Need something new to read? Beth Hammond is visiting the site today to give us a sneak peek into her new book The Sound of the Stones – and she has a copy up for grabs for you to win!
Frankie, drawn into a used bookstore, discovers that strange things can happen when she reads. Ashra, living in a world existing a millennia ago, holds a secret close to her heart. Though the two are separated by time and by fiction, the barrier between them shatters and twines their worlds together.
The Winds of Change – Chapter 1
The wind felt different today. Something nagged at her, not unlike every day before. But today felt more intense; anticipation hung like a blanket. The blanket didn’t quite touch her skin but wrapped around her like a cocoon, encasing her with a sense of urgency. She quickened her stride. The smell of fall was heavy in the air as a crisp wind whipped past. Frankie tugged her jacket closed. Her steps were swift as she made her way down the small-town sidewalk.
She gave a passing glance to the old used bookstore to her right. Her heart stuttered. A going-out-of-business sign hung crooked in the window. Its message sent a sharp pang of regret through her chest. She didn’t remember stopping. Her face pressed against the glass, fogging the window with each shallow breath. Boxes littered the floor and countertop, empty, yawning, and eager to be filled. She watched her hand numbly as it reached for the door. A gust of wind nudged her forward as the door swung wide. A tiny bell sounded its charming ding, and papers skipped around the room in welcome.
The air felt warm and inviting after her long walk in the chilled afternoon. The smell of old books and stale coffee brought images to mind of another time in her life, a simpler time when books could carry her away to worlds where she felt a sense of belonging. Life seemed more complicated now. She didn’t get the same escape from literature that she used to. In her seventeen years she felt more yearning with each passing day. A yearning for what she did not know. Perhaps it was for freedom from the foster system, or the structure of school. Maybe it was normal teenage frustration. But in listening to her friends she didn’t think it was any of those things exactly. Something pulled on her, tugging like a hidden magnet but never revealing its purpose.
The door clicked shut behind her, cutting off the wind. The crumpled papers that had greeted her in welcome now lay still at her feet. Her senses prickled as the cocoon of anticipation enveloping her turned to purpose. The purpose was not clear, but the desire to fulfill it nagged like an itch begging to be scratched.
An old man strode from the back room carrying an empty box. He hummed cheerfully, and his white hair stood in all directions as if dancing to his music. His wiry brows shot to the top of his forehead, mingling with his untamed hair.
“Well, hello there, young lady.” His voice was like a warm sunny day. A smile spread across his face, lending to his friendly disposition as he placed the empty box on the counter.
“Hey.” Frankie gave a small wave and shoved her hands in her jeans. She looked around at the disheveled state of the store. The old man’s eyes lingered for a moment. Frankie felt a flicker of something like a memory when she turned back to him. Her mind almost grasped it, but when he turned his eyes toward the box on the counter it was gone.
“Um, what happened to the Davenports?” she asked, and tucked a piece of hair behind her ear.
The old man looked up, his face pulled in concentration. “Oh, well, I’m afraid they are getting on in age. They decided to sell.” He gave an apologetic shrug.
“Oh,” Frankie replied. A pang of regret coursed through her at the realization that she would not see the old couple again. She swallowed the emotion and went straight to the shelves that held fantasy books. She had bought and resold most of the books there. She wasn’t looking for anything in particular. She just wanted to walk the shelves again. She ran her fingers over the worn bindings on the books and hummed. It wasn’t a distinct tune, just something that stuck in her head from time to time.
“What’s that you’re humming, young lady?” The old man held a book absently in his hand as he padded down the aisle toward her. His eyes were sharp, with a hint of curiosity. Frankie shook her head and cleared her throat.
“I really don’t know.” She shrugged one shoulder and her sleek black hair spilled over her flannel shirt. “Just something I get stuck in my head from time to time.” Her cheeks flushed pink and she turned back to the books. She bit her lip, willing herself not to hum. She could feel the old man lingering.
He made a noise in the back of his throat, but after a moment went back to shuffling boxes. Frankie made a few selections and went to the counter where the old man tucked books into a box. She placed the books on the glass counter and pulled a wad of money from her pocket. She didn’t want to leave, but couldn’t think of a reason to stay.
The old man rose from the depth of the box. “Ready?” he asked, but the tone in his voice held an odd resonance that made Frankie blink.
That flash of something familiar flickered in her mind again. She stood staring for a moment and the old man tipped his head to one side.
“Yes. Thank you,” she said, and smoothed the money on the counter. Her dark eyes narrowed and studied the old man’s features as he handled her book selection. He hummed appreciatively at her choices. Something like a slow frost tickled her mind. He looked up and gave a conspiratorial smile.
“You have good taste.” Frankie’s face flushed. “Thanks.” The old man slapped a hand on the counter and Frankie jumped.
“How would you like to help me pack up here? I would need you for the next few days, and pay you twenty dollars an hour at the end of the week.” He raised a finger. “And you can keep all the books you want.” The expectation on his face was clear.
Frankie realized her mouth was hanging open in response to his slapping the counter. She closed it. She didn’t need the money but spending more time here was exactly what she wanted.
“Hmm? What do you say, young lady?” He smiled a full-toothed grin surprisingly white for his age. They weren’t dentures in that they were not perfectly straight, but lent character to his warm, weathered face. Frankie narrowed her eyes, studying his face for an answer to the strange sensation flitting through her mind. There…there it was. She almost had the thought situated.
“Oh, come on. I really could use the help.” He waved a book enticingly. It was gone again, the fleeting sensation chased away by reality. She watched him wave the book and snorted.
“All right.” She couldn’t help the grin tugging at her lips.
“Ah, good, good,” he said. “I am Mr. Malack.” He held out his hand.
“Frankie…Frankie Sheba.” She accepted his hand.
He nodded politely. “See you tomorrow, say three thirty p.m.?” he asked.
“Sure.” Frankie scooped up the books and left, feeling something she couldn’t quite put her finger on…hope?
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