I’ve got a blog post running around in my head, screaming to be written, but I just can’t seem to make the words come out on paper….or on my computer screen, to be more accurate 🙂 Sooooo, stay tuned for later this week! It won’t be about the post running around in my head (no, that’ll be next week….hopefully), but it’ll be about what I’ve learned in the past few weeks as my words have ceased to flow. It’s sort of been like the faucet is on, but no water is coming out…. My brain’s been frazzled lately and the screaming blog post hasn’t been helping 😛
But more on all that later this week, Lord willing!
For today, here’s a bit of yet another one of my novels. This one’s nowhere near as far along as the The Refiner’s Fire (which is finished save for editing) or The Vesper Incident (which isn’t even past it’s first draft yet). Hearts of Thunder is a stand-alone novel and has nothing to do with Refiner’s Fire or Vesper, though I’m toying around with having one or two of the characters from The Castlewood Saga show up briefly….we shall see.
In any case, Hearts of Thunder takes place in a completely different world than Castlewood. No small, sleepy town with quirky yet lovable characters. Instead, say hello to dysfunction at its finest. A family business no one wants to be a part of. Cousins trying to fit into a world that wasn’t made for them. An innocent by-stander thrown into the confusion. Two people who keep turning up in places they shouldn’t be: Nigel Hawthorne and Esmeralda Queen. And of course, the secrets. ‘Cause what’s a good story without some secrets thrown in 🙂 Welcome to Holt Unlimited, where the Holt family and their friends are about to be taken (by me, the author hehehe) on a wild journey to find out what exactly it means to have a heart of thunder.
Character list to keep you from pulling your hair out as I bombard you with loads of names in the excerpt below 🙈
The Holt Family | parents on the top line, children on the bottom line |
Kyle Holt Sr. & Svetlana Romanov Kennedy Holt & Laurel Queen Kevin Holt
Kyle Holt Jr. “KJ” Aurelia Holt Russell Holt
Todd Chambers & Sonya Romanov
Holt Family Friends
Zachary & Keira Spencer
Enjoy and feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below!!! 🙂
Chapter Two – Esmeralda Queen –
Friday, October 30, 2016
17 Entwash Road
Morning, God. Marian prayed as she moved about the kitchen, preparing breakfast. I’m really nervous about today so please stay with me. She hummed along to her phone and wondered if she was the only one in the world who was afraid of making money, and quite a bit of money at that. Well, it wasn’t the dollar signs that frightened her, it was the environment. Uncle Kyle unfortunately had one way of thinking and suffered under the delusion that everyone else had to be of the same mind. Marian frowned. As far as her uncle was concerned, money was power and without power, what was the point of life? She could think of a few things but Uncle Kyle terrified her so she’d never challenge him.
She bent to open the oven but jerked up again as she felt a hand on her shoulder. Turning, she saw her mother and tugged out her earbuds. “Mom! You scared me!”
“Sorry, love.” Sonya narrowed her eyes slightly as she looked at her daughter. “You’re nervous about Uncle Kyle, aren’t you?”
Nodding, Marian toyed with her earbuds. “Mom, I just….what if, what if he wants me to do something under the table? You know, to bring in more money.”
Sonya chuckled. “He’s not a criminal, Marian.”
“I know, I know. I just…I have this feeling being his personal secretary has strings attached to it. Like I’ll also be his personal henchman or something.” Marian remembered Russell’s warning when she first found out she had the job. Uncle Kyle’s a bit…well, a bit of a con man but don’t worry, nothing scary. I’ll be down the hall and around the corner if you need anything. She smiled. Although Russell could be rather difficult to read at times, she was thankful for their friendship. She watched her mother check on the food. “Russ said he’d be there, though, if I felt uncomfortable.” Even as the words left her mouth, Marian wished they hadn’t.
Sonya slammed the pot lid closed with more force than was necessary. “Did he, now?”
Biting her lip, Marian winced slightly. “Mom, he’s not like KJ. And anyway, even KJ has a soft spot for some things.”
“Marian.” Sonya turned and laid her hands on her daughter’s shoulders, reaching upwards to compensate for their height difference. “Your good heart does you credit, but the world is cruel.”
If Marian was honest with herself, she would have realized that her mother’s tone irked her. But even after twenty-five years of listening to her mother’s voice, the heavy Russian accent masked the potentially condescending tenor and Marian smiled at the way the words rolled off Sonya’s tongue. The rich inflections lent a heartfelt flavour to her mother’s words. She felt like she should be more angry with her mother for reducing her feelings to a trite platitude but she couldn’t bring herself to be fully upset. Marian had begun to recognize that trite platitudes were her mother’s way of coping when she didn’t know how to deal with a situation. It bothered her but not enough to make her angry. She had a knack for letting things roll off her back, even when Aunt Lana was involved.
“Mom, I know you think Russell is spoiled but he’s just confused. He doesn’t fit into our family’s world and honestly, I don’t either. Uncle Kyle, Aunt Lana, and KJ live in this glass castle in the sky; the rest of us live in simple houses on the ground. We’ll never be able to understand one another and we just have to learn how to get along without fully understanding.”
Sonya shook her head. “Russell’s living in the glass castle too, Marian.”
The smell of burnt sausage drifted through the air and Marian gasped. “My casserole!” As she hurriedly wrenched open the oven, Sonya pulled plates from the cupboard. Though Russell’s name was forgotten for the moment, he was sure to surface again. With so many members of the Holt extended family working at Holt Unlimited, one couldn’t hide from one’s antagonists for long.
5 Brandywine Court
Marian took a deep breath as she and Sonya joined the crowd milling about in the Holt’s massive foyer. She scanned the faces for a friend but couldn’t see Russell or even KJ, not that she’d call him a “friend” but at this point a familiar face, even his, would be welcomed. Her father had come on ahead since Uncle Kyle wanted to squeeze in as much work as they could before the evening began. Neither her father nor Uncle Kennedy, the third member of their little triumvirate, had wanted to attend but somehow Uncle Kyle just drew obedience out of them.
“Here she comes, Mom.” Marian bent slightly and whispered in Sonya’s ear as Svetlana Holt sailed their way like a queen. Firming her shoulders, Marian braced herself for the on-coming abuse.
Svetlana raked Marian’s outfit with her eyes. “Could have tried for a bit of make-up, Marian, but then you’re only just getting used to how we do things here, today being your first day of work and all.”
For some reason, Marian found that her aunt’s Russian accent didn’t quite mask her condescending tone as it did with her mother.
“The dress is all right,” Svetlana continued, “but we don’t live in the 50s anymore.”
Marian looked down at her dress. Burgundy was her favourite colour and she enjoyed how the floor-length cut allowed the dress to sort of swish as she walked. The voile-spliced design with the sheer polka-dotted sleeves gave it all a unique flair, she thought, and the black sash around her waist was her favourite touch. Although her aunt’s words would have withered a weaker person, Marian realized they didn’t alter her opinion of herself. Straightening her back, she met Svetlana’s eyes without fear yet remained silent.
Sonya’s eyes flashed as she stared at her sister. “Please, Lana. You didn’t dress well until you met Kyle so don’t act is if you’ve always carried such an…aura.”
Svetlana relented a little. “Well, the shoes are nice. Black heels were the one thing you got right.” She nodded to Sonya. “You said you wanted to discuss the catering options for next week’s meeting?”
Marian forced a smile and watched her mother and aunt make their way through the crowd. Folding her hands at her waist, she took in the women’s flashy gowns, the men’s black tuxedos, and the way the light reflected off the diamonds and the gold. This would never be her world but she’d have to learn how to live in it so she could survive her extended family.
A light hand on her elbow caused her to turn. Marian’s eyes lit up. “Russ!” Reaching out, she wrapped her cousin in a warm hug. “I was looking for you.”
Russell return the hug. “I was looking for you too.” He stepped back and motioned to the woman standing next to him. “Meet Erin, an old friend from high school.”
Marian shook Erin’s hand and noticed that she didn’t seem uncomfortable surrounded by all the elegance. Her dress was long and diamonds hung from her ears. She gazed around her with a half-smile on her face as if she were drinking it all in. Marian smiled. Erin seemed more at home here than she was. “Actually I think we’ve met before. Keira’s art gallery, right?”
Erin frowned slightly. “I’m sorry, I don’t remember, but if it was at the gallery, we must have. I’m there a lot.” She gestured between the both of them. “So how do you know each other?”
“Cousins,” Russell replied. “Well not exactly, but we share an uncle. It’s a bit confusing but Marian’s mother is Uncle Kyle’s wife’s sister. My father is Uncle Kyle’s brother. So KJ and I are cousins and Marian and KJ are cousins and I just sort of lump myself in there too.”
Marian winced. “Oh Erin, you met KJ then?”
“Yes, yes I did.”
“I apologize. He’s sort of…” Marian trailed off.
“A demon inside of an angel,” Erin finished. “Looks nice on the outside but get close and you can see the horns sprouting from his forehead. I knew one of those once.”
Marian’s lips twitched and then she burst into laughter. Erin joined and soon both women were doubled over.
Russell watched, rather confused, then shrugged. “I’m glad you two hit it off better than Erin and KJ did.”
Marian straightened and tried to breathe deeply. “I…you couldn’t have described him better. Did he bring a date?”
Russell shook his head. “Something about how women slow him down…disregard females, acquire cash. KJ’s a real charmer.” He gestured to Marian. “Where’s your date? You’re going to need one for the dance and you know how Aunt Lana is when you don’t conform.”
“I don’t have one, Russ.”
Erin glowered at Russell. “Dancing? You didn’t mention dancing. I can’t dance, Russell Holt, and you know it.”
Russell rolled his eyes. “Oh Erin, it won’t be that bad. Just follow what I do. Aunt Lana always insists the family members dance a waltz or something at each of these events so that all the guests know how “cultured” we are. I’ll have to find you a guy, Marian.” He scanned the crowd and snapped his fingers. “Garrison won’t mind. Come on, I’ll introduce you.”
Marian shrank back and the fire from her encounter with Svetlana seemed to have burnt itself out as a new challenge arose. “Russ, I can’t,” she whispered.
“C’mon, Marian.” Russell pulled her arm. “Stepping out of your comfort zone is good for you. Guys are nothing to be afraid of. I’m one and you get on with me pretty well.”
Marian resisted. “We’re practically family, it’s different. I…I get all flustered. I don’t wear make-up, I don’t dress like other women, I’m…you know…plain.”
“For the love of—Marian, please. It’s just a dance.” Russell tightened his grip on her arm. “Come on.”
Erin walked beside Marian, warming to the woman already. Her penchant for taking in strays like Midnight and sheltering the outcasts like Russell kicked in. Instead of mocking Marian for her irrational and odd fear, Erin swiftly put herself in the woman’s shoes. She too didn’t have a favourable view of men at the moment.
Erin smiled at her new friend encouragingly. “Don’t worry. Russ will probably do most of the talking anyway. You’re all right, Marian.”
Despite Erin’s kind words, Marian felt the heat rise to her face when they reached Russell’s friend. Garrison was exactly as she had feared. Dark wavy hair, scruffy beard, tall, muscles stretching his tuxedo jacket. This was why she got flustered and Russell would never understand. Or at least he couldn’t. Marian ventured another glance and the pounding in her heart lessened, though not much. His eyes. They were grey and held something in their depths. Like he’d seen and experienced more than any of the shallow people surrounding him would ever meet with in a lifetime. This man had a story to tell and she was suddenly curious.
Russell rather rudely pulled Garrison away from his circle of friends. “Hey man, have a favour to ask. This is my cousin, Marian. She needs a date for the dance. Can you?”
The man met Marian’s gaze. “Hey, yeah sure.” He extended a hand. “Garrison. Garrison Black.”
Marian felt his hand close around hers. “I…I’m Marian Chambers.” She was mortified to find herself whispering. “Thank you.” She tried to raise her voice but it ended up coming out in more of an awkward squeak than a dignified expression of gratitude.
Garrison raised an eyebrow and then shrugged slightly. “Not at all.”
Erin was about to introduce herself, since Russell seemed to have momentarily forgotten her existence, when someone standing next to Garrison caught her attention. Her heart pounded and she clutched Russell’s arm. “Who is that?” she whispered.
“What?” Russell responded irritably. Sandwiched between Marian and Erin, he felt claustrophobic and wondered why they kept turning to him with their questions.
Erin motioned to the tall, thin man with a grey-haired patch on the right side of his head. “Him. Who is that?”
“You interested?” Russell raised an eyebrow in amusement and caught the man’s gaze. “Hey, Nigel. This is my friend Erin. You know Marian already.”
Nigel extended a hand. “Pleasure.” His deep British accent caught Erin off-guard. She didn’t remember the man in the park having an accent. Honestly, she didn’t remember much except for his eyes and the grey patch. And the gun.
She cleared her throat and returned the hand-shake. “Um, have we met before…in the park Saturday?”
Russell rolled his eyes. “Really, Erin? Nigel and Garrison have been out of town all week so no, you wouldn’t have met him in the park Saturday. Not your best pick-up line.”
“Shut up.” Erin pushed him. “I’m being serious. I’m sorry…Nigel, you just seemed familiar, that’s all.”
Nigel laughed. “Just have one of those faces, yeah?”
Standing on the other side of Garrison, KJ checked his watch. “Time to bring up the extra wine before the dance gets going.” He nudged Garrison. “You really could have aimed higher than Marian.”
Nigel narrowed his eyes. “I think he aimed quite well.”
Marian smiled appreciatively, though she was disappointed Garrison hadn’t been the one to answer. “I’ll help, KJ.” She turned to her cousin. “Russ?”
“Fine.” Russell motioned to Erin. “Come on, you can get a mini-tour.”
Erin nodded, more than relieved to get away from Nigel who really seemed to not know her at all. She could have sworn he was the same man from the park but no one contested that he had been with Garrison during the weekend. Questions swirled in her mind as she followed the others through to the hallway and down the stairs to the rec room.
KJ stopped abruptly once they reached the doorway and motioned to someone inside. “Get out.”
Curious, the others pushed past him and entered the room.
A red-haired woman lay on her back on top of the pool table, blowing smoke rings into the air from a pipe in her mouth. Her long hair fell over the edge of the table and touched the floor. A thick paisley headband was wrapped around her head and long chunky necklaces dangled from her neck. She was wearing garishly-coloured, paisley bell-bottomed pants and a paisley long-sleeved tunic that didn’t at all match her pants. Thin gold rings ranged up and down all of her fingers and enormous hoop earrings rounded out the outfit.
She popped her gum loudly and continued blowing smoke rings. “Do you like my outfit? I know you’re all staring at it.”
Erin’s jaw dropped while Marian shifted uncertainly. KJ and Russell looked massively annoyed.
KJ tapped his foot impatiently. “It’s hideous and get out.”
The woman swung her legs off the pool table and sat up. “I’m Esmeralda Queen.”
KJ pointed to the door. “Don’t care. Get. Out.”
Marian frowned. “She doesn’t look like the type of person Aunt Lana would invite to this sort of thing.”
Esmeralda huffed. “I walked in the front door same as you lot, only I decided to do a bit of exploring. Funny the things you can find in a house this big.”
Motioning to the door, Russell sighed. “You’re crazy. Just leave. Probably one of Dad’s strange friends he likes to invite to these things.”
As with Garrison, Marian’s curiosity had been aroused. If he had a story to tell, then Esmeralda Queen could write a novel. She screamed “mystery” and “unique” and “passion” and a host of other things Marian couldn’t quite put her finger on.
Erin, on the other hand, was thinking of her encounter in the park nearly over a week earlier. She hoped strange-people-turning-up-in-places-they-shouldn’t-be didn’t become a common thing. Her world was set and predictable and she liked it that way. She caught Russell’s gaze. “What did we come down here for, again?”
“Wine. Aunt Lana likes to bring the extras up before the dance.” Russell squeezed behind the bar counter and scooped a few bottles into his arms while KJ moved closer to Esmeralda. Russell knew his cousin would bodily throw the woman out if no one intervened but at his point, he didn’t even care. He just wanted the party to be over so he could leave them all and go home.
Marian gripped KJ’s arm, praying to God that her cousin didn’t lay a finger on the woman. “Just leave her and get the wine.”
KJ wrenched his arm out of her grip. “Don’t touch me.”
Instead of bothering to be angry, Marian shook her head and went to help Russell. KJ’s antics were so normal that they had ceased to faze her. He acted so much like a child that it was hard to take him seriously half the time though his words were irritating.
Esmeralda blew a final smoke ring. “You lot are interesting, you know that? I’m trying to work out the dynamic but it’s safe to say you don’t get on well, do ya?” She winked. “You may need each other one day more than you’ll ever know.” She tossed her pipe in the air and walked through the door, the bangles around her ankles jingling.
None of them really bothered with her words except for Marian. She had an odd feeling Esmeralda Queen knew more than she let on.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Who is Esmeralda Queen? And why did Nigel deny being in the park? Was he the man Erin had a terrifying encounter with? Was it someone else? And what’s up with KJ’s attitude problem? Don’t worry, I’m as stumped as you are ’cause I have ZERO answers to any of those questions….except maybe the last one…. But that’s the author’s life for ya. Yes, we are just making it up as we go along 🙂
The quotation below kinda gives you a sneak peek into the sort of journey I’m going to take these characters on in Hearts of Thunder aaaaaaaaand it’s also the theme for my next post!
| We’re in a War, my friends, and we all need Courage on the Front Lines ❤ |