Monday, April 8, 2013
Garnets of Destiny excerpt by Serena Yates
In the Garnets of Destiny 1, the first volume in the Gemstone Chronicles by Serena Yates, Zachary, abused for years by his adoptive parents, finally runs away. He knows he's safer on his own than in their so-called care. Homeless and desperate for money so he can put down a deposit for an apartment, he decides to sell the antique garnet ring his parents received from the mysterious Messenger at Zachary's birth.
Zohar Zyngold is crown prince of Zelaria, a world very similar to Earth in a parallel dimension. On his twenty-fifth birthday, during the traditional ceremony, the antique garnet ring his father passed on to him starts emitting an intense red light. Only finding the bearer of the matching ring that has been located on Earth will allow him to fully control his new paranormal powers. Using some of them to cross into Earth's dimension, he masquerades as a jeweler, hoping to attract the ring's owner.
Zachary and Zohar are not only attracted to each other when they first meet, their rings emit a deep red light when they touch. Zachary gets scared and runs, but criminals attack him...and Zohar when he tries to help. They flee to Zelaria to discover that their problems have only just begun…
Garnets of Destiny 1 (Gemstone Chronicles 1)
Diversity Novels (January 30, 2013)
Tulsa, Oklahoma, four years ago...
Zachary Brown watched the Chinese vase he'd been dusting fall toward the floor in mute horror. As if in slow motion, the colorful piece of valuable porcelain tumbled off the edge of the hallway table. Too late he attempted to catch it before it could crash on the unforgiving marble tiles gracing the entryway.
It broke into a thousand pieces with a clattering, crunching sound that accelerated his heartbeat and set his nerves on edge. The chunks seemed to chase each other as they spread across the floor, stretching the vase's material into a huge stain on the ground.
I'm in for it now.
Cringing, he raced into the kitchen to get the dustpan and brush, as well as a garbage bag. At least he had to make an attempt to clean up after himself. There was no hiding the mishap from his bossy adoptive mother, who kept assigning him household tasks because she enjoyed his discomfort. A cleaner came to the house twice a week, but Priscilla always found something for him to do anyway. She left all of the quite frequent punishments to his cruel adoptive father, who seemed to enjoy beating Zachary at every opportunity. Whether the man had an excuse or not didn't seem to matter.
Zachary ran back into the hallway and frantically started collecting the bigger pieces first. Once he'd put them into the bag, he started sweeping up the smaller ones and the fine dust. No way was he going to leave a mess; things would only be worse for him. They always did anyway so he sometimes wondered why he even kept trying. It was pathetic, but he wanted some sort of approval and recognition that he was what they wanted. He had done his best over the years, especially when he was younger, but nothing was ever enough.
"What was that?" Priscilla's voice always sounded a little slurred. She liked to indulge in the odd cocktail--except she was at it most of the day. If she didn't manage to be drunk by lunchtime, her mood became really bad.
"I'm sorry." He'd finished stage one of the cleanup and was about to get up to deposit the bag in the kitchen for inspection by his adoptive father.
"What did you do now?" Priscilla left the living room and walked up to him, her high heels click-clacking on the hard floor. Her eyes widened when she saw the now worthless shards. "You didn't!"
"I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to, I was dusting like you told me and it just... happened." He wanted to get up, feeling odd kneeling at her feet, but her angry stare told him he'd better stay where he was.
"You do know that this was one of the most valuable pieces in your father's collection, don't you?" Her lips curled up in a sneer as she brushed imaginary lint off her tight-fitting black suit. "Just this morning Raymond asked me to put it there so our guests at the dinner party tonight would be able to appreciate its beauty. Now your incompetence and clumsiness have ruined that idea. You deserve all the punishment you'll get, you little moron."
"But I didn't mean to." Zachary tried to swallow back the rising bile. His ass still hurt from last night's spanking. He wouldn't be able to stand another one. And Raymond was likely to use more than his hand for this severe a fuck-up.
"You never do. Even you couldn't be that stupid." Priscilla shook her head. "You better leave that on the kitchen table then go to your room. You'll have time to contemplate your sins before he gets home in about an hour."
God, he hated being locked up in there, but it was better than the dark closet they'd sent him to when they'd first adopted him seven years ago, a year after his real parents died. He'd been terrified to be left alone after that. To his seven-year-old mind they had died and left him behind, so isolation was the worst punishment for him. How Raymond and Priscilla had figured that out he'd never know. But then, he didn't understand why they'd adopted him in the first place. All they did was yell at him, use him as cheap labor in the house, and treat him as a punching bag for Raymond when the man flew into one of his rages. Maybe that was what they thought kids were for, but he hated it.
He'd try to run away once, when he was twelve. They'd caught him within hours and he'd spent the next two weeks in the hospital because he had 'fallen down the stairs'. The police had believed Raymond because he was some bigwig in Tulsa's Mayor's office. Zachary had learned his lesson. Next time he'd be better prepared. Now, at fifteen, he had a solid plan and was old enough to make a run for it.
"Yes, Mother." He hated that they made him pretend they were his real parents. But he had no way of fighting back. Not physically, since he wasn't exactly tall or built like the ex-linebacker Raymond was.
He did as he was told, making sure none of the hope for his future escape showed on his face. New determination coursed through him. Why hadn't he seen it before? The time had come for him to leave these people behind. When Priscilla had locked his door, he walked to his desk and got the laptop ready for transportation. He emptied his backpack of school books and stuffed some basic clothes in it, followed by a map of where he was going. He didn't dare open his secret hiding place under one of his floorboards yet. When it was time he'd get his fake ID--the one with his real last name--the money he had stashed there, and the garnet ring, the one thing he'd kept from before his parents' death. The risk of Raymond finding out what he was up to was too big. But he'd be quick once the man had left his room.
When he was done he flopped onto the bed and covered his head with a pillow in a futile attempt to hide from the world. At least his so-called mother's screeching opera didn't reach him this way.
Much less than an hour seemed to have passed when his lock turned and the door banged against the wall.
"What the fuck were you doing touching my vase? You know how valuable it was. The damned centerpiece to the entire collection and now you've ruined it." His father shut the door with another loud bang and stomped into the room. "Look at me when I talk to you, stupid boy."
Giving up his hiding place under the pillow was hard. He turned his head but didn't get up. What was the point? Raymond was still wearing his suit from work, and his face was red with anger. If looks could kill, Zachary would be dead right now. He lowered his gaze, not willing to face the fury.
Then he saw it. His father held one of the horse-whips in his shaking right hand, and that became all he could focus on. He must have gotten it from the stables. Paralyzed with dread for the repercussions of his latest transgression and his father's intentions, he stared at the whip and focused on breathing.
Whatever happened here today, this was the last time he'd submit to this man's violence. He did not deserve this, and it was not the life he wanted to live. The dinner party would keep his so-called parents busy and distracted and give him more time to get away.
This was it. After today, he was gone.
* * * *
Fargo, North Dakota, this year...
Zachary shivered in the icy January wind as he walked down Seventh Street South in Fargo, North Dakota, his secondhand boots barely keeping the snow at bay and his clothes too threadbare for real protection against the freezing temperatures. The city was no place to be in winter, but he'd fled here four years ago because his abusive adoptive parents would never look for him farther north than Tulsa. They knew how much he disliked the cold, so he'd hoped he would be safe. So far, they had not found him and though his life hadn't been easy, it was better than what he had endured in their so-called care.
Emily hadn't had much herself, but the old woman had found him begging for a job a few days after he'd stepped off the Greyhound bus. She'd taken him in because he reminded her of the grandson she'd lost to the war in Afghanistan. She had died six months ago and he had become homeless when her family mercilessly kicked him out, saying he had no right to live there.
Now he was at the end of his rope and looking for a jeweler to sell his ring, the last thing of value in his possession. He'd checked several of the downtown establishments but hadn't approached any of them yet. The one he planned to visit today was a little out of the way, but he'd had a good feeling about the place when he came around the first time.
He arrived at the quaint store with its huge windows and wooden shutters. The shop looked like an antique and seemed to specialize in older jewelry. No two pieces were alike and, like last time, he ended up staring at the beautifully crafted ankh ring in its dark green case situated front and center. The narrow gold band held an inlaid red garnet ankh that seemed to glow with life and the promise of a better world.
He snorted. Yeah, right!
He'd been surprised, not to say shocked, to find such an exact match to the one he wore on a golden chain around his neck. He'd stopped wearing it on his finger after several people had eyed it with obvious greed. He didn't want anyone to take it from him, and not just because of its monetary value.
The matching garnet ring in the window seemed to call to him with increasing intensity. Each time he came here the quiet appeal grew stronger. At the same time he could feel its loneliness; it matched his own lifelong understanding that he was an outcast. His so-called parents had set the tone, but none of the other people he had encountered were any different. Maybe initially, but not in the end.
He reached for the thin gold chain under his threadbare jacket, making sure the ring was still there. It had been his as long as he could remember. The mysterious stranger who had given it to his parents just after he was born had told them that it would protect Zachary. One day it was even supposed to reveal his destiny.
He snorted. The protection part hadn't really worked or else his life wouldn't be such a mess. He was going to do something about that. He was no longer going to live in some shelter for the homeless. Finding a job was essential, but first he needed somewhere to live so he'd have an address to put on his application forms.
Unfortunately, the only way that he was going to get any money for a rental deposit was to sell the ring. He didn't like that thought; a headache followed every time he pictured having to hand it over to some salesperson, never to see it again. But it had never protected him very well. So the second part of the stranger's promise, about the ring revealing his destiny, was surely equally untrue. Anyway, how could a ring, even a beautiful antique one, show him anything? On the other hand, it might just help him find his feet to start a new life--if he managed to sell it.
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