An adult fantasy novel based on the premise: ‘Centuries after the witch trials magic remains hidden. Is it time to rejoin the modern world?’
There are costs of an existence known to the world. The witch trials proved that. But isolation has bred feelings of strangulation. Brindham’s existence as a safe haven tick-tocks. A lively bomb fueled by protesters, revolutionaries, and distrust fostered by seeming apathy on the part of its government. At best the unsolved crimes which triggered the spiral are laziness. At worst conspiratorial. The Organization of Security and Surveillance was supposed to be the saving grace but as some suspect–as Jackson worried–the more undistinguished traits of its leader have tainted the color of it.
I, Evina Agnew, was brought to be a pawn. That much seems true. Predicted to be the most powerful witch who ever lived my allegiance gains a certain win. I suppose both sides meant to demonstrate power, attraction, and justice, but I’ve seen through the veil. Both are bathed in blood. There are no innocent men in the game of power. I speculate an alternative. A resolve to the hands clenched around the neck of Brindham. A middle road of resolution. But does such a thing exist? Or is it simply what I want? Does it matter if what I want aligns with what is right? There have been reassurances. I won’t be alone. It ends as all begins, with hope. Hope, I haven’t made a mistake.
From Chapter 1
It was an overnight flight and I should have slept, but I couldn’t. I’m rife with anticipation, apprehension, and excitement. A wicked trio of emotion that only multiple ginger ales soothed when turbulence added an extra component of yay to the dry cycle going on in my stomach. So I look like a red-eyed monster, which is great. And my wrists are warm, which is okay… but also unnerving.
The usually tame components of my limbs have been pulsing with magic for days. A symptom of my brain knowing where I’m going and what can be done there. The churning ribbon of heat it spawns is fine, as long as the magic itself remains contained. Once arriving at my final destination there will be three days for magic to exist, run amok, be everything I always imagined it could. After that…
First is getting there. First is the good part.
The corner I round draws me through a fading plume of dark smoke drifting from behind the glass counter of a display filled with orange juice, breakfast wraps, and wilted looking fruit cups. Two men standing ahead have mixed expressions of both mild interest and complete boredom. One steps forward, greeting the gentlemen who walked up to him. The other with lazy motions raises the tablet-sized board from where it was tucked under his arm. The name in blue ink smeared across the white background is not mine. These men aren’t here for me. I continue forward, searching out whoever is supposed to take me the rest of the way.
A hand at my sleeve brings me to a halt. “Excuse me, Miss? I think I may have something of yours.”
The braided bulk of leather at my shoulder catches the track of an open zipper as I turn to face the man who spoke. Matte black fabric of a sports coat is pulled back, revealing the empty pocket of a lint-speckled midnight colored shirt before the material handshake releases, and the coat settles back against the breadth of the man’s chest. “I’m sorry to grab you like that,” he says. Cinnamon flavored freshness wafting through his parted lips.
I move a step back. Absorb the enormity of the man’s frame in one sweeping glance. Realize I’ve seen him before—back in New York. I only caught a glimpse of him while an over-friendly security agent searched me for illegal substances, but a glimpse was enough. Black clothes are an attempt to blend in but this is the sort of man on who confidence drapes like a well-tailored suit. Self-possession equivalent to that of elite military men saturates his stance. And there is something else… “Can I help you?” I question. It’s then I identify what I couldn’t. If I came across this man on a dark and stormy night I’d be uncertain whether to run to or from him.
Callouses and smudges of dirt are visible on the tips of the man’s fingers. A passport rests on the open palm extended toward me. The Canadian coat of arms glistens gold against rich navy background. “I think you dropped this.”
“No, that can’t be mine. It must be someone else’s.”
The man opens the passport up and shows me the picture inside. “This isn’t you?”
The pale skin, unsmiling lips, and abnormally large and hazel eyes of the girl in the photo compare exactly to the reflection I saw in a mirror glued to the plastic wall of an airplane lavatory. The name next to the picture confirms the passport as mine. “That’s really weird”—I hold my purse out, unzip the pocket on the wall within, and reach where my passport should be— “I could have sworn it was in there. I don’t see how it could have possibly fallen out.”
The man closes my passport. “Things more unusual have been known to happen. As it is you, I expect you’d like it back.”
The navy covered pages detailing the travels of my life are held out to me. I tuck them safely back into my purse. “Thank you.”
Before I can turn to leave—the kindness acknowledged and our duties of social convention met—the man steps forward; alleviating me of personal space. Massive fingers reach up and curl around his chin. He begins to stroke the long hairs that flow over the edge of his jaw. “Tell me. Have you ever been here before?”
Warmth pulses out my wrists to the base of my palms. Concern takes root deep within my gut. I focus on breathing. In and out. In and out.
“No. I haven’t.”
“Not ever. That’s the thing about travel, isn’t it? Going places one has never been before.”
“Ye-e-s…” the man says.
The base of my knuckles feel the surge of extending heat seconds before the sensation enters the next stage. My fingers respond by fluttering. A flicker of movement that can be disregarded as a nervous twitch, but the man notices… Notices in a way that does not make the usual assumption.
He seems about to say something when a faint series of three beeps distracts us both. Another set starts; each of which grows louder as the man withdraws his right hand from his pocket. The silver edge of a slim cell phone peeks over the tips of his fingers. Whatever is on the screen is quickly digested before the phone returned to the depth of his jean pocket with a tapping of his thumb. As the man’s attention returns to me he smiles broadly. For the first time, I consider handsomeness may factor into the intimidation he has going on. “I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Jackson Oxbridge. And you are?”
I stare at the hand extended to me. My own dig deeper into the pockets I’ve shoved them. The skin at my knuckles scrapes the edge of threads. “You didn’t read it in my passport?”
“Indulge me.” Jackson’s hand falls away. Nothing about his demeanor acknowledges my snub in not shaking it.
“Well, Evina. I suspect you’re going to need my help.”
Sliding doors open and close a short distance behind Jackson. They look like beacons shrieking freedom. Beyond them exists a place where jittery fingers don’t need to be feared more than a stranger. It takes everything I have to resist the urge to let magic do as it wants. “Your help?”
“Yes. In fact, if what you’ve said is true there is no other way for you to reach your destination than with someone like me.”
“That’s ridiculous.” There was only the briefest pause before I answered, but it was there. The sort of hesitation that would make an attentive poker opponent raise. The way this man’s posture becomes slightly more erect suggests he would be a formidable adversary in a game of cards.
“Right… Ridiculous. Tell me, then. What was your plan for getting there?”
“Someone is taking me.”
Hope maybe I missed something yields a look back at the man with the sign. The ink across it still does not spell out my name. “I don’t know. I haven’t met them yet.”
“You’ve been in contact with someone though?”
“No, but that doesn’t change the fact I am being taken by someone.” In the distance the doors open and close. Open and close. Passage granted to those with the freedom to do as they want.
“It does. It could mean it’s not a fact.”
“Someone will be here for me, all right? Point is, I’m fine. Thank you for giving me my passport. Your duty here is done. I have to go.” I step past the massive manly obstacle and start walking toward the exit.
Loud footsteps indicate Jackson is at my side; his stride temporarily uncoordinated as he tries to match his pace to my own. “It’s not, actually. You’re going to need me, Evina.”
“You have absolutely no idea where I’m headed. Go scam on someone else.”
“Don’t I?” Jackson leans as close as one can mid-stride. “You’re going to Brindham.”
The jolt I experience is involuntary. My limbs stop moving all at once; a culmination of shock settling into absurd calm. “How…? What do you? How do you know about, Brindham?” I whisper the name of the city. Unsure whether it should be said aloud.
“Because I’ve lived there all my life.”
“You’ve lived there all your life? That means…” My brain reels. He can’t be. “No.”
“I am.” Jackson nods. “Same as you.”
*PS. I have decided to shelve BRINDHAM. After querying, contests, and review by an editor I feel it’s best to proceed with other projects right now. You can read some of my blog posts on the subject of its development and the choice to shelve it by looking up ‘BRINDHAM’ tags on the website via the search function. ♥