Hello, readers! Sorry I've been away from the blog for such a long time. A lot has been going on in my life over the last few months. Now, things are settling down a bit, and I'm eager to return to my writing desk.
Due to conflicts with my time, I've had to temporarily put "Love Spells" aside, although I hope to get back to it soon and have it submitted to a publisher.
Meanwhile, I'm excited about the new line coming from No Boundaries Press. It's called Bayou Heat. This prologue is the opening of my story "The Gift", targeted specifically for that line.
Enjoy! Feel free to leave comments and let me know what you think of this prologue. Would it entice you to read on?
The Gift - Prologue
Bayou Bay, Louisiana 1835
The feeble voice whispered her name. Marissa shuddered as she cast a glance over the cold, stone floor of the asylum toward the shabby bed. Guilt and fright washed over her.
“Yes, I’m here.”
But not by choice. She’d come to Bayou Bay only because Dr. Benjamin had summoned her, and she’d come to see her grandmother only out of obligation. Not that she didn’t love the frail old woman. She did. But her shame and fear were stronger.
“Come closer, dear.”
Marissa forced her feet to move, edging nearer to the filthy cot tucked in the shadowed corner of the room. With the high, barred windows, little light entered the dingy cell. As she reluctantly stepped forward, she trembled.
Was this the fate that awaited her?
For years, the question had haunted her.
Insanity, some said, ran in families. Madness could be handed down from one generation to another. If it were true, Marissa had little chance of escaping. On her father’s side, she had Granny Swann who’d spent the last twenty years -- almost all of Marissa’s lifetime -- shut away in the dank, dirty confines of Bayou Bay Rest Hospital. Her mother, too, had gone mad, ending her life in the swampy, alligator-infested waters of the Louisiana bayous.
But not without reason.
Marissa blamed her father. His drinking and gambling, his lies and infidelities would have destroyed even the strongest woman.
As she reached the bedside, a bony hand slipped from beneath the rumpled covers. Thin, gnarled fingers tightened around her wrist, tugging her closer still. The force of her grandmother’s grip startled her. How could a dying woman possess such strength?
“Your father came to see me last night.” An eerie light burned in Jemma’s pale blue eyes.
“Father’s dead. You know that.” Marrisa turned away. Her whispered words would not bring the old woman back to reality. Granny Swann believed in the voices she heard, the visions she saw. She deemed herself an oracle for divine wisdom and claimed to possess the power of the touch. That’s what she called it.
Marissa called it a shameful sickness.
Her grandmother’s cold hands pressed against hers.
“He came for me. It’s time for me to join him.” Her eyelids fluttered, and her thin, cracked lips parted. A long, slow breath slipped from her throat. “Before I leave this wretched world, dear, there is one thing I must do.”
Bending closer, Marissa pushed tangled strands of white hair away from the woman’s cheeks. Her grandmother’s death would be an act of mercy. No longer would Jemma be forced to endure the harsh treatments Dr. Benjamin prescribed; never again would she suffer the stigma and ridicule that had followed her through the years. No more tasteless gruel for breakfast, no more vermin-ridden bedding, no more dark, dungeon-like cell to call home.
And once she’s gone, I’ll never have to come here again.
Guilt stabbed at Marissa’s heart. Despite the pain, she couldn’t deny the welcome sense of liberation that lay just beyond the moment. When she walked away from Bayou Bay this time, Marissa would be free. She would never again have to set foot in that squalid asylum. She would never again breathe the fetid air of her grandmother’s cell, never again feel the bone-chilling dampness that reeked from its stark stone walls. And never again would she fear for her own sanity. The madness would die with Jemma Swann; its fearful curse would pass from the earth.
Marissa marveled at the blissful smile upon her grandmother’s aged face. Already the woman had found peace. Jemma’s bosom rose and fell in shallow breaths.
“I have to go now.”
Marissa blinked, unsure whether her grandmother had actually spoken the words or if she’d only imagined them.
Bony arms reached upward . With her eyes now closed, Jemma used her hands to study her grand-daughter’s face. Her fingertips danced lightly over the skin, exploring the high cheekbones, the delicate arch of eyebrows, the smoothness of supple, young lips.
“Soon I will be young again, too.” Jemma dropped her hands to her sides. “I have so little strength. And I have so little to show for my time in this world.”
“Rest now,” Marissa urged.
The skeletal hands shot upward again and grabbed for Marissa’s shoulders. “I have only one thing to give, one precious gift.”
Gooseflesh rose on Marissa’s forearms.
“Granny, no, you needn’t think of --”
“I will the gift to you, Marissa, dear.”
With a last gasp, a strange rattle echoed in Jemma’s throat. Her body stiffened, and a jolt of energy coursed through Marissa’s veins, as if a bolt of lightning had come down from the sky and struck her body. Her raven-black hair stood on end. Prickling sensations assaulted her shaking limbs as fire surged from her head to her toes.
“No! I will not accept it!” She wanted no part of Jemma Swann’s strange powers.
Eerie laughter echoed from the dark corners of the room. Marissa swiveled her head around, shocked to see Grandma Swann lurking in the shadows. She looked young again, beautiful again. Long, dark hair swirled around her ageless face. A chill wind blew across Marissa’s skin.
“Use the gift wisely, Marissa. Use it well.”
The apparition vanished.
I hope you've enjoyed this opening excerpt from "The Gift".
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