyrdom,” he snapped, his inner liege leaping to obey.
Fur and feather, sheave and scale, shifted lay and fold. Claw and talon scrabbled. Wings unfurled to loft to windward paths, scream and bellow rising as the call was borne to depth and height and breadth.