I am currently working on edits for Echo of the Cliffs, the third and final Juniper Sawfeather novel, due out in May. This new book will be the most exciting of them all, featuring mysterious killer whales, vengeful mermaids, and a new monster living deep inside an ocean cave.
In chapter two, Carter and Juniper are celebrating Valentine's Day. They didn't have a lot of luck with Christmas or New Year's, so here's hoping this holiday goes a little better for them. This is a freshly edited sneak peek at my new book. I hope you enjoy it.
Oh, and if you haven't started this series yet, now is the perfect time to download Cry of the Sea (book 1) and Whisper of the Woods (book 2). Learn how Carter and Juniper meet and watch them try to rescue mermaids from an oil spill and save an ancient enchanted tree from being chopped down.
I got myself a sketchbook and some drawing pencils. I’d never been good at art, but I decided to see if practice could improve my skills a bit. I’d seen a lot of interesting things this past half year, and I wanted to remember them somehow. It took me many tries to get my mermaid’s eyes just right, and then it there was a lot of crumpled up paper again until I could get her whole face. Clearly, drawing the whole mermaid was outside my abilities. I decided instead to try to draw the landscape from the mermaid’s vision. Nature came a lot easier to me, and my drawings of cliffs and caves weren’t that bad. After a couple weeks I actually got brave enough to show them to Carter.
It was on Valentine’s Day. Carter promised me a great, romantic date to make up for all that went wrong on New Year’s Eve. I was to meet him at his parents’ house, and he was going to take me out for a nice dinner and maybe a walk on the beach afterward. I’d gone to the forest earlier in the week to gather up some twigs fallen from my Red Cedar tree. I was hopeful that if I tossed them into the ocean it would somehow beckon another mermaid to us.
Only, surprise! It was raining. Storming, in fact. Just driving to his parents’ house, an hour away from mine put my life in jeopardy. My car needed new tires and wipers I learned in a super scary way. By the time I got to his house, I was a wreck. His mom and dad welcomed me in and set me down in their all white living room in front of a fire, and I soon had a cup of hot chocolate in my hands. Mr. and Mrs. Crowe were pretty upset about the weather, too. Their evening plans had to be canceled as well. Mrs. Crowe was dressed in a beautiful white suit with a pink blouse and matching pink high heeled shoes. That was definitely not a going out in the rain kind of outfit.
Ultimately we all decided to stay in and wait it out. She heated some frozen spinach and cheese quiches and made a big salad for all of us to have for dinner. After we ate, they made their way upstairs and left us alone. Carter was devastated.
“I’m so sorry, June,” he said for the tenth time. “I can’t get a break with these holidays.”
“It’s okay,” I responded for the tenth time. “I’m just happy to be with you.”
He put his arm around my shoulders, and we stared at the fire as it crackled. “I am enjoying this, though,” he told me. He nuzzled against my ear and kissed it gently. Whispering, he said, “It’s a little romantic, isn’t it?”
I giggled, a sound that rarely came out of my body. “Yes, I guess it kind of is.”
“I’ve got something for you.”
He walked over to the cabinet under the counter where their landline phone existed along with a very orderly collection of magazines and mail. While he leaned over to pull out what I assumed was a Valentine’s present for me, I hurriedly grabbed at my message bag. I didn’t own a big purse, so this was all I could find to hide the box of chocolate and corny card I bought for him. I got it out and put it on the coffee table in front of me before he came back. I looked up to find him holding a very large package wrapped in red heart paper with a big bow.
“Wait!” I said. “What’s that? I didn’t get you anything big.”
“You didn’t have to,” he said, placing the box in my lap. It was heavy. He picked up the candy and card from the table and waved it at me. “This is exactly what I wanted. And a kiss.”
I kissed him. Just a quick one.
“I feel guilty.”
“Don’t. It’s mostly from my mom anyway. She helped pick it out, and paid for it.”
“I am nothing but.”
I untied the ribbon and tore off the paper. The box was from a department store I’d never been brave enough to enter because I knew the smallest thing in the store probably cost more than I could ever think to afford. I glanced at him, unsure. “Um, is this really okay?”
I opened the box, not sure what to expect. A beautiful black wool pea coat was folded up inside. I pulled it out and marveled at it. “It’s gorgeous.”
“You needed a new coat. A good one,” he said. “You can’t keep borrowing your mom’s. Put it on.”
I stood up and slipped my arms into it, enjoying the smooth satin lining. They got the size right. The sleeves went down to my hands. The length of the coat reached my hips. It had a wide collar I could flip up. I buttoned it. It was so warm and cozy. With my hands in the deep pockets, I twisted my shoulders back and forth as I modeled it for him.
“I love it. I don’t want to take it off.”
Carter laughed. “Well, I do! I thought we’d be outside tonight, and you’d get to wear it, but instead we’ve got this nice fire and a cozy couch. I’m kind of hoping some layers will come off.” I flicked my eyes to the staircase, and he waved my concerns away. “They’re up in their room and won’t come out. I promise.”
My own smile was so big it hurt. I took off the coat and folded it back into the box. In addition, I took off my cardigan sweater, eliciting an approving wink from him. I tossed it in the box. Then I slid it under the table with my feet as I sat back down, acutely aware of my bare arms and the thin material of my blouse.
Carter ran his fingers down one of my arms. I thought he was about to take my hand, but he reached for a piece of candy from his box instead, teasing me. “Delicious,” he said with a mouth full of candy. After he swallowed, he ran his fingers through my hair, spreading it out around my shoulders, exactly the opposite way my mom always did. I wondered if he knew he was doing that. My cheeks were warm. I blamed it on the fire.
“So, what did you want to show me?” he asked.
I reached for my bag on the floor and pulled out my sketchbook. “Don’t laugh, okay. I’m really more of a photographer than an artist.”
“No laughing, I promise.”
I wasn’t sure if I totally trusted him on that, but I opened up the book anyway. I flipped the pages to show him the different drawings I’d done of beaches, cliffs, forests, and caves. After I was done, he took it from me and went back to the first page. He looked at each picture much slower, taking his time to really inspect them.
“These are good, June,” he said as he came to the last one. “I mean, they are much better than I expected.”
I smacked his shoulder. “Nice.”
“No, I don’t mean that in a bad way. They’re really good.” He turned to the picture that was most panoramic of the cliffs dropping off into the ocean, the one I tried my hardest to match the image that mermaid had put into my mind. He tapped it with his finger. “Have you tried looking on the internet for any place that looks like this?”
“How would I even do that?”
“What if we reverse-image search?”
“You sound like Haley with your technological fancy-talk,” I told him. Instead of responding to me, he pulled out his phone and took a photo of my drawing. He went on the internet to a site I wasn’t familiar with and uploaded the picture. In seconds he got a screen full of photos and paintings similar to my sketch. I was completely floored. “My world has just expanded.”
“That’s my goal,” he told me with that gorgeous grin spreading across his face, “to expand your world on a daily basis.”
We started thumbing our way through the images until I saw a photo fairly similar to my drawing. Not an exact match, of course, but definitely the same kind of landscape of steep cliffs falling into the sea, caves almost hidden at the bottom, and trees sprouting from the tops. “Click on that one,” I said.
It took us to a website about Olympic National Park. This stretch of shoreline was captured by a kayaker on vacation. Carter began reading the article when my own phone rang. It was my mom. I didn’t want to answer, but I knew she’d keep calling if I didn’t.
She got right down to business. “The rain is supposed to head out of here around midnight or so,” she told me. “This big of a storm is going to cause a huge run-off. Your dad, Randy and I are all headed up to the San Juan Strait in the morning to get some fresh samples. Would you like to be part of this? We’re going to need to leave about four.”
“That’s early,” I said.
“Yes, so you’ll need to come home now if you’re going to get any rest.”
I looked at the clock over the fireplace mantel. It was only nine-thirty. I glanced at Carter who was still reading the article on his phone.
Mom was still talking, I realized. “…work tomorrow?”
“Do I work tomorrow?” I repeated, assuming that was what she was asking. “No. It’s a day off for me.”
“This will be important data,” she reminded me. “Pollution from that construction run-off is causing the extinction of many sea creatures, including the orcas.”
I knew this. Mom and Dad had been discussing this issue a lot over the past several weeks. Apparently a Killer Whale body had washed up on San Juan Island a couple weeks ago. Testing had been done on its blubber to find that it had toxic levels of poison so bad that they had to bury it in a nuclear waste depository. Dad had learned from his contacts in Canada that the number of orcas in the area was down to only eighty. It was a bad situation, worsening every day.
I wanted to help. Marine Biology was still my favorite subject, and whenever their causes aligned with my love of sea life, I always wanted to participate. I just didn’t want to give up my nice evening with Carter. Even though it hadn’t turned out the way we’d expected, it was still cozy and kind of romantic. The lights were low and the fire warm. I fully anticipated some great kisses and caresses coming a little later on.
“Are you coming or not?” she asked.
Clearly, I was taking too long to answer.
“Hang on, Mom,” I responded, equally impatient. I put my hand over the phone and tapped Carter on the knee. He looked up from his phone. I liked how he immediately turned it over, showing me I had his whole attention. “Mom needs my help on a project tomorrow morning. They’ve got to head out very early, so that means I’d need to leave now.”
His face darkened, his blue eyes flicking over to the fire, and then settling on the back of his phone. Just guessing, but I think he was looking forward to what was going to happen on this couch in front of that fire later on, too. He jutted his chin out like he was about to say something, but then he let it relax and simply nodded. “Sure. Fine. I mean, if you need to.”
I hated this. I didn’t want to ruin our Valentine’s evening. Evenings like this were so rare for us. “Hey,” I said, leaning into him so that my long black hair fell over his hands and forced him to look back up at me. “What if you come too? I mean, we’re studying ocean pollution to help save killer whales. Maybe that might be interesting to you.”
The darkness fled almost as if someone shot a spotlight on him. He grinned. “No trees this time?”
“Ocean, baby,” I said with a shimmy. “You love?”
“I love.” He said that while looking right into my eyes.
Like I said above, this is a great time to get the two previous books. Cry of the Sea is discounted to only 99 cents at Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iTunes until the end of the month. Whisper of the Woods is only $2.99. Book three continues the story from the moment where book two leaves off, so get caught up now.
Have you already read them and are looking for some more fantasy to pass the time until Echo of the Cliffs comes out? check out this sweet Valentine's Sale listing from my Fellowship of Fantasy author group, where you can be sure to find a great book free of explicit language or graphic sex. I know I'll be filling up my Kindle with some of these this week.
D. G. Driver
Author of Young Adult books Cry of the Sea and Passing Notes.