Tuesday is the big day! The Search for Sam will finally be available to buy on all platforms! You can still preorder it and be one of the first to get your hands on it, but if you want a little taste before then, here’s a little excerpt from Chapter One.
“Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?” From the way the man was slurring his words, it was obvious that he had been drinking for a while. The woman at the table he was leaning on was young, much younger than the other women in the club, but it didn’t sway the drunk man at all.
“Maybe,” she said nonchalantly. “I’ve been to nearly every joint in the city at least once.” She gave him an appraising look. He was good-looking and she wanted to dance, but drunk men often didn’t make the best dance partners. It didn’t hurt to talk to him, though.
“What’s your name, sweetheart?”
“Dinah,” the woman said, deciding to take a chance on him. She wouldn’t have to talk to him long to know if he was too drunk to be interesting. The man smiled and pulled a chair away from a nearby table so he could sit across from her. She raised an eyebrow. “Yes, please, have a seat.”
“I’m Leonard,” he said, ignoring her sarcasm. “Nice to meet you, Dinah. You want something to drink?” Privately, Dinah thought that the last thing Leonard needed was another drink so she shook her head. “You sure? I’m buying.”
“No thanks,” Dinah said. She looked around the club, where men and women alike had drinks in their hands and cigarettes between their lips. Normally she would have joined them, but if Leonard was going to be any fun at all, she was going to have to put a lid on his drinking.
“Well, then, how about a cigarette and some fresh air?”
“Sure, that’s fine.” Dinah picked up her pocketbook and walked out the back door with the drunk man. There was a small fence around the edges of an alley and several trash cans in the corner. Dinah half-sat on one of them as the man took a pack of cigarettes from his pocket. “It’s quite nice out here tonight.”
“They’re packed in there like sardines tonight,” Leonard said. “It gets a little stuffy in there once everyone gets going.” He shook two cigarettes out and offered one to Dinah, who put it to her lips and waited for him to light it. Somehow she knew he would want to, and she didn’t mind. Sure enough, he took a lighter out of his jacket pocket and opened it up. She leaned forward and let him light her cigarette, then took it out of her mouth and exhaled.
“That’s nice,” she said, pointing to the lighter. “Is that silver?”
“It is,” Leonard said around his own cigarette as he lit it, cupping his hands around the flame. “It was my father’s.”
“He had good taste,” Dinah said, and Leonard held it up for her to get a better look. There was an ornate design engraved on it and her eyes widened. “That’s fabulous. Is it a shield?”
“It’s my family’s coat of arms,” Leonard said. “It’s been passed down from father to son for five hundred years. My last name’s Fraser,” he continued, dropping his lighter back into his pocket, “but it was originally Friseal.” He spoke these last words as if they should mean something to Dinah, but she didn’t understand. Leonard could tell she was confused and laughed in disbelief. “You don’t know?”
“Know what, exactly?”
“That’s just going to make it easier,” Leonard said. He threw his still-lit cigarette on the ground and walked toward her, an expression of triumph on his face. Dinah was still trying to figure out what was going on when a wave of heat washed over her. Suddenly she could feel the man’s intentions toward her, though she didn’t know how. It was as if he was made of pure malice, but also a sort of righteousness, and Dinah backed away from him.
“Get away from me,” she said, looking back quickly to see how close she was to the door. “Get away or I’ll scream!” Leonard ignored her words, advancing on her with a knife he’d taken out of his inside pocket. Dinah continued backing up, looking for a way to get out.
The only way away from this man was through the club, and the feelings of greed and evil intensified the closer he got. He’d stopped playing drunk and gotten down to his real business with her, and Dinah knew that if she stayed outside he would surely kill her. She realized that her own lit cigarette was still in her hand and an idea came to her. It was a long shot but it was all she had. Holding her breath, Dinah threw her cigarette at him, hoping it would burn him or at least distract him long enough for her to get away. Not waiting to see if it worked, she turned on her heel and ran up the stairs to the club. She’d no sooner put her foot on the middle step than she was jerked backward.
“You’re mine,” he growled from behind her, close enough that she could smell his sweat. “I’m not letting anyone else get you, and I’m not letting you enslave any more men with your magic.”
Dinah hadn’t the slightest idea what Leonard was talking about. She didn’t know anything about the magic he was speaking of, she just wanted to get away from him. Dinah pulled forward as hard as she possibly could and heard a rip as the strap of her dress tore. All that mattered to her was that she was free, and she ran up the steps and flung open the door to the club.
The moment she stepped through the door, Dinah was hit from all sides by flashes of emotion that could only be coming from the patrons of the club. They varied in intensity from vague interest to jealousy to passion so fiery that her cheeks reddened, and she pushed her way through the club as she was battered by the feelings of the people who had no idea she was trying to escape. Suddenly their voices were too loud, and their laughter seemed out of place. It was as if they were all screaming at her at once and Dinah pressed her hands to her ears to try and shut them out, but they just kept coming.
“Stop! Just stop,” she shouted, getting the attention of several people in the club. They looked at her with interest, and she could imagine how she looked, a crying young woman in a ripped dress screaming hysterically. The other patrons moved away from her as if she was carrying a contagious disease and Dinah took advantage of the path they made to run out the front door of the club. There was a man at the entrance and he grabbed Dinah’s arm. She got a feeling of intense concern from him, but the only thing she was interested in was getting as far from the club as possible.
“Hey, miss,” he said with a frown, “you okay?”
“I’m sorry, I’ve got to leave,” she said, looking back to see if Leonard was following her. She didn’t see him, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t close enough to grab her again and the unarmed man holding her arm wouldn’t be expecting the knife he was holding. She shook his arm off and ran down the deserted side street with his voice echoing after her.
“Miss! Don’t you want your coat?”
Dinah wasn’t sure how long she ran, only that her feet were screaming in protest when she recognized she was halfway home. She’d long since made it to a main street and she raised a hand to hail a cab. One stopped immediately and she got in with a smile.
“Thank you,” she said gratefully. “I need to get home as quickly as possible.” She moved to open her pocketbook and realized that she’d left it behind the club when she’d run away. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. “I seem to have misplaced my pocketbook.” She reached for the door handle and felt a gentle pity coming from the driver.
“Don’t worry, miss. I’ll get you home safe, no charge.”
“Thank you,” Dinah repeated, a fresh wave of tears welling up in her eyes. A man who might or might not have been Leonard was coming out of the club but it didn’t matter. The taxi driver was pulling away from the curb, taking her to the place she knew would be safe. “My grandmother will pay your fare,” she said, brushing tears out of her eyes with the back of her hand.
“There’s no need, miss. You remind me of my little sister,” he said, looking back at her with a smile. “You’re awfully young to be out so late, though. If you don’t mind my saying so, you might stay safer if you keep closer to home.”
“Not at all,” Dinah said, trying her best to give him a smile. “I just may take your advice.” It wasn’t a lie. Leonard’s abrupt change from good-natured drunk to the man whose aim had been to kill her had frightened her. More than that, she didn’t know what had happened to her when she was running through the club. It was as if everyone’s emotions were vying for a place in her mind at once and it had left her feeling drained.
What was that? She leaned back on the seat. Were those really peoples’ emotions? The taxi driver had fallen silent and was paying attention to the road, and Dinah tentatively reached out to him in an attempt to see if she really was able to tell what he was feeling. A warm, protective sensation came over her and she felt a little more relaxed. Dinah supposed that part of it was knowing that the driver meant her no harm but she was glad of it anyway.
“We’re coming up on the junction,” he said, and she looked up at him with a genuine smile. This man truly wanted to help her. “Can you point me in the direction of your house?”
“Oh! Yes of course. Turn to the left here. Do you know where the herbalist is? The place with the greenhouse?” He nodded in reply and she sat back. “That’s where I live, over the shop.”
“Then let’s head over there.” The driver turned left and they were both silent again. Dinah was glad of this as well. She didn’t feel much like talking. In fact, she was having trouble keeping her eyes open. She managed to stay awake until the driver pulled up in front of the shop whose sign read simply ‘Botanic Experts.’ There was a light in the downstairs window, and as soon as Dinah stepped out of the taxi the door flew open.
“Good heavens, where have you been? I was so worried about you!” A woman roughly the same height as Dinah hurried down the path to the street. Her features marked her as a relative of the girl, but her long, braided hair was silver where Dinah’s was short and dark. Her sapphire blue eyes searched the girl’s face avidly. “Are you all right? What’s happened?” She reached over and picked up the torn shoulder strap that was lying on Dinah’s arm. “Something’s happened, I can feel that you’re upset.”
“Can we go inside, Grandame? I’m really not feeling well.”
“Yes, I know.” It wasn’t the first time her grandmother had said something to this effect. Dinah had always dismissed it as the old woman speaking as someone who knew her, but now she wondered if it had been something more. The woman she had called Grandame looked at the taxi driver. “Thank you for bringing my granddaughter home safely. May I offer you some tea?”
“No thanks, I’ve got to be headed back to find another fare before I go home,” he said, then yawned widely. “Excuse me. I’ve been up all night.”
“Then tea is what you need.” She took a small cloth bag out of the apron she was wearing and went to the car to hand it to the driver. “I was just about to box this up for the shop but I want you to have it instead. Drink it and you’ll have plenty of energy. Do I owe you any money for the fare?”
“No ma’am. Just glad to see this young lady home safe.” He tipped the hat he was wearing to them both, then smiled and drove away. Grandame turned to Dinah, who felt like she was about to collapse from fatigue now that she had that luxury.
“Now, what happened?” Her Grandame’s voice was kind but she was too tired to explain, and her relief at being home with her grandmother was such that hot tears pricked the backs of her eyelids. The old woman looked at her kindly and smiled. “Come along, Mathilde, we should get you in the house and cleaned up. You can tell me what happened in the morning.” Dinah rubbed the tears out of her eyes with the heel of her hand again, realizing too late what she was probably doing to her eye makeup. I must look a fright.
“Don’t call me that. You know I hate that name.” She started toward the shop and her grandmother caught up to walk beside her.
“You should be proud of your name,” Grandame said with a shake of her head. “It’s one of the names passed down among the women in our family when we came here from France.” Her grandmother’s words were too close to the way Leonard had talked about his father’s lighter and a chill ran down her spine. Dinah was suddenly fully awake again and she looked at her grandmother, who was still talking about their distant relatives in France. “If I remember correctly, Mathilde was your mother’s favorite great-aunt. It would make her sad to know you were ashamed to share her name.”
“I’m not ashamed,” Dinah said irritably. “It’s just so old-fashioned.” It struck her then that she didn’t want people to refer to her as ‘Dinah’ anymore either, not when there was a man who was searching for her and trying to kill her. Her grandmother seemed to read her mind as she pushed the door to the shop open for her, and she smiled.
“What about Tilly?”
“Hmm,” Dinah said. It was much cuter than Mathilde, and it somehow gave her a feeling of calm, as if her mother was giving her approval. “All right,” she said with a smile as she went into the shop. “That sounds quite nice.”
“That’s more like it,” Grandame said, putting an arm around the girl as she led her up the stairs to the apartment they shared above their tiny shop. They were still establishing themselves in New York but it seemed now that they weren’t as welcome as Grandame had hoped. “Don’t you worry about a thing, dear,” she said. “Go on up to bed and we can talk more about it in the morning.” It sounded like an excellent idea to her granddaughter, and she went directly to her room and closed the door. Instead of going to bed immediately, she looked at herself in the mirror. Her dark eye makeup was indeed smeared across her face and the bobbed wig she was wearing was askew. More worrisome though was her torn dress and she tried to see if it could be repaired, then decided against it. The last thing she wanted was to remember that night, Leonard, or anything else.
She took off the wig, revealing reddish-brown hair hair in a tight bun, and settled it carefully on the stand on her vanity, then stripped off the dress and dropped it into the trash can. Too tired to fight with the sticky drawer of her dresser, she finished undressing and crawled into bed in her slip. Outside the door she could hear Grandame moving around and closed her eyes. All she wanted at that moment was to forget.
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The Legacy’s Origin is still available for free on Amazon, so you can read a little more about the original Dalais siblings before you read my book. It’s really good, if a heartbreaker.