I’m starting a second series on my blog and taking a bit of a break from The Office Shenanigans (though they will return eventually, Lord willing 🙂 ). I won’t share too much of my novels but I would like to whet your appetite so you’ll be interested in reading the full thing once they’re published.
This excerpt, Dividing Lines, is the third chapter in The Vesper Incident, which is Book One in The Castlewood Saga (or Tales of Castlewood…still figuring out which name I like better…). I’m currently working on Draft One of The Vesper Incident while sporadically editing Draft Two of The Refiner’s Fire (the second book of the trilogy). The third book, The Remnant, is just over half-way finished (at least the First Draft…).
Say hello to the writer’s life 😛 Sometimes books get written out of order. Sometimes we’re working on multiple novels simultaneously. Sometimes inspiration hits us like a train and we start working on random other projects that have captured our attention. Sometimes we’ve been staring at the same page on our computer for weeks and not making any progress. Sometimes the faucet gets turned on and the words are flowing and our fingers are flying like lightning. Sometimes we haven’t written in months. Regardless, just know that writers are always at work…even when we’re not writing anything. Our minds are busy, busy, busy. Our characters never leave us and they’re always running around in our heads screaming things, causing trouble, refusing to comply with our very simple requests (that’s how writing gets stalled….writer’s block), and generally just making us look like we need to get sent to a psych ward because normal people don’t hear voices in their heads.
Then again, we writers aren’t normal people 😉 But I’ll get to all that in a post specifically about writing some time soon. For now, enjoy this little glimpse into the dysfunctional life of the extended Lawson family 🙂
Since I’m throwing you into the middle of the action, here’s a bit of a family tree to help you out. Parents on the first line, kids on the second line, kids’ ages on the third line. Stanley, Sandra, and Sabrina are siblings 🙂 Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below if you’re so inclined!!! Look out for Chapter 4, Presents All Around, next week, Lord willing ❤
Stanley & Karen Lawson Xavier & Sandra (Lawson) Vaughn Sabrina (Rina) Lawson
Adam | Holly | Alex Floyd Amber |Tyler | Sophia
20 | 17 | 16 20 17 | 16 | 3 mo.
Chapter Three | Dividing Lines |
Monday, December 22, 1997
Smoke rose into the night sky as the Lawson family valiantly tried to enjoy Christmas vacation…or at least fake enjoyment until after Christmas Day. Bundled in coats, hats, and scarves, the motley crew bustled in and out of the mountain home, carrying s’mores’ paraphernalia. Four outdoor couches circled the fire-pit and an outdoor kitchen lay several feet away. Aunt Sabrina had insisted on blaring holiday tunes from the sound system much to everyone’s discomfort. She was trying too hard; pretending everything was okay when it really wasn’t and on so many levels.
Holly sat alone on one of the couches, a bag of marshmallows on her lap. She really wished she had a puppy to snuggle right at this very moment. It would make the evening bearable. Honestly, she didn’t know what her family was going to talk about during the s’mores’ night. Losing Rivendell loomed like a dark cloud over everyone’s heads, the elephant in the room that no one wanted to face but that stubbornly refused to disappear. Either denial or anger would mark the remainder of the evening.
To Holly’s extreme surprise, Floyd plopped down next to her, a little too close for comfort. She fought the desire to shift away in an effort to spare his feelings. He didn’t frighten her but she just found him a bit repulsive in general. Murder hadn’t landed him in juvie and it was mainly petty crimes that slapped him with a criminal record. Holly didn’t know if her cousin was capable of murdering someone but she tried not to think about it. Amber said that darkness lurked within everyone’s hearts and she had seen some pretty intense things growing up with Aunt Sabrina as her mother. Holly pushed Amber’s cynicism away though she believed that sin was real. Sin resided in every human heart, she knew that for certain, but she just didn’t want to think about the depths of sin that probably bubbled like a foul-smelling swamp in Floyd’s soul.
Floyd snagged a giant marshmallow from the open bag and popped it into his mouth. “How many do you think I can fit, Hols?” he asked around the sticky treat.
“Probably five or six, maybe seven.” Holly barely glanced at her cousin. How on earth could he be so goofy and so troublesome all at the same time? It confused her to no end.
Floyd shoved his hand back into the bag. “Challenge accepted.” He pushed one white fluffy sweet after another into his large mouth but only managed four.
A smile spread across Holly’s face in spite of herself. “It’s impossible to fit that many. I was kidding.”
Floyd tried to laugh but almost choked on the marshmallows as he chewed them to bits. “Sarcasm. Not your thing. Thought you were serious.”
Holly rolled her eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m working on it.” She tossed a marshmallow into the fire that had fallen from Floyd’s lips. “You would have rammed them into your mouth anyway regardless of what I said.”
“True.” Floyd swallowed the last of the marshmallows and wiped his hands on his jeans. He threw a glance his cousin’s way. She and Amber were his favourites. Probably because they didn’t get all alpha and territorial like Adam. Alex and Tyler were still young but he didn’t mind them. The girls always made him feel welcomed and accepted and he appreciated it…a lot. Though he’d never tell them.
He cleared his throat somewhat awkwardly, tossing his long hair from his eyes. “Hey. You looked good on the slopes today. I saw you zig-zagging around like a pro.”
Holly popped a marshmallow in her mouth. “Thanks. You were awful.”
“Ouch.” Floyd sucked in his breath and nudged Holly’s shoulder with his. “Coulda been a bit more subtle, Hols. I tried, though. I mean, you gotta give a guy points for trying. Those blasted skis just tangle me up and get me confused.” He sliced the air in front of him with his hand. “Straightforward, that’s me, you know. I gotta see the big picture and then run with it…no obstacles.”
Holly got the uncanny feeling that he wasn’t actually talking about skiing but she didn’t really want to know the subtext. She was straightforward too but Floyd was speaking in riddles and it made her uncomfortable. She pulled her hat down more snugly around her ears. “Um yeah, sure. You just need lessons is all. With some practice, you’ll be fine. Who’s that guy you brought with you? Brett.”
“Why?” Floyd waggled his eyebrows at her much like Adam had done to Amber a few days earlier in the kitchen. “You like him?”
Holly shot him a look which she hoped conveyed just how unamused she was. “No. When girls ask questions about guys, it doesn’t mean we have ulterior romantic motives. I actually want to know more about him ‘cause I’m curious.”
“Just checking.” Floyd chuckled and sprawled his legs, taking up much of Holly’s space without even noticing. “I met him after I got out of The Place. Met him somewhere your parents wouldn’t approve of so I’ll keep it a secret. He’s cool, though. I wouldn’t bring anyone here who wasn’t.” He shifted and held Holly’s gaze. “You know that, right Hols? I wouldn’t bring anyone to Rivendell who wasn’t on the up-and-up.”
Holly eyed him. He was definitely acting weird. “You’re not exactly on the up-and-up yourself.” The words were out before she could stop them and she winced. “Hey, I’m sorry. It just came out.”
Floyd slouched, his eyebrows dipping so low, Holly thought they’d run right off the end of his long nose. “Unfair and hurtful but true.”
“Floyd, I’m sorry.” Holly lay a hand on his knee. “I didn’t mean to say that. I like Brett, I do, and I know you wouldn’t hurt us. Everything’s just so confusing right now with this being our last Christmas here. We all don’t see each other at all except for here and if we lose Rivendell, we’re not gonna see each other ever.”
“Do you blame me?”
“Kind of, yeah. I mean everyone else does and I tried to stick up for you at the meeting last night but Adam was mad.” She clapped a hand over her mouth. Why couldn’t she think before she spoke?
Floyd’s frown deepened and his face hardened. “What meeting?”
“I’m sorry! Ugh, I don’t why I can’t get a handle on my brain-to-mouth filter.”
“What meeting, Hols?” Floyd repeated, his voice insistent.
Holly sighed. They were gonna kill her. Especially Adam. “Yesterday. Amber woke all the cousins up at like 2 am and we talked about how we were gonna save Rivendell and help Aunt Sandra and Uncle X pay off the mortgage or something. I don’t know exactly what the whole mortgage thing means but Adam seemed to think it was impossible to do it and then Amber had this crazy idea about Montana.” Tears welled in her eyes and she pushed the marshmallow bag onto Floyd’s lap. Leaning over, Holly set her head in her hands and sobbed. “And all I want is a puppy and it seems so stupid because of the financial trouble but I just want a puppy and…for us to be together…and I’m so sorry you weren’t invited.”
Floyd was raging mad but he clenched his jaw to hide his fury. He was trying so hard. He even brought Brett as a sort of peace offering…as twisted and weird as that sounded now. He even bothered to show up at all and they still treated him like an outcast. A guy couldn’t make a few mistakes and just be forgiven? Isn’t that what family was all about? Love and forgiveness and second chances? Prison sealed his fate as the black sheep of the Lawson clan and he hated it. He hated all of it. Maybe what Brett always said was right. Maybe family wasn’t about who you were born with, it was who you’d die for. And he’d die for Brett, for Bruce, for Connor, for all of them. They were his family.
He rubbed a hand along Holly’s back, his jaw still tense. “Forget it, Hols. It’s not your fault, you tried. Apparently that’s the best any of us can do in this family and it’s still not good enough. I know Adam’s a jerk like that so forget it. What’s this about Montana?”
Holly sniffed and wiped at her face. “Aunt Jade. She lives there and Amber wants us to go and ask her for help.”
Floyd nodded slowly. “Ahh, so you guys found out about her. I was thinking of going there myself, you know. Just to get away. Maybe she’ll take me in,” he added bitterly.
Holly rubbed her nose and sat up. “How’d you know about her? Amber said she doesn’t keep in touch with our parents anymore.”
“Oh she keeps in touch with Sandra. Sandra’s the oldest and she’s got this like mothering thing for everyone, except me I’ve noticed, so she checks up on Jade a few times a year. I listen in on their phone conversations sometimes.” He looked extraordinarily pleased with himself.
“Oh.” Holly processed the information, wondering how exactly Floyd eavesdropped on his mom’s phone chats if he didn’t live in the same house as her. It was probably better that she remained blissfully ignorant.
Floyd hooked an arm around his cousin’s neck. “I’ll get you that puppy, Hols. You deserve it. What kind do you want?”
“What?” Holly’s blue eyes widened. “You don’t have any money.”
Floyd laughed. “You’re doing it again. The thing where you state the obvious but without trying to be hurtful. Don’t ever change, Hols. World needs more people like you in it.” He smiled warmly. “What kind you want?”
“Um, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.” Holly spoke excitedly, her eyes sparking with enthusiasm. “It’s okay, you don’t need to pay for it. It’s really expensive but I raised most of the money already by working summers. They’re so cute and cuddly, Floyd, and they don’t get really big and I don’t think Mom and Dad will mind but I don’t want to spring it on them like this with Rivendell and all that but Floyd, I really want one.”
Shaking his head, Floyd stared at his seventeen-year-old cousin, a smile on his face. She was cute when her eyes lit up and you could see the passion in them. He just hoped the world didn’t make her cold. “Don’t ever change, Hols,” he repeated and he hoped she knew just how much he meant it. “If you have the money already, what’s stopping you from buying one?”
The light went out of Holly’s blue eyes. “This.” She gestured around them. Bing Crosby crooned about being home for Christmas from the outdoor sound system. “Mom and Dad are gonna help Aunt Sandra and Uncle X now that they’re broke or whatever and I don’t…I don’t wanna get in the way.” Her previous fire dimmed. “It’s not fair to dump that on them with everything else that’s going on. Also, I don’t have all the money yet. I need 700 more dollars.”
Floyd gazed into the flames before them. “Don’t worry about it, Hols. I’ll get you the money. And your parents’ll be fine once they get used to the idea. They’re not like Sandra and Xavier. They’ll come around. Don’t worry.” His brown eyes narrowed. “You’ll get your puppy. I’ll make it happen.”
“Thanks, Floyd.” Holly leaned over and kissed her cousin lightly on his scruffy cheek. “This means a lot to me.” Her heart exploded with love for her delinquent cousin. She didn’t know why he was helping her but she loved him for it. It was strange. He’d stepped up where Adam had backed down. Adam, her own brother. The golden child. Mom and Dad’s favourite. Floyd had done what he refused to do and Holly suddenly realized that underneath the darkness, light waited. Someone just had to be patient enough to fan the flicker into a flame. So she was sticking by him, even when everyone else had given up hope. Floyd could change if she loved him hard enough.
Floyd coughed and rubbed at his cheek. “Oh, uh, thanks…I mean you’re welcome. No problem. Don’t mention it. Uh yeah. We should probably see what’s taking everyone so long inside.”
The cousins walked past the outdoor dining area and into Rivendell’s indoor kitchen. The mountain home was eerily quiet and devoid of humans. Holly found herself whispering. “Where’s everyone? What’s going on?”
Floyd set a finger to his lips as they made their way down the corridor. “Ssh. Hang on. Let’s wait here for a sec.” He leaned against the wall and motioned for Holly to do the same. Everyone else was in the living room. He could just see the toe of Aunt Rina’s Santa onesie hanging over the arm of one of the couches. He figured she was lying down with her legs draped over the edge. The rest of the family was outside his line of sight.
Adam’s voice filtered through the air and sent waves of anger coursing through Floyd’s body. He hated his cousin but forced himself to stay quiet so he could listen.
“I know it’s a crazy plan and I’m hoping you guys will step in and say no but I thought I’d help Amber out and at least let you parents in on it.”
Holly lifted herself on her toes so she could reach Floyd’s ear. “He’s talking about going to Montana. Why didn’t he call us in first?”
“’Cause he’s a word I won’t say in front of you, Hols, that’s why.”
Aunt Rina responded first to Adam’s proposal. “Jade left us. She won’t be interested in helping.”
“She didn’t leave, Sabrina,” Uncle Stan retorted. “She grew up and made a life of her own. Let’s not discuss it in front of the kids. Adam, that’s a great plan but you don’t need to fly there. Aunt Sandra has her number. You kids can get in touch with her that way. Mom and I are going to be working with Aunt Sandra and Uncle X to see what we can do. None of us want to see Rivendell go.”
Holly sucked in her breath. “Dad knew Aunt Sandra had Aunt Jade’s number this whole time? Why did no one tell us about her?”
Arching an eyebrow, Floyd shot his cousin a knowing look. “Welcome to the Black Sheep Club. Fun, isn’t it?” He motioned with his hand. “C’mon. Time for our grand entrance.” He led the way into the living room and waved at all assembled. “Hey Lawsons, what happened to s’more night? Hols and I have been outside waiting.” He locked eyes with Adam for a split second and looked away.
Adam narrowed his own eyes and the muscles in his jaw twitched. He didn’t trust Floyd. He didn’t trust him one bit. And he was still angry with him for being the catalyst in this whole Rivendell fiasco. His cousin ruined everything and if that wasn’t enough, he had to ruin Adam’s peace of mind along with it. Going to Montana out of pure spite was starting to sound more and more appealing the longer he thought about Amber’s plan.
Sabrina cradled Sophia and swung her legs off the couch’s arm. “Yes, Floyd! Let’s go. I sent your friend Brett upstairs to get Sophia’s pjs. He’s a darling. Bring him back next year.” She flashed her nephew a dimpled smile and padded down the hallway into the kitchen.
Alex shook his head, disgust etched all over his features. “What’s she talking about? There won’t be a next year.”
“Oh shut up, Alex.” Amber glared at her cousin and pushed past Floyd and Holly. “Let’s make these ridiculous s’mores before the fire goes out.”
Holly watched Amber stomp down the corridor after her mother. From the looks of things, the fire had gone out a long time ago.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Theme verse for The Vesper Incident. As usual, it’s subject to change ’cause writers are perfectionists….either that or we’re constantly second-guessing our work pretty much 24/7…..or thinking we’re gods ’cause no one else could possibly have written something so, well, novel…Then we go back to thinking our work is absolute rubbish and no one will ever want to read it. Being a writer ain’t for the faint of heart, lovely humans 😛