Hey y’all! I’m so proud to announce that I’ve just hit publish on my third novel! Woohoo! Pretty cool that, as of March 15, 2016 I had no books published, and now my third one is out and proud!
Rooted, book 3 in the Raindropt series, is my best yet. I love all my books equally, but in Beyonce terms I’d say this is my “I am…Sasha Fierce,” AKA the album where she debuted “Single Ladies” and we all lost our damn minds. And, funnily enough, that was her third solo album. We’re so similar, Bey and me.
Rooted, chapter 1:
Her eyes were trained on the Chrysler building, its steel spire stabbing the sky. Its mirrored facade glinted burnt-sienna in the early-Autumn sun. She felt a pang of longing, yet she squinted back at the building with mild annoyance. She knew why she had chosen to come back to New York, and she didn’t need a constant reminder of what she’d left behind in Bosh. The building blinked back, its structure morphing into a dashing smushed face. Swallowing a groan, she tore her eyes away from the formerly friendly skyscraper, fixing her gaze on her three friends clustered around the table.
“Can you believe it?” Charlotte was saying, her cheeks bitten from the breeze. “They’d been married for six months, living in the Monroe place on Park Avenue and summering in Southampton, naturally. She’s the thinnest she’s ever been. Did you see that photo she posted before the Met Gala?”
“Don’t get me started,” Tristan said, her eyes dreamy with admiration. “Her collarbone could destroy. She looked incredible.”
“She’s on a solid diet of painkillers and seltzer, but that’s neither here nor there,” Delia said, glancing over her shoulder with a wicked grin. Tristan and Charlotte giggled.
“Anyways, Hunter just up and left her for Francie Chastain on the eve of her twenty-fourth. Francie! It’s insane. He’s obviously going through a quarter-life crisis,” Charlotte said, reaching for a macaron. She lifted it to her lips, then glanced to Delia for approval.
“You’ve had four,” Delia said, frowning. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine. It’s Audrey who’s not all right!” Charlotte squealed, her azure eyes alight. She looked to Leah, who had remained strangely silent throughout the story.
“Francie Chastain, Leah, remember her? There was never a neckline she couldn’t defeat with that ridiculous cleavage. She’s absolute trash, and she’s somehow pulled Hunter Van Nils away from Audrey. Is there no hope for any of us?”
Leah shifted, thinking of one male whom she knew would be immune to the supposed charms of Francie Chastain, despite her spectacular bosom.
“Sorry, I’m just not able to focus,” Leah said, her eyes downcast. “I should probably go, well, you know…”
The friends exchanged a look of sympathy, nodding and murmuring their collective concern.
“Of course, dear. You should get back. Send Silvia our best, will you? I’m sure she’ll have made a recovery before the YHS luncheon. Cindy Minh is performing. She wouldn’t dare miss that,” Tristan said, rubbing Leah’s shoulder.
Leah forced a small smile, scooting up from her seat in the private rooftop lounge of their wellness club. She sucked in a shallow breath as she nodded goodbye to the Manhattan skyline, picturing the lush green canopy of the place she had more recently called home. She turned away quickly, and her boots clicked en route to the elevator. As she waited for the elevator, she caught sight of herself in the mirrored panel, and a pair of sullen dark eyes met her gaze. From where she was standing, her petite frame appeared to be standing among the skyscrapers, an optical illusion that would have been welcome and appropriate before — well — she couldn’t think about that. Not with visiting hours coming to an end in one hour, and she’d been gone since breakfast.
The taxi ride to the hospital was quick. Within twenty minutes, she was walking along the same stark white corridor she had walked multiple times each day for the past month. She took a sharp left at the end of the hallway, breezing into the all-too-familiar private room, with its one waifish patient lying eerily silent, as she had since Leah’s arrival. The machines whirred and whooshed, the heart monitor beeping its reassuring refrain, as Silvia Fox’s chest rose and fell. Leah winced to see her mother’s cheekbones protrude against her once luminous skin, which was now dull and flaky beneath the fluorescent lighting. Her cracked lips, inexplicably pursed, were still swollen and bruised a color Silvia would likely compare to a “high class whore.” Her once expressive eyes, the eyes that had lit up when Leah was inducted into the Young Heiress Society, were sunken into her hollow face, dipping into her skull like two shallow pools of dismay.
Leah bit back a wave of tears, thinking of everything she had said and not said to her mother. Their relationship had always been cordial, but Silvia Fox had made it clear that Leah was to fit neatly into her society life, and she didn’t care to hear Leah’s opinion on the matter. Leah did her best to live the life Silvia and Stanley had laid out for her — symphonies, shopping, society luncheons, traipsing around Europe with the Norwegian heir to the throne — but then one day she was removed altogether from her perfectly mapped out life. She had always known that she would have to face her former life eventually, but she hadn’t expected that when she did, her mother would be rendered comatose by a Diffuse Axonal Injury.
“You’re back,” a male voice said, and Leah annoyed herself by jumping from surprise. She turned around, locking eyes with Patrick, the tall nurse with broad shoulders and curly brown hair. She blushed as he gazed back, a sad smile hinting at the edges of his lips. “You two must be very close.”
Leah nodded for lack of a better response, watching as he busied himself checking her mother’s fluids while glancing at the monitor to the right of her bed. He tapped the IV thoughtfully, looking over his shoulder at Leah.
“No movement yet,” he said, nodding to show his lack of surprise. “The other patients took just as long to respond, so it’s not entirely unusual.”
“Respond?” Leah asked, frowning. “What are you talking about?”
“That’s right,” Patrick said, tipping his chin toward the ceiling. “You weren’t here. Dr. Bernstein administered an experimental drug this morning — Tobrexa. It just got approved. We started with a very small dose, but the doctor has high hopes it will make a difference. With any luck, it’ll help her regain full consciousness within a matter of days. There are some side effects, of course, but minimal.”
Leah’s trudging heart gradually picked up its pace, moving to a slow stride.
“What are the chances she’ll make a full recovery?” she asked.
“Dr. Bernstein doesn’t want to make any promises, but we’re hopeful. With any luck you could be rid of this place for good very soon. Well, not too soon, I mean — um —” he said, reaching behind Silvia to fluff her pillow.
Leah felt the heat coming off the nurse, and she shifted her weight in her knee-high boots.
“How long does it take for her body to respond?” she asked.
“Everybody is different,” he said, his eyes trained on his patient, “but it’s not as if her cranial disk is shaped any differently than the other patients, so we expect we’ll see some movement soon. Anyways, Dr. Bernstein will be by later with more information. Take care, Leah.”
Patrick strode from the room, flicking one last smile in her general direction. Leah smiled, her heart jumping to do a heel click. She knew one creature whose cranial disk was shaped differently than anyone else she knew — her gnome, the auburn-bearded fellow waiting for her back in the Bosch rainforest. If Tobrexa worked its magic, she could slip away from Manhattan as soon as Silvia resumed her society life with perfectly executed organization.
“Leah, you’re back. Welcome,” said her father, Stanley Fox. He strode through the same doorway Patrick had just walked through, looking crisp and catalogue perfect in his pin-striped suit and skinny black tie. He had wrinkles around his eyes from sleeping at Silvia’s bedside more nights than he cared to count, and Leah noticed he smelled of the machine espresso in the hospital cafeteria. He folded himself neatly into the chair on the far side of the room, gesturing to Leah to take the chair on the opposite side of the bed. Leah sat, a sudden anxiety fluttering in her stomach like she was on a job interview.
“Hello, Father,” she said. She watched as Stanley frowned at his phone, muttering something under his breath as he hastily replied to an email.
“The Shumacher deal should’ve gone through a week ago,” he said, his eyes on his phone. “I can’t imagine what’s taking so long.”
Leah hummed her acknowledgement, and her father raked one hand through his salt and pepper hair.
They sat in silence — Leah staring at her comatose mother and her father staring at his phone, tapping the screen with purpose.
“So the nurse, um, he mentioned the experimental drug —”
“Let’s not get our hopes up,” Stanley interjected, his gaze meeting Leah’s for a split second. “She hasn’t responded to the others.”
Nodding, Leah bit back a threat of tears. What she wouldn’t give for Silvia Fox to stir, her large dark eyes blinking open and squinting into the antiseptic environment. She would probably pinch her eyes together as tightly as years of cosmetic fillers would allow, cocking her head to one side at Leah’s emotional state.
“Honestly, darling, you might consider a career in theatre,” she would say, smirking at her own wit. Of course, she had no clue that Leah had spent the past several months starring in the most popular play in Bosch.
“Timing isn’t your forte. It never has been,” Stanley said, slicing through her thoughts. “You leave on a spur-of-the-moment romp around Europe, and a bagel truck rear ends your mother’s Lexus. She never drives, and yet something compelled her to drive that day,” he said, still looking at his phone.
The tears pricked the backs of her eyes, but Leah refused to cry. Her father had been insinuating for weeks that she was to blame for her mother’s accident, since her “spur-of-the-moment romp” had driven poor Silvia to distraction. She knew the truth about that trip, but it wouldn’t do much good now to blurt out:
“A witch cornered me on Fifth Avenue and set me up to fall through the subway grate at Bryant Park, and within a matter of minutes I ripped through a portal — a horrifying experience in its own right — and landed in a rainforest filled with elves, centaurs, fairies, and one gnome I would have overlooked in my previous life. It’s been more than an eto since I first landed there — that’s roughly eighteen stotras, which is basically a year and a half here, although time passes differently in the lenosphere, so apparently I’ve only been gone for a month in your world — and so now Bosch feels like home. And that gnome that I mentioned, well he is the most wonderful creature I’ve ever known, and I think he may be my soulmate. So, yeah, I didn’t leave willingly, despite what the witch, Deidrana, might have led you to believe.”
She knew the nurses would be swift in sedating her and dragging her limp body off to the psychiatric ward. She couldn’t risk it, not when her mother was still laying helpless on the hospital bed without a single item of Chanel on her person.
“She never even made it to that Alzheimer’s luncheon she’d been planning for months,” Stanley continued, oblivious of Leah’s mental confession. “I hope you’re pleased with your choices.”
Shaking her head, Leah tried to empathize with Stanley. Her father hadn’t taken a single day off work since her mother fell into the coma, choosing instead to sit by her bedside, and oftentimes sleep there at night, angrily answering emails and taking calls when need be.
“This will work,” she said, watching Silvia’s cracked features and protruding cheekbones. “There’s a really good chance it will, and we need to be positive for her.” Her voice squeaked as she tried to keep the shakiness to a minimum.
Stanley sighed, standing up in his chair and crossing the room to Leah. She flinched, watching in fear as he came closer, his face an expressionless mask. He missed his wife of twenty-five years, Leah knew, but he would never let himself be vulnerable in front of his daughter.
“You shouldn’t have gone,” he said. “This would never have happened if you hadn’t gone to Europe without first notifying me and your mother. She was distracted that day. She couldn’t understand why her only daughter would just leave without saying goodbye, without even sending a forwarding number or address to reach you.”
Stanley’s voice was low, his eyes steely as he shot Leah a disapproving glare.
“You,” he growled, “are. To. Blame.”
Without warning, something snapped inside Leah. She glared at her father, with his pin-striped suit and self-righteous attitude. Hadn’t she set her life aside to tend to her mother? Hadn’t she allowed Deidrana to transform her into a hideous spoonbill so she could fly several dozen pserotopic miles, until they neared the lenosphere? And hadn’t she allowed the witch to transform her into a rocketship that could withstand the scorching protective barrier known as the lenosphere, even though she was petrified of heights? She had left behind her gnome, Alex, their pet unicorn, Tristabald, their new dragon friend, Kaida, and her best friend, Gigi, the elf who’d killed her own boyfriend to save Leah’s life.
“Father, I don’t think—”
“Correct,” he said, his voice calm. “That’s the problem. You don’t think.”
“But I don’t under —”
“Yes that’s what it is,” he said, his eyes cool with disregard. “You don’t understand anything about your family obligations.”
Leah’s temper hissed and spat like a hungry campfire. Her father’s words cut deep within her core and coaxed fury to the surface of her mind.
“How dare you —”
Just then, a low growl sounded. Leah jumped, her fury melting away as realization slammed into her. Her large, dark eyes widened, and her father’s steely ones did the same, the two of them locked in a gaze of utter disbelief. The growl was human, but it sounded like someone who hadn’t made a sound of any sort in several weeks. Breaking the gaze, Leah turned sideways to look once more at the hospital bed.
Silvia Fox had woken up.