Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Much Needed Explanation

Guys. I haven't died. I have been really busy. And I can't believe I basically forgot about you. O.o I feel really, really bad about not posting here in so long. >_< I don't even want to see the last date I posted on here. It's probably been like what, six months or something? Yeah. To those of you who follow my other blog as well as this one, I'm sure you've gotten the updates on my insane life already, so you weren't worried. To those of you who DON'T...bless you for putting up with my accidental disappearance. I promise I wasn't carried off by aliens. 

You need an explanation.

And I have arrived to give you one. FINALLY.

There's a short answer, and a long one. Ready? ;P

The short answer is this: I have been busy. 

The long answer? Hoo boy. My life has flown by in the form of college classes, publishing "The Princess and I", finishing "Ocean Mist" and getting it out to beta-readers, getting a car and a babysitting job, working as sub secretary at our church, trying to get in five books a month (which I'm failing miserably at I know...) and writing 50,000 words during Camp NaNo as part of a brand new story. 

So now you can partially understand my abandonment of you all. :) It wasn't on purpose, and I miss you guys...I really do. Which is why I haven't given up on this blog quite yet. 

Here's the deal. With "The Princess and I" published, I won't be giving you any more snippets from that (because to be completely honest, I want you guys to BUY it now. ;) But I will give you the rest of "Ocean Mist" and start giving you a few sneak peeks into the story I'm working on currently. 

Because I'm actually getting my work published now, I don't want everything to be available online or none of my books will sell...so I'll probably switch from giving you guys complete chapters to weekly snippets. I'll also be adding some things like character interviews, pictures, and some of the inside scoop of what goes on behind the scenes. 

In other news, I HAVE started working on a sequel to "Ocean Mist", and it's going swimmingly (pun totally intended :P). Also, I have an idea for a sequel to "The Princess and I" which may surface sometime next year. 

With life and adulting finally catching up to me, we'll have to see how much time I can spend on here, but I plan to never leave you high n' dry for months at a time again. XD 

What do you guys think about the change in post style? Are you excited to hear some of the stuff going on in my head and what it takes to get a story out of my head and on to paper? Have y'all missed me as much as I missed you? :P 
Are you looking forward to hearing snippets from the sequel to "Ocean Mist" or the sequel to "The Princess and I" more? 

Ah, it's good to be back. :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Princess & I: Chapter Twenty-three

Ah...it's nice to be back. :) You guys are so awesome. Really. I would have never ventured into the world of writing if you hadn't been there leaving encouraging comments and rooting me on. Every "oh, I love it!" and "GIVE US MOOOOOOOOORE" and *gasp* you send me just warms me to my toes. (Which is really helpful right now because writing can be cold work in December. ;)

But now, here's the next chapter you've been patiently waiting OVER A MONTH for. :)


23: Unpredictable Circumstances

“Are you sure we can trust him?” William asked, pulling me aside for a moment.

I shrugged. “For now, yes. He holds no love for the Duke, and he had plenty of opportunities to hurt me, but didn’t.” I leaned against the wall, my stomach full, and the excitement of the previous day beginning to catch up to me. I hadn’t slept at all last night and just now I was starting to feel the exhaustion. Briefly I wondered what had taken it so long.

“Safeguard had nothing to do with it?” William cocked a knowing eyebrow at me.

I laughed softly. “His presence may have helped my cause a little.”

My teacher glanced sideways at me, as if studying my face in the flickering light. “I wish somehow that we hadn’t separated. So many things could have happened while you were alone…” he trailed off, his sentence fading away like the smoke of the candles that lit the room we were standing in.

 We had left Malcolm and Henry discussing further plans in hushed tones over a dimly lit table in the same inn I had so recently learned to sew a wound shut. The Restless Raven was chosen because soldiers knew that those who frequented it had no love for their master, the Duke of Devonshire, and therefore they shrank from ever visiting the ghastly place. Not that I could blame them. After all, the inn was hardly a pleasant place. Secretive and a good place to hide; yes, but clean and orderly; no.

Watching Malcolm talk with such animation brought a smile to my lips. I had been gone from his presence for so long I almost forgot how he threw himself so energetically into strategizing. He was brilliant when it came to planning, and this rescue of his betrothed was no different. A certain light shone in his eyes that I hadn’t seen there since the last time we had played a game of chess.

“I’ll pay you a half-crown for your thoughts,” William’s voice broke through my reminiscing, and I glanced his direction to find his eyes still studying me. My face must have gone a shade darker pink, because I could see William begin to grin to himself. “Or, perhaps I shouldn’t ask,” he added teasingly.

I rolled my eyes helplessly. Really, the man was incorrigible. “It is  hardly is worth a whole half-crown,” I said with a shrug of my shoulders.

“Now I’m really curious,” my teacher’s smile reached to his eyes and I saw them twinkling.

I sighed deeply. “If you must know, I was thinking how glad I was to have my brother with me again. I missed him dreadfully.”

“Oh, is that all?” William asked.

With a frown, I looked over at him. He seemed almost crestfallen, but at the same time relieved. I hid a puzzled smile with difficulty. “I told you it wasn’t worth a half-crown.”

Suddenly, Malcolm appeared in front of me with a half-smile on his face. “Are you done whispering?” he asked.

I hadn’t realized. “We were whispering?”

His eyebrows rose slightly. “You were.”

“I beg your pardon. It won’t happen again, and yes, of course we’re done.”

Malcolm shot William a look I couldn’t quite decipher, and then motioned towards Henry. “We decided the first step in our rescue is to find out where exactly the Duke is keeping his valuable prisoner.”

William mirrored my nod of agreement. It was the most sensible plan of action. But how?

I must have asked the question aloud because he continued, “As he said before, Henry has some friends who frequent the castle, sometimes even the least used rooms which the Duke inhabits.”

Henry walked up behind him, subconsciously holding his injured arm in a protective manner. “They are less likely to attract attention when they inquire about the princess,” he explained. “Malcolm pointed out that some of them may even be the very ones who bring food or water to her.”

“After we successfully find where the princess is without the Duke or Alfred finding us, what will we do next?” William posed this question to Henry, but Malcolm was the one to answer.

“We will endeavor to find a way to smuggle her from the Duke’s grasp,” he said simply. “I agree with Henry…one must find an enemy’s weakness if one wishes to triumph over them. That will be our next step: finding a weakness.”

“And then,” I said finally, “you will swoop in on a white horse in shining armor and carry your future bride off into the sunset.”

William and Henry chuckled at this, and I could hardly keep a grin off my own face. Malcolm blushed and ducked his head before quickly gaining control over himself again.

“Of course, it won’t be quite that easy.” He sighed. “I only wish it was.”

I patted him on the shoulder gently. “God will be with us. He will keep us, as well as Christine, safe.”

Henry started towards the door. “I’m going to go speak with my friend, one of the guards in the castle. If anyone knows anything about the princess’s whereabouts, it’ll be him.”

Malcolm nodded his approval. “I’ll come with you.” My brother glanced my direction questioningly. “Would you like to join us?”

I shook my head wearily. “I’m sure it’ll be fascinating,” I replied, “but right now, I’m utterly exhausted and need to get some more sleep.”

William moved over to where my brother now stood, next to the door. “I’ll join you, Malcolm,” he offered.

The door shut behind them, and at last, for the first time in what seemed like years, I was able to have a whole night’s sleep.

                                        * * * * *

A day passed, and then another, before we learned where Princess Christine was kept in the Duke’s large castle. Meanwhile, I caught up on much needed sleep and much needed nourishment. The Restless Raven did serve good food, though the dishes’ cleanliness was not such as it could have been.

At last Henry brought us the news we had been waiting for: the princess was a prisoner in one of the towers within the castle walls. The Duke didn’t appear to go near her, except he questioned her once or twice to learn all she knew about her father’s plans…which thankfully for us wasn’t much. It appeared that he had no ulterior motives except to keep her as a bargaining tool with the king. We hoped this would continue to be the case until we had a chance to pull her away. Who knew what the Duke would do to her if he grew tired of waiting for the king to demand a release of his daughter.

Our friend Lord Alfred, however, was an entirely different matter. According to Henry’s friend, he had gotten a few bruises from the hand of the princess, as well as a few more from her well-aimed kicks, for the trouble he took to whisk her away from her home. Of course, this didn’t put Christine in good standing with him.

Worried lines creased Malcolm’s brow when Henry finished releasing his information. “We’ve just got to get her out of there,” he said with a hint of desperation, gnawing on his lower lip.

William leaned his hands on the table, making eye contact with my brother. “Well, we’ve completed our first step in recovering the princess. What’s next, General?”

A small grin eased some of the wrinkles of Malcolm’s concern out of sight. “Next we find a weakness. As quickly as possible.”

“How?”

My brother’s strategizing genius bubbled to the surface yet again. His eyes narrowed in concentration and he tapped the table we were sitting at with his restless fingers. “We’ll have to get inside the castle and gain a better understanding of their defenses.”

“Sir…I mean Lord Alfred knows what we look like,” I pointed out needlessly. I could see everyone was thinking the same thing.

Malcolm held up a hand. “I have an idea.”

                                              * * * * *

“This is insane!” I exclaimed when my brother had laid out his “fool-proof” plan before us. I stared at the three men watching my reaction with obvious amusement on their faces. “You must be out of your mind!” I added for emphasis.

“I might be,” Malcolm chuckled. “But it will work.”

I shook my head violently, sending my long braid of auburn hair flying. “How? Alfred…the Duke and Alfred will see right through it!”

“I don’t think so.” Malcolm looked me in the eye. “Alfred will hardly think that you would allow us to dress you as a boy, cut your hair, and send you alone into an enemy’s castle to act as a peasant boy looking for work in the stable as a part of our rescue plan.”

“And he’d be right!” I said, holding my hair protectively.

“But you’d do it,” my brother continued knowingly, “you’d do it for the princess.”

“Much as I hate to see all those lovely auburn waves cut off, it’s the only way,” William added gently.

Even as a blush deepened the color of my cheeks at the subtle compliment, I gave a heavy sigh. They were both right. I would do anything short of killing myself or denouncing my faith to bring her to safety. With a resigned air, my hand fell away from my braid.

Sitting down on a nearby stool, I surrendered to their plan. “Please do it quickly,” I requested. “Before I change my mind.”

My brother pulled out a wicked looking pair of shears and began sawing my hair away from my head. I choked back tears as the strands fell around my feet, but gave up keeping them contained when they refused and obstinately continued down my face in small rivers of regret. Already I felt my head lighten, free of the weight of my hair, but that didn’t help my mood in the slightest.

As was the case with most girls, my hair had been a source of pride and vanity all my growing up years, and now I was losing all the work I had put into keeping it long and healthy to a whim of my brother’s. To say I was distressed would be an understatement of the highest caliber.

“It doesn’t look too bad,” Malcolm told me when standing back to survey his handiwork. “In fact, it looks quite passable, if I do say so myself.”

I took my tear stained face out of my hands and blinked away the mist that filled my vision so I could see the final picture in the mirror over the room’s fireplace. My sight cleared, and for a moment, I stared in shock at the creature that faced me. Then I realized that that creature was me, and the tears began to flow once more as I buried my face in my hands yet again in the effort to hide what I saw.

My beautiful hair, the one thing I really had to fuss over with girlish pride, was cut off just below the ears. Malcolm, not being the most accomplished barber by any stretch of the imagination, had cut it jaggedly, the rough ends all different lengths. Some of it hung down over my eyes, effective for hiding my identity, which I realized upon some reflection, but a very unladylike style nonetheless.

Any shred of pride I held had been efficiently cut off along with my hair. The sobs which racked my body died away to shamed hiccups. I pulled my head up and wiped my tears away bravely, still avoiding the image of my new self in the mirror.

“I-I’m sorry a-about that,” I hiccupped. “It was s-such a s-shock!”

My brother patted me on the back. “You’ll get used to it eventually, Meg.”

No I won’t. I ran a hand through my hair reflectively, surprised at how soon my hand came free of the shortened length. Tears stung my eyes, threatening to spill out again, but I sucked them back.

William was regarding me with a lopsided grin.

I met his stare with a glower that came straight from my healthy amount of wounded pride. “Whatever you’re thinking, don’t say it,” I warned. “I’m liable to slap someone, anyone, who sees fit to make a joke about how I look at this moment.”

My teacher saw fit to ignore my warning. “I was just going to say you look absolutely adorable, Meg,” he said with a smirk plastered across his face.

I stomped over and peered up at him, wishing I could be taller and be able to look him eye to eye. “Didn’t I warn you not to make fun of me?” My eyes filled with tears again, and my hand rose on its own accord to slap him.

He caught my wrist and lowered it slowly. “Calm yourself, Meg, I wasn’t making fun of your hair.” I saw now that William’s eyes held only honesty, and I forced myself to listen. “I really do think your hair looks fine.” He glanced at my brother and the grin returned. “Granted, Malcolm is not the best hair cutter in the world, but after a few weeks of growing, perhaps trimming it a little after we rescue the princess, it’ll look better.”

I took a deep breath, felt my shorn head, and gave William a shaky smile. “Thank you.”

“I can buy you some clothes, Meg,” my brother continued. “And we’ll have to fix your facewhat we can see of itand your hair so that Alfred can’t recognize you.”

I regarded myself sorrowfully in the mirror. “I doubt he’d recognize me as I am now.”

Malcolm tilted his head thoughtfully. “Perhaps not, but we’ll still have to get you nice and dirty before sending you into the lion’s den.”

I sighed with a martyr-like air. “I hope Christine appreciates everything I’m going through to get her to safety.”

“I’m sure she does,” William assured me.

Malcolm grinned and headed towards the door. “William, Henry, meet me outside. We’ll split up to gather supplies we’ll need for getting into the castle after Meg does her part, and the things for our disguises.” He looked at me and a flicker of sympathy clouded his eyes for a moment. “Meg, stay here and rest. Who knows when you’ll have another chance.”

I waited until the door closed before melting into a puddle of helpless tears once more. It was ridiculous, and I felt ashamed to show my feelings in such a manner, but I knew that if I held the tears inside, my resolve would crumble sooner. Better to let out my emotions now, while no one was near enough to laugh at my misery.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Ocean Mist: Chapter Ten

And we're finally back. :) After a well-deserved vacation month *cough* I was able to finish this story once and for all...so you won't have to worry about any more surprise breaks. ;)

(Although, I should warn you, I DO have a holiday story for you all as a special thank you for letting me off for a month. :)

But now, since you probably skipped the intro anyways...the next part of my current favorite story..."Ocean Mist". :D


Chapter Ten:

          “I feel really bad about what happened,” Dillon remarked as he watched the youngest pastor’s kid climb painfully into the car and drive away.

          The dark-haired teen next to him shrugged. “My brother has been in worse accidents than this one. I think he’ll be fine.”

          The sister of the wounded boy didn’t look so hopeful. Her brow was knit in worry, and she had started chewing on her lower lip. “I wish I could have kept that from happening,” she said.

          A wave of guilt swept through Dillon. “I shouldn’t have brought it up,” he said. “This whole accident was really my fault.”

          Nicole sent him a sympathetic look. “Not the whole accident,” she was quick to say, “but you’re right, you shouldn’t have brought it up,” she added honestly.

          A sudden breeze kicked up off the ocean, and without the comfort of his shirt, Dillon felt the coolness of it right down to his bones. He gave a slight shiver.

          Shawn’s sharp eyes noticed the almost undetectable shudder and unzipped his jacket. “Here,” he offered. “You can wear this until you get home and can change into a shirt of your own.”

          Dillon gave the pastor’s son a look of surprise. “I might get it dirty,” he warned. “In fact, there’s no ‘might’ about it. I will be getting it dirty. I’m covered in sweat!”

          An unreadable expression crossed Shawn’s face, but the hand that held out the jacket remained steady. “Jackets wash,” he said.

          Realizing his new friend was in earnest, Dillon took the gift and slipped into its welcome protection from the wind. The arms were a little tight, but other than that small factor, the jacket fit pretty well. A faint smell of Shawn’s cologne reached his nose, but the smell was pleasant, and not unbearably strong. He smiled his thanks. “That’s a lot better,” he admitted aloud.

          Shawn gave him a stiff nod before shoving his glasses back up his nose and looking down the street where his dad’s car so recently disappeared. Dillon followed his gaze and grinned when he recognized his own dad’s car driving towards them. Eagerly, he waved.

          “Boy, am I glad to see you!” he exclaimed when the window rolled down and Mark’s face stuck out the window.

          “Well, we couldn’t leave you stranded here forever, could we?” Mark answered. “No matter how tempting that thought might be,” he added with a grin.

          Steven stepped out of the backseat. “Mark and I stopped by your dad’s house after alerting Ray’s parents and told him what happened. He’s going to give y’all a ride back to their house again.”

          Dillon glanced down at the borrowed jacket. “Could we make a detour to our house first so I can give Shawn’s jacket back to him?”

          “What happened to your shirt?” Mr. Blake asked, craning around Mark’s gangly form and seeing his son’s outfit for the first time.

          “My brother was bleeding heavily from a gash in his side and Dillon provided the needed bandage,” Nicole explained. “It may or may not be able to be used again.”

          “I didn’t ever like that shirt anyways Dad,” Dillon added. “It wasn’t a big deal.”

          “Well, I’m glad you were able to help him out,” his dad answered. Switching subjects, he said, “This car only holds four people other then me. Who’s biking home?”

          “I can,” Steven offered.

          “I will too,” Mark put in. He punched Steven gently on his shoulder. “Y’ know, just so you aren’t lonely.”

          “Ok, Dillon how about you get the rest of the bikes onto the back,” Mr. Blake said.

          “Sure thing, Dad.”

          Shawn and Nicole helped pack their three bikes and the remains of Ray’s bike into the trunk and bicycle rack that adorned the rear of the car. They waved their goodbyes to Steven and Mark and then climbed into their seats.

          “All buckled?” Mr. Blake asked from the front.

          “Yes, sir!” chorused the three teens.

          The car started and they moved down the road.

          “Wow, you guys have a really good view!” Nicole breathed out ecstatically when Mr. Blake parked their car.

          “Yeah, we really lucked out on this house,” the man agreed. “The owners were moving to Texas for business related stuff and wanted to get rid of it. We’ve made some improvements, but it didn’t need much.”

          “Do you mind if I wander around out in front while we’re waiting?” she asked with shining eyes.

          “No problem,” Mr. Blake assured her with a smile. “Go right ahead.”

          Nicole opened the car door and walked through the lawn and across a side deck before finding stairs that brought her to the sandy beach. A hammock hung between two trees on the other side of the house, and a few chairs stood around a fireplace a few feet from where she stood. Her artist’s heart drank in the scene to capture in a future picture as shoe-shod feet sank into the shifting sands. Impulsively, she untied her tennis shoes and slipped the socks off her feet in order to sink her toes into the cool grains. It felt so good.

          A smile lifted the corners of her mouth and she shut her eyes for a moment to experience the beach with her other senses. All was quiet at first, but then, her ears began picking up the sounds of distant seagulls, crashing waves, voices of neighbors, someone playing music way too loud for their own good, the wind whispering through the grass that grew coarse and tall on the sand dunes.

          She knelt in the sand and ran her hands through the slightly damp substance, each grain unique in its different shape and color; each grain traveled from its mother rock or shell to make its long journey here, to where she could feel it in her fingers.

          The wind dried her tongue when she stuck it out to taste the air, but she could tell it was cool. Some sand must have been picked up by it, because at least a few grains made it into her mouth by the time she closed it. With a grimace, Nicole spit them out and brushed other sand over it to hide the spot.

          Closing her eyes again, she took a long, careful breath through her nose. The tangy scent of seaweed, the earthy smell of sand and grass, and vaguely, she could make out someone cooking something over the barbecue. It smelled good. Her stomach growled.

          “Hungry?” someone asked from behind her.

          With a gasp and exclamation of surprise, Nicole’s eyes flew open and she spun around. “Oh my word, you startled me Dillon!”

          “Sorry,” the teen apologized sheepishly. “I was sent to let you know we were ready to head out.”

          “Of course, thank you.” She smiled. “I was enjoying the view.”

          “With your eyes shut?” Dillon asked with a doubtful grin.

          “Sometimes that’s what it takes,” Nicole answered simply with a shrug. “I was enjoying it with all my senses.”

          “Oh, I see,” Dillon said.

          As they walked back to the car, Dillon puzzled over his new friends who never ceased to surprise him. During the ride to their home, it was very quiet. But that ceased the moment they arrived in their parking lot.

*************************************************************

          “Are you ok?” Nicole asked as she knelt by her brother. They were still breathless from running into the house the minute the car had stopped.

          “Yeah, I’m fine. How did you get here so fast?” Ray demanded to know.

          “Steven and Mark stopped by Mr. Blake’s place and he drove us home before taking the bicycles back to the rental and paying for all the damage. He said we could pay him back.”

          “Is he out there right now?” their dad broke in, from where he was sitting on the other couch.

          “As far as we know he is,” Shawn said.

          “Well for heaven’s sake ask them in then!” Mrs. Daniels called from the kitchen. “I’ll get some coffee going.”

          Shawn obediently did as he was told and soon both Dillon and his dad were expressing their sympathies to Ray while sipping from steaming mugs of coffee.

          When there was a lull in the small talk, Mr. Blake surprised them all by turning to Nicole and saying, “I hear you are quite the accomplished artist. I dabble in art myself, and I would love to see some of your work.”

          Nicole ducked her head, embarrassed, before replying. “I wouldn’t call myself an accomplished artist Mr. Blake. I enjoy drawing, and find it a way for me to relax, but haven’t spent a lot of time working on getting any better.”

          When he insisted that he really would like to see some of her pictures, Nicole gave in and brought down her sketchbook and laid it open with the strange feeling that she was opening a part of her soul to him.

          For a few minutes, the only sounds in the room were the almost silent sound of sips of coffee, the clock ticking, and the flipping of pages as Mr. Blake looked through Nicole’s handiwork.

          After awhile, Dillon’s dad looked up at her tense face and smiled. “These are amazing,” he said, gesturing to the pictures with a wave of his hand. “Have you considered getting them published?”

          Nicole shook her head and gathered up her sketches like so many lost children. “No, I prefer to keep it as a hobby. I find no pleasure in sharing my work with more than friends and family. Someday, if my grandchildren see fit to publish them when I’m dead, they’re welcome to the headache.” She finished her last statement with a shake of her head.

          “This is my favorite,” Dillon said, pointing to the one still on the table. His dad bent down for a closer look. “See how she captured the expressions on each face so well?”

          Indeed she had. It was the scene she drew of her family traveling down to their vacation home for a week, the five family members squeezed into the car like marshmallows and chocolate in a s’more. Nicole smiled at the memory now, but picked it up to put away with the other ones.

          “That’s one of my favorites too, although I think this one topped out as the absolute favorite,” she said, flipping through her pictures for a few seconds before pulling out a different picture.

          Her audience leaned in again. The sketch she held was the one she had drawn of her parents sitting together with their backs to the fire, arms around each other, hair blowing in the wind, a perfect picture of contentment, love, and peace.

          Dillon’s breath caught for a moment, a lump had come to his throat as the memories of his mom came back in a wave of grief that took him completely by surprise. He glanced sideways at his dad and noticed that his reaction hadn’t been the only one. Mr. Blake had tears streaming down his face.

          “What’s the matter?” Nicole asked in distress. “Is it something I said? Or did? What did I do wrong?”

          His dad was in no condition to talk, so Dillon cleared his throat. “My mom passed away a couple years ago,” he said, his voice still thick with unshed tears. “That picture brought some memories back from our life when she was still with us.”

          Nicole blinked, feeling tears coming to her own eyes. “I am so sorry,” she whispered, her hand over her mouth in shock. “I-I didn’t realize. If I had known…”

          “It’s not your fault,” Dillon assured her. “It’s just…”

          “Mrs. Blake died a few months after she discovered she had kidney cancer,” Nicole’s dad broke in. “It was very sudden. Nobody was prepared.”

          “I’ll say,” Dillon muttered. “She had always been so healthy. Mom hardly ever got sick. She should have lived to be over ninety years old…” bitterness flavored each sentence the teen spoke. “But she didn’t. She didn’t even live to be forty years old. She died when she was thirty-nine.”

          Suddenly angry, Dillon gripped the upholstery of the chair he sat in and spat out between clenched teeth, “It’s not fair. What did she do to deserve such a death? What did we do to deserve losing her? Sometimes, I hate this world and the way it works. If there’s a God, like you believe there is, and He created this earth, like you think He did, then I hate Him for taking my mom from me.” With that final statement, he slammed his coffee mug onto the end table and rushed through the door, closing it behind him with a bang.

          For a moment, the Daniels family sat in shock. Mr. Blake broke the silence with an embarrassed cough. “I’m sorry my son spoke like he did about your God. He took Cheryl’s death very hard.”

          “I understand,” the pastor replied warmly. “It’s always very sad to loose a loved one. I can’t imagine how difficult that was for you to loose a wife and him a mother. We’ll be praying for you both.”

          Dillon’s dad stood up. “Thank you,” he said, “for both the coffee and your prayers. I’d better go talk to my son now.” Just before closing the door behind him, he turned to Nicole. “If you feel the urge to draw ocean scenery, you’re welcome to come to our place to do it. I’d be honored to have our view be captured in one of your sketches.”

          “Thank you very much Mr. Blake,” Nicole answered with a heartfelt smile. “I won’t forget your offer.”

          “I’ll have Dillon send you our address so you can find your way easier without having to rely on only your memory.”

          “Which we all know is faultless,” Shawn muttered from behind his book. If anyone heard him, no one paid the comment any mind.

          With one last round of “goodbye” and “we’ll keep you in our prayers”, Dillon’s dad closed the door. The pastor’s family was by themselves once again.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Take a Break!?!!?

Because of the holiday business, along with frantically trying to finish re-writing the entire end of "Ocean Mist" and editing "The Princess & I", I am giving myself a well deserved break. *sniff*
Please don't be too upset by this. *puppy eyes* I promise I will get back to you with posts by December, and I'm going to give you a special treat for your patience. But, I'm not going to tell you what it is because...well, then you'd know and it wouldn't be a surprise any more! ;)
No body dies in the next chapters I was GOING to post, so don't panic. *cough* Whoops. SPOILER ALERT.
Life has been catching up with me, and school...ugh. But let's not go there, shall we?
I'm really sorry about my schedule guys, and I hope you have a great November! :)

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Princess & I: Chapter Twenty-Two

And here we are again with the next chapter for "The Princess & I"! What's you opinion so far? (Other than the fact that it needs editing...believe me, I know that! I actually have quite a few people helping me with it as I write this.) Has your favorite character changed, or do you still like the same guy/girl as before? Do you like Henry? Do YOU think he can be trusted?

Read on and decide...and then tell me, because I love feedback. ;)


22: Planning Again

Henry led me from one disreputable neighborhood to another, stopping passersby on the narrow lanes, questioning men who could hardly see straight they were so drunk, and paying some of them for helpful directions. I have to admit, he did know how to glean information, and did a far better job then I would have done. Granted, it helped that he had the courage to talk to a few characters I would have done everything I could to avoid.

Finally, when I had just about worn through my riding boots with all the walking around the village and my voice was almost completely gone from telling everyone and their cousin what my brother and William looked like, along with their counterfeit names, we found them.

Or perhaps, I should say, they found us.

Henry was looking worried by the time he came out of the final tavern and walked over to where I stood in the shadows. “I can’t get any more people to give me information. It looks as though we’ve walked ourselves to the end of the road and there’s no place to go.”

I sighed, rubbing my arms in the cold. “We have to find them,” I said, swallowing back the tears of helplessness that threatened to spill out of my eyes and over my cheeks. I had nowhere to go, and night had long since fallen. Trust never came easily to me…and I didn’t know how far Henry’s gratefulness went. He could be planning on leading me into a corner or to his friends at this very moment.

Instead, hands covered our mouths and pulled Henry and me back into the shadows of an alleyway. I found myself being pushed into a stone wall and my wide, frightened eyes meeting William’s. He gasped as if someone hit him in the stomach and stumbled backwards, letting go of me immediately.

“Meg?” his voice was filled with shock and disbelief.

I fell to the ground when I lost his support and sat there, rubbing the circulation back into my arms. Malcolm held Henry still, his eyes wide in surprise. Then, as one, both Malcolm and William turned their glares to Henry.

My brother tightened his grip on Henry, causing the man to wince and groan at the pain he was causing his injury I had so carefully sewn together. “What did you do to my sister?” he demanded fiercely.

“If you hurt her in any way…” William added threateningly, his eyes flashing fire in the darkness.

I leapt to my feet, pulling Malcolm’s hands from Henry’s injured arm. “Stop! You’re hurting him!”

Incredulity at my actions caused them to hesitate, and I quickly glanced over Henry’s injury to make sure his cut wasn’t bleeding again. The man winced at the probing of my fingers, but his eyes held no malice towards my brother and his harsh treatment.

“He got a cut,” I explained once I was satisfied the wound hadn’t reopened. “And he didn’t hurt me.” My story came out in a rush, and though the air around me was stiff with suspicion, they seemed to accept the fact that Henry wasn’t going to harm any of us.

Meanwhile, the man studied me closely. Once I finished the story and while Malcolm and William decided what to make of it in their own minds, he spoke. “Meg?”

I avoided his gaze and stood up.

That alone seemed to be enough of an answer for him. He chuckled. “I thought so. You almost slipped yourself. Don’t be too hard on your friend for giving your real name away.”

William glanced between us. “I suppose we should thank you,” he said grudgingly.

“For what?” Henry asked as if honestly confused.

“For keeping her from searching for us all over the village in the middle of the night by herself,” Malcolm answered for William. I don’t know what he saw in the look I gave him, but the next thing he said was, “Don’t give me that look, you know you would have! Admit it.”

Much as I disliked it, I knew he was right. I would have. “Have we found a way…” I trailed off with a glance towards Henry who was watching us with narrowed eyes.

“The Duke is no friend of mine,” he said suddenly when he caught my eyes on him.

I shifted my weight from one leg to the other. “Why would you tell us that?” I asked.

“Well, you’re obviously trying to do something without his knowledge of it, considering the fact that you were avoiding his soldiers earlier this evening at all costs,” Henry answered matter-of-factly.

“We’re trying to rescue…” I fought to gather and use the right words. Just in case.

“He kidnapped my betrothed,” Malcolm said.

“Ah,” Henry replied, his eyes lighting up in understanding. “So you want to rescue her?” At the united nods from us, his brow furrowed and he scratched his chin, as he seemed to be in the habit of doing when in deep thought.

“A man named Alfred knows we’re trying to rescue her,” Malcolm put in, in hopes of helping whatever plan the man might have.

Henry sucked in a breath. “If Lord Alfred knows about your rescue plans…that’s going to make your job a great deal harder.”

My eyebrows lifted in surprise. “A Lord!” I exclaimed, not bothering to hide the shock in my voice.

Malcolm and William’s faces sank into thoughtful glowers.

“That explains a lot,” my brother said.

“The rotten little…” William stopped his verbal abuse of the man abruptly and glanced in my direction apologetically.

A smile twitched the corners of my mouth. “No need to hold back too much on my account,” I said. “My own vocabulary is sadly lacking in words that I can use to describe his infamous behavior.”

Henry interrupted us. “I know you may not want my help at all, but if you are willing, I think I have the beginnings of a plan.”

Malcolm’s eyes sparked in interest and he involuntarily leaned towards the injured man. “How could you help us?”

“Well,” he hesitated slightly, “I have a few friends among the guards in the castle’s dungeon, and that is undoubtedly where your betrothed is being held…if she’s still alive.”

“You think we might be able to slip into the dungeon and free her?” Malcolm could hardly hide the eagerness in his voice.

“Possibly. Or possibly we can work inwards from the outside. Tunnels may be a bit common for escaping prisoners to use, but there’s a reason for that: it has worked in the past.”

The idea of having Henry help was slowly taking root in Malcolm and William’s minds. I already mostly trusted him, despite the less than pleasant way we met each other. Besides, I was ready to do just about anything to get the princess to safety.

“What is the young lady’s name?” Henry continued, looking questioningly at my brother.

He froze. We were treading dangerous ground yet again. “Anna,” he said at last.

Henry apparently noted his hesitation. “You’ll have to tell me her actual name, otherwise I won’t be able to find where she’s being kept.”

A resigned look came over Malcolm’s face and he sighed. “Her name is Christine,” he said finally.

Henry uttered a low whistle. “The princess herself?” he muttered more to himself than us.

“Yes,” Malcolm answered shortly. “But how did you know that was the princess? Surely there’s more than one girl in the kingdom whose name is Christine,” he added suspiciously.

Henry raised an eyebrow. “Everyone in this village heard about the Duke capturing the princess to use as a bargaining tool with the king.” The man’s brow furrowed. “An unfortunate complication…it’s going to make our job of rescuing her a great deal harder. Such a valuable prisoner is going to have twice as many guards around her at all times, if not the Duke himself.” He paused, scratching his chin again. “In fact, she may not even be kept in the dungeon. The Duke may have her up in his specially guarded tower he keeps for political prisoners.”

William chewed on the edge of his lip. “Surely the Duke will have a hard time hiding such a famous prisoner’s whereabouts from all the people in the castle. Couldn’t we discretely inquire around until we find out where she is?”

“An excellent plan,” Henry agreed slowly, “except that you say Lord Alfred knows about your plans of rescue. If that is so, he’ll be sending his own spies to look for people asking about the princess. Once he gets wind of our inquires, the blood hounds will follow our trail and we’ll put her life in more danger than it already is…not to mention the fact that we’ll be killed.”

“What do you suggest then?” Malcolm asked, his face drawn into a worried frown.

“To be able to overcome an enemy, you must find a weakness,” Henry said simply.

For a moment, we looked at him. The man I had almost left to bleed to death on the shadowed street was apparently as full of surprises as we were of desperation.

“Who are you?” I asked suddenly.

Henry sighed. “Who am I? Nobody right now. You should ask who I was.”

“Who were you?” William asked without missing a beat.

“I was the Duke’s Captain of the Guard.”

My hand covered my mouth, muffling my gasp. “What happened?”

“I dared to disagree with his brother.”

“On what?”

Henry closed his eyes, as if to shut out the painful memories of his past. “He wanted to send all the soldiers under me in to a battle in which we would be outnumbered one hundred to ten. It was nothing short of murder of all my men. I refused, and stated my reasons. His brother was absolutely livid at my refusal and stormed to the Duke who in turn banished me on his brother’s behalf from my position without even bothering to hear my side of the story. I have been striving to drown my memories in the taverns since then.”

For a moment, there was nothing we could say. Our silent shock hung for a moment, our mouths open in disbelief and horror at what he must have gone through. Henry gave a shuddering sigh and passed a hand over his forehead.

“I would do anything to help revenge these five years I’ve wasted because of him,” Henry continued. “If you wouldn’t mind my help that is.”

Malcolm grinned and shook Henry’s hand. “Consider yourself a part of our rescue plans. We could use another man on our side.”

“And one who knows the inside of the castle as well as you do will be invaluable,” William added.

The tension melted. Plans were made. Now all we had to do was carry them out.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ocean Mist: Chapter Nine

How is your Tuesday so far? Mine has been fantastic...thank you for asking. (I actually posted this last week, so how amazing that I can foresee the future, right?)

Anywho...here's the next part of "Ocean Mist" for your enjoyment. I should tell you...not everything these kids do should be copied. Just a warning. NOW go and read the next part of the story with that in mind. ;)


Chapter Nine:

          “Did you get a haircut?” Steven asked Dillon.

          The six teens had just finished getting Nicole, Shawn, and Ray through the whole bike rental confusion. They were now slowly riding down the sidewalk that stretched parallel to the ocean.

          Steven’s question registered in Dillon’s mind finally and he tore his eyes from the gorgeous view, one that never got old even if he had spent the last ten years of his life living here, and said, “Yeah, Dad said that if I grew it out much longer Mark would think I was copying him.”

          “Would that be a bad thing?” Mark asked from in front of him, twisting around so his smirk was visible to everyone.

          “Yes,” Steven and Dillon both said with conviction.

          This exchange drew laughter from the three pastor’s kids who watched it.

          “You guys are really something else,” Shawn muttered, shaking his head in apparent hopelessness.

          “Why thank you!” Mark said, giving an awkward bow from his seat on the bicycle. This comical act only served to cause more laughter.

          As the only girl, Nicole felt it her responsibility to keep everyone from getting hurt so when Dillon proposed a race to the end of the sidewalk, she was quick to offer reasons why that would not be the best idea.

          “You guys are going to regret this,” she argued when it was obvious the boys were going to ignore her warnings.

          “Nobody said you had to race,” Ray pointed out, irritated that his sister, who usually put up with his antics, would voice her disapproval.

          “Nicole and I will be the judges,” Shawn offered, eager to get himself out of something that might mess up his perfectly tailored appearance. He hopped off his bike, straightening his jeans and running a hand through his hair.

          His sister didn’t say anything to his suggestion, but followed his example and got off her bike.

          “Who’ll say ‘go’?” Dillon asked.

          “I can,” Shawn said, when Nicole folded her arms stubbornly and refused to be any part of something that was sure to end badly.

          Dillon, Mark, Steven, and Ray lined up their bikes. Once mounted, the boys leaned forward, their eyes alight with excitement.

          “Ready?”

          The boys nodded wordlessly.

          “Get set…GO!”

          At the last word, all four friends took off towards the agreed upon ending point.

          Ray relished the feel of wind rushing against his face. He shut his eyes for a moment as the bike’s wheels carried him smoothly along the sidewalk. His legs pumped the pedals up and down, around and around, as he worked his way up the hills. He was becoming seriously addicted to vacations. They were so awesome!

          “Hey, dude! Watch out!” The frantic cry came from behind him.

          Ray’s eyes flew open in time to watch himself crash into a telephone pole. He jumped sideways, off the bike and away from the object in his path, only to land on the sidewalk and skid a foot before coming to a halt in a haphazard heap. Scrapes from the cement were all over his hands, arms, elbows and knees. His shirt was ripped and a gash from the handlebars was beginning to bleed heavily. Pain. The world was full of pain. Everything hurt.

          Nicole watched her younger brother ride with the careless abandon he was known for, and heard Steven’s frantic warning come too late. Her first reaction had been one of concern, but that soon mixed with angry frustration. Her brother must have had his eyes closed in order to run into a telephone pole without realizing it. With her teeth clenched, she mounted her bike along with Shawn and rushed to the scene of the accident.

          Her brakes jerked her bike to a stop, skid marks showing up clear on the light pavement. She stumbled over to Ray who lay groaning on the ground. A few tears had squeezed their way out of his eyes, which was a bad sign. Ray never cried in front of people.

          “Ray, buddy, talk to me,” Dillon was saying, down on his knees by her prostrate brother. Concern was showing in his eyes and leaked through his request.

          To her relief, Ray let out a groan. He could understand them. That was a good sign. She knelt on the other side of him and noticed the gash in his side for the first time.

          “Guys, we need to stop the bleeding,” she said.

          “Um…does anyone have a Band-Aid?” Dillon asked the small circle.

          Nicole let out a groan herself. “You didn’t pack a First Aid kit?”

          Sheepishly, Dillon shook his head.

          “Boy, what is it with guys and not being practical?” she muttered. “What we need,” she continued in a louder voice, “is actually not a Band-Aid, but some sort of absorbent cloth. The cut in his side is too big to be covered by a Band-Aid. Also, we’ll need to wash it before we can wrap it up.”

          “Oh, like in movies,” Mark said, nodding to himself as if it all made sense now.

          Steven handed her his mostly unused water bottle, the first helpful thing any of the boys had done, and she dumped the better part of it over the gash in her brother’s side. She did her best to use the remainder of that water bottle and Ray’s to clean the rest of the abrasions. Now to find bandage materiel…

          Something was shoved into her hand, and Nicole looked over to find it was Dillon’s shirt. “It’ll be ruined,” she warned.

          “I couldn’t think of anything else that would work,” he explained. “Go ahead and use it. People are more important than things.” She glanced up and saw his easy grin. “Besides, I don’t even like that shirt.”

          “It’s a good thing you don’t,” Nicole said as she pressed it to her brother’s cut. “Otherwise you’d have a pretty hard time trying to get the stains out. Always use cold water, by the way, to get out bloodstains. Just in case you needed to know that.”

          After a few minutes passed, and Ray was able to stop clenching his teeth against the horrible pain of having water poured over his open cuts, he managed to crack an eye open. Heads and worried expressions swam into view. For another minute, he focused on the three-headed apparitions until the single, solid face of his sister spoke.

          “How are you feeling?” she asked him.

          “Like I was run over by a car and then trampled by a herd of horses before being carried off and eaten by a dragon,” he said.

          She smiled, and he heard chuckles of amusement from around him. “So, a little better, I take it.”

          Ray nodded, but winced when the movement made the pain levels skyrocket. “Yeah, I guess.” He paused, and watched as her busy hands went to find every cut and bruise. “You can say ‘I told you so’,” he offered. “I totally deserve it.”

          Nicole raised an eyebrow at her brother’s confession, but shook her head. “God already took care of that,” she said. “His punishment was worse than anything I could have come up with. I could stand an apology for scaring me out of my wits though.”

          A mumbled ‘sorry’ made it past Ray’s reddened cheeks, and he looked as if he really meant it.

          “How soon will it be until you’re ready to make the trip back to your house?” Dillon asked.

          Ray ignored the burn of his many cuts and tried sitting up. It took a few seconds for his vision to clear again, but he was up. Progress was good.

          “Um, maybe ten minutes?” he estimated.

          “You know, maybe a couple of you could ride back and get my parents,” Nicole suggested. “I don’t think Ray will be riding a bike again anytime soon. Then they can drive over here and pick him up in our car.”

          Shawn nodded his agreement. “Maybe Steven and Mark could go back?” he suggested.

          The two selected boys took off after a unanimous vote declared them the messengers.

          Once Steven and Mark left them in the dust, Ray glanced over at the mangled remains of the bicycle and grimaced. “That’s going to be expensive,” he said.

          “Yep, and guess who’s paying for it?” Shawn said, leaning against the telephone pole, which had remained annoyingly free of crash marks.

          Ray glowered at it as if the whole crash was its fault. “Me,” he groaned aloud. He was not looking forward to what his parents would have to say about this.

***************************

          The silence was almost as bad as the scolding he thought he was going to get. Ray squirmed inside, since actually doing it would have been painful, while waiting for the lecture he knew would come.

          His dad glanced in the rear-view mirror. He had that look in his eyes. Here it comes, Ray thought, bracing himself.

          “So, I take it you learned a lesson today?” his dad asked at the next stoplight.

          “Yes sir,” Ray admitted quickly.

          “Which was…” the pastor prompted.

          “To not close my eyes while riding a bike.”

          It was a good thing the next light was also red. Mr. Daniels turned around to face his son, disbelief etched in every feature. “You closed your eyes while riding a bike?”

          The whole story came out, and, to his credit, Ray did nothing to avoid the truth about his mistake. His dad stayed silent while he told his tale. Once it was over, the pastor met his son’s eyes in the rear-view mirror.

          “So you actually learned two lessons today,” Mr. Daniels said.

          Ray frowned. “Um, yeah? I guess so?”

          “Come on, Ray, you know what the real lesson was. Think son. I know you can.”

          Ray furrowed his brow, thinking so hard that his head began hurting. Finally, he came up with the lesson he hoped was what his dad wanted. “To listen to my older siblings when they’re giving me advice I know you and Mom would agree with.” He sighed. “Nicole said my accident was a punishment from God.”

          “Mmm,” the pastor said noncommittally.

          The silence stretched to the point of awkwardness. His dad was the one to break it again.

          “Are you all right?”

          Somehow feeling worse than if his dad had lectured him, Ray hung his head. “Yeah, I’m ok.” He glanced at his reflection in the passenger side mirror and shuddered. “I look worse than I feel.”

          “When Steven and Mark showed up at our door, you caused us quite a bit of worry.”

          “I know,” Ray answered miserably. “I’m sorry.”

          “I’m glad to hear that. Make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

          “Yes sir.”

          “We love you.”

          “Yes sir.”

          The remainder of the ten-minute drive was spent in silence. Ray, too embarrassed by his behavior, didn’t feel like small talk, and his dad appeared in the mood to humor him this once. An almost relieved feeling swept over him when their car was parked in their driveway and the awkward silence was now over. He hopped out of the passenger seat only to be enfolded into his mom’s arms.

          “Are you ok? How bad was the fall? Did you have Nicole check you for a concussion? How did the accident happen? Are your siblings ok? Did anyone else crash?” His mom’s onslaught of worried questions took awhile to register in his head; a head that still hurt from the crash.

          “I’m fine Mom,” he assured her finally.

          The crease between her eyebrows flattened out a tad and she searched his eyes for any sign of untruthfulness about his health. “You sure about that?”

          Ray nodded. “The fall wasn’t a bad one, I just ran into a telephone pole.”

          The worried expression returned full force. “Just ran into a telephone pole? Ray. Fletcher. Daniels. How did you ‘just run into a telephone pole’?”

          Ray flinched at each new name his mom added. He was in big trouble. “I was racing with Dillon, Steven, and Mark,” he explained sheepishly. “I was winning and it felt so good, what with the wind rushing in my face and everything, I shut my eyes for a minute…” the sandy-haired pastor’s son hung his head. The situation was even more embarrassing when he explained it out loud.

          “You shut your eyes while riding a bike?” his mom repeated in disbelief. Déjà vu, Ray thought to himself while nodding wordlessly.

          The pastor’s wife looked over at her husband helplessly, having trouble making more words come out of her mouth.

          Mr. Daniels laid a calming hand on his wife’s shoulder. “I talked to him about it on the way here,” he said.

          Mrs. Daniels closed her eyes and took in a few steadying breaths. She took her son by the shoulder and led him into the house before sitting him down on a couch. “Let me get some ice for those bruises and a proper bandage for that gash in your side.” She left the room, her stiff back the only factor that displayed her current emotional state.

          “I hope you realize that you’re going to have to pay for the damage done to the bike,” Ray’s dad said, breaking the silence.

          “I do,” Ray said in a small voice.

          “You really gave us a scare.”

          “I’m sorry, I really am.”

          “Don’t do it again.”

          “Yes sir.”

          There was another awkward pause in the conversation, during which Ray could hear his mother moving about in the small kitchen. A freezer door opened, there was a distinct crackling of ice cubes as she put them in a plastic bag, and then the door shut. A squeaky cupboard hinge whined out a complaint and there was a rustling sound and the soft murmur Ray recognized as his mother talking to herself as she looked for something.

          She made her appearance a few minutes later, triumphantly carrying in all the items she needed. It wasn’t long before Ray was propped up on the couch, an icepack held to an especially large bruise on his forehead, and the crude bandage Nicole had made from Dillon’s shirt replaced by clean, sanitary squares of gauze held on by strips of medical tape.

          Mrs. Daniels surveyed her youngest child with an air of supreme satisfaction. “I hope you learned your lesson, young man,” she said after placing a firm kiss where she knew there were no bruises or scrapes.

          “Yes ma’am,” Ray assured his mom quickly.

          “I’m glad to hear it.”

          Just then, his two siblings burst through the door, breathless.