It's the holidays and in the spirit of giving, I’m going to post 12 days of one of my stories on the blog. Unfortunately, the idea came to me only this morning instead of 12 days before Christmas. So ... this will be the gift that keeps on giving, a shortened version of the Jelly of the Month Club.
The real question is which novel to choose. Hmm????
All of my stories have romance. Obviously. So that genre is a given. I’d love to post CLUB NEVERLAND but it’s in the middle of a revision. Again. Sighs.
I’d also love to post A KISS BEFORE LYING, a contemporary romance with light suspense. However, since my go-to genre seems to be magical realism and retellings (two unpopular genres in the ya world these days), I think I should post my latest novel FATED TO DIE. It’s on submission, but what the heck. The literary world slows way down for the holidays, so FATED TO DIE it is.
The book premise is on my novels page, but I’ll repost it here so you have an idea about the novel. Keep in mind, I write young adult novels with older teens around the ages of 17 to 18. (Not younger teens or borderline middle grade novels). Although, this is one of my less “steamier” plot lines, which is ironic since the novel opens with a suggestive scene and has a theme regarding virgins weaved throughout the story. LOL. But you’ll have to read it to understand how tame it is--for me. Those of you who know me and my writing style are laughing right now.
FATED TO DIE is a dark retelling of the Scottish Folktale, Bean Nighe--aka The Washer Woman.
When Praya is chosen by the curse on her village, she's thrust into the dark tales she grew up fearing.
Each Summer Solstice the Washer Woman rises from the river and enslaves a Messenger, a virgin maiden of seventeen to deliver bloody clothes to those who are Fated to Die.
For seven days, villagers cower behind locked windows and doors, praying the Messenger won't come to their house, while the doomed maiden and her family pray for her safe release. Although it is said a Messenger can earn her freedom on the seventh day, no maiden has ever survived to returned home.
If Praya is to see her family again, she must be the first to break free. She never set out to break the curse, or to fall for her Keeper—a mysterious boy she didn't know existed. Tasked to care for the Messengers, Dacian is tied to the curse in ways Praya never imagined.
Now, she must destroy the darkness on the village, without sacrificing the boy she's grown to love, before her time runs out and she joins the unending list of maidens claimed by the curse.
Pinterest page for this novel https://www.pinterest.com/taragallina/fated-to-die/
The first chapter is posted below. Enjoy!
FATED TO DIE
Each Summer Solstice she will rise,
From the depths of the river where she lies.
For seven days and seven nights,
She washes bloody clothes to her delight.
One virgin maiden she will choose,
To bear the curse and deliver the news.
Poor souls of Isca you know not your doom,
Until the Messenger girl is in your view.
A garment of death in her hand,
When you realize it's yours, you've moments to stand.
Make haste with goodbyes for you cannot deny,
That you are the next who is Fated to Die.
Hay pokes me in the back for the third time. I wince and reach underneath me to pull the sharp piece free. It sticks to my blouse. With Tristin's weight on me, half of his body covering the right side of mine, it's hard to get a good grip.
I wriggle and slip my hand further between the thin blanket and my back until I wrench the hay from my shirt and toss it aside. Phew.
Tristin huffs and rolls onto his side, propping himself up on one elbow. He shoves his curly brown hair from his eyes. "Let me guess. Another piece of hay?"
"Yes," I hiss. "Why is that so hard to believe? We're in a barn. There is hay everywhere. Would you rather I lie here and suffer in pain?"
"I would rather you relax and enjoy yourself." The vein in his neck bulges more, a thick rope stretching from under his jaw to the unbuttoned collar of his white shirt.
I gesture to his clenched fist where it rests on the side of his thigh. "Relax like you?"
He throws back his head and groans at the ceiling. "I didn't expect this to be so difficult."
"Yes, well … I didn't either." I release a breath and, with it, some of my frustration.
It's not his fault I'm here any more than it is mine. We have my father to thank. Had I known he'd resort to this to save me from the curse, I might have tried to be eligible for marriage. Not that it would have mattered. The village considered me tainted the moment I opened my two different colored eyes.
The wind howls outside, rattling the barn door. The horses stir in their stalls. Daisy, my favorite and best friend, neighs softly, reminding me she's here should I need her. She's the reason I chose the stables to meet with Tristin. In addition to the barn being on our land, and far from the watchful eyes of the Council.
Tristin leans close, the heat of his body making me want to scurry away. "Let me kiss you on the lips and not just your neck. It's the least you can do for me, given what I’m doing for you. No one else would dare touch the girl with deviant eyes for fear the rumor might be true."
"The rumor is a lie. You can't be kissed by darkness."
"Then how else do you explain their abnormality? I've never known anyone to have them, but then I've never known anyone to have skin and hair as pale as snow." He touches a long strand, sliding his fingers to the end, seeming mesmerized.
"Maybe I've been kissed by the Blessed Ones," I say, recalling Mother's words to me the day I came home in tears. I was five and desperate for a friend, but the kids in the village would rather mock me for my appearance than invite me to play with them. My coloring comes from my Mother, though she wasn't quite as pale and her eyes—one green and one blue—were lighter, making their difference less noticeable.
Tristin cocks a brow. "If you were kissed by the Blessed Ones, you wouldn't be in this situation. They'd never let someone that precious endure the fate of the curse. Yet, here you are, on the floor of your father's barn, giving me your virtue to save yourself."
My fingers curl into fists. "I told you, I'm not here to save myself. I’m here for my family."
Losing Mother five years ago as one of the Fated to Die nearly killed Father. Losing me would finish him off. He needs me. My twin sisters need me. Who will raise them if I’m gone?
Tristin snickers. "Right. You expect me to believe if the barrier were to lift tomorrow, you wouldn't be one of the first girls to flee?"
That will never happen. The mystical barrier formed nearly a century ago at the beginning of the curse, trapping us in the village while keeping others out. Even if, by some miracle, it faltered leaving a chance for escape, I wouldn't go. "Not without my family."
Tristin clamps my shoulder to pin me down. "Then we better get started. Come now, Praya. Drop the 'Stone Beauty' act and submit to me."
I shove away his hand. "Bringing up the nickname you and your friends use to tease me won't earn you any points." All it does is remind me why I avoid people like him.
His lips twist with a cruel smile. "I'm not here to earn points with you. I'm here as a favor to your father."
"You're here because he's paying you."
"Trust me, the few gold coins he has to offer are an insult."
My blood heats and my breathing turns to shallow. As an Elite, the coins might be insignificant to his family, but to mine, they are essential. I hold up my palm. "Give them back then."
He plucks a piece of hay from his pants. "Nice try, but I don't think so. You can't swindle me out of what I’m owed. I'm not stupid."
"You're here." I wave a hand. "Mating before the age of eighteen or before marriage is considered treason in the eyes of the Council. If caught, all involved are punished." Doesn't sound smart to me.
His lips smash together. "I am well aware of the rules."
"Then why agree to this? Why risk your own safety to help me?"
A wicked gleam flashes in his hazel eyes. "It's not because you're irresistible. I can have any maiden in the village. Everyone wants me to claim them as my bride, and I shall choose one, once I've secured my future. If I’m to maintain my Elite lifestyle after I'm wed, I need to prove myself to my father. A sheep farm would be a profitable addition to the family businesses. Your father has the best land, even if it is on the outskirts of town. His sheep seem plentiful with their milk and wool. I wager if I do this favor for him, he will be open to my purchase proposal. And who knows…" He trails his finger down my arm. "If tonight goes well, I might take you on as my mistress. Every married Elite has one, and you'll owe me for saving your life."
Air rushes from my lungs like a punch to the gut. I scurry out from under him and shuffle away in a backwards crawl. "I will never be your mistress! And my father will never sell you our land. I'll make sure of it."
His nostrils flare, and his face turns dark red.
Daisy neighs and kicks in her stall.
Tristin glances from me to my flustered horse. As if she senses his gaze, she kicks the wall again. The wood panels rattle and hay from the rafter above sprinkles down.
"You'll regret this," Tristin snarls. He snatches his vest and coat from a hook on one of the stalls.
"Wait." I jump up, not bothering to shake out my long skirt.
He pauses, and his eyes narrow to dark slits. "If you want me to stay, you'll have to get on your knees and beg."
Slimy pig. I raise my hand. "I'll take the bag Father gave you in payment."
He laughs and pats his jacket pocket where it bulges. "Consider it a parting gift for wasting my time."
I back up several steps until I'm in front of Daisy's stall. She bucks her head and puffs her breath as if ready to charge. Good girl.
I grab the latch. "Then you won't mind if I let my horse see you out."
"Evil witch!" He throws the bag at my feet. "Before I sleep tonight, I will pray a thousand times over that you are chosen as Messenger tomorrow. Then you'll wish you had submitted to me."
Fear shudders under my skin, and I force words of warning through my clattering teeth. "Remember, should you tell anyone about this arrangement, you will be punished along with us."
No one will suffer as much as my father, but we will be forced to work in the castle, serving the Council and their families.
Tristin's chest pumps with his faster breathing, his gaze filled with rage. "The last thing I would do is degrade myself by sharing my moment of weakness. You are nothing more than a pebble in my boot, one I've expelled. I will forget you the moment I walk out of this barn, and after your nightmare week with the Hag in the woods, you'll be forgotten by everyone. Just another lost maiden whose name no one cares to remember."
I seize Daisy's brush from the stool and hurl it at him.
He jerks to the side a second before taking the hit to the face.
"Get out!" I shout.
Daisy rams the stall door, urging me to set her free, but Tristin is halfway across the barn. He disappears into the night without glancing back.
For moments, I stand there, shaking and trying to calm my nerves. I hate him. I hate the curse. And most of all, I hate myself for agreeing to do this.
No one knows who will be chosen tomorrow. Perhaps, my unpopularity with the villagers will be the same with the curse. I've never been selected for anything in my life. Why would that change now?
I pick up the bag from the ground and make sure all our coins are there. A shiny object catches my eye. I remove it from the bag and gasp.
Mother's butterfly brooch! It was her favorite for the colored gemstones in the silver wings, blue and green like her eyes. Like my eyes. How could Father trade something so important to us—to me?
I cup the brooch to my heart, my emotions getting the best of me. Silent tears slide down my cheeks. I miss her. I miss the way she hummed when she tended to the gardens. I miss the way Father lit up when she smiled at him, and the way they gazed at each other when they danced together by the pianoforte.
So much has changed. If I am chosen tomorrow, life will change again for me and for my family. Tristin was right about one thing. Once a maiden is claimed as Messenger, she never returns home. Her name is forgotten, and she becomes one of a century of maidens sacrificed to the curse.
If only the claims that a Messenger can earn her freedom on the seventh day were true.
Daisy nuzzles my cheek in a soothing way. "Thank you for having my back." I rub her long neck.
"Do you want a treat? You certainly earned one." I feed her a carrot from the bucket I keep by her stall.
The door to the barn slams shut with a loud bang. I squeal and stiffen. My thoughts go to the worst place. It's the Council. Tristin told on us, and they're here to lock Father in the castle dungeons until his death.
Legs shaking, I creep toward the barn door. The wood creaks as it rocks with the wind. I push it open a little and peer outside. Crickets stir in the nearby woods. The leaves rustle in the trees. The grounds are too dark to see anyone walking around, not unless they carried a light.
I quiet my worked-up breathing and listen for footsteps. Other than nature, nothing stirs.
Can I trust my senses? Do I have a choice? Tomorrow will end in one of three ways.
The Council arrests us all.
I am chosen as Messenger.
I return home, spared by the curse, and life remains the same.
Please let the last be my fate.
Ok. Enough. Yes do this and happy holidays to you and yours!!!