Apr 9, 2015

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of Summer of the Oak Moon by Laura Templeton with Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing the first chapter of
Summer of the Oak Moon
by Laura Templeton
presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
Summer-of-the-Oak-Moon-Cover

Rejected by the exclusive women’s college she has her heart set on, Tess Seibert dreads the hot, aimless summer ahead. But when a chance encounter with a snake introduces her to Jacob Lane, a black college student home on his summer break, a relationship blooms that challenges the prejudices of her small, north Florida town.

When Jacob confesses that Tess’s uncle is trying to steal his family’s land, Tess comes face to face with the hatred that simmers just below the surface of the bay and marshes she’s loved since birth. With the help of her mentor Lulu, an herbal healer, Tess pieces together clues to the mysterious disappearance of Jacob’s father twenty-two years earlier and uncovers family secrets that shatter her connection to the land she loves.

Tess and Jacob’s bond puts them both in peril, and discontent eventually erupts into violence. Tess is forced to make a decision. Can she right old wrongs and salvage their love? Or will prejudice and hatred kill any chance she and Jacob might have had?
add to goodreads
Title: Summer of the Oak Moon
Publication date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Swoon Romance/Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Laura Templeton
Available for pre-order:
amazon
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt

Chapter 1
1982
Port Saint Clare, Florida

Two days after graduation, I saw the panther.
Drifting down a shallow creek, I’d cut the motor on my boat and trailed my hand in the water, worrying about my lack of a plan for the rest of my life. Being a girl, local custom didn’t demand too much of me, but Mother had her own ideas about what I should strive for. And those ideas, adhered to withthe same fervor as Brother Franklin’s sermons, meant going away to college and leaving this backwater town for a vague, but much-touted, “something better.” It was my life, though, and I’d refused to leave, choosing instead to spend the summer wandering the seemingly endless saltwater marshes and tidal creeks that spread away from our house like a gift unfurling in the hot sunlight.

I spotted the panther crouched on a rock, facing away from me and stalking something in the grass. Growing up on the Apalachee Bay, I’d seen a lot of wildlife. More than once, I’d watched a black bear walk down the wooded coastline. But panthers were secretive and scarce, and I’d never seen one.
The cat was smaller than I expected, and the slight quivering of its hindquarter reminded me of Oliver, my gray tabby, when he stalked butterflies in the garden. I must have made some small sound because it turned to look at me and all resemblance to Oliver vanished. As I stared into its wild, unblinking eyes for a few seconds before the panther leapt away, something broke and swirled inside of me, like when Lulu cracked a fresh egg into a bowl of water and read the white patterns she saw there.
If I’d seen my future in that brief encounter with the panther, I don’t know if I would’ve had the courage to live it. Port Saint Clare was my home, but the summer I turned eighteen I realized that what I knew of it was deceptive as gentle waves rippling the surface of the bay, hiding the dangerous undertow that moves below.
Violence and hatred existed in my world. That summer, I
ran headlong into them.

***
A little after noon a few days later, I slammed the screen
door and yelled back through it at Mother. “I swear I hate
you!” I stomped off the porch, wiping a tear that hung like an accusation on my chin. How could she fail to see that I was just as upset as she was about the unplanned turn of events?
As if constantly reminding me that I had no place to go come August would get me any closer to college.

I shoved aside tendrils of wisteria as I walked through the arbor that covered the path to the dock behind my house.
Breathing in the sweet scent of its summer blooms, I closed my eyes to the hot sun on my upturned face. I wished its heat could burn away the ugly words I already regretted.
I carried a large Mason jar filled with rose petals and lavender blossoms I’d picked from the garden that morning.

Sitting carefully on the hot planks of the dock, I pulled my canoe toward me with my legs and then set the jar in a holder I’d made from an old tackle box. My backpack held the essentials—water, bug repellent, and my pistol. I tossed the bag in the canoe and climbed in after it, lugging with me the doubt I’d carried around like a suitcase ever since I’d received the rejection letter from Mother’s alma mater.
The paddle made soft splashing sounds as I moved it from one side of the boat to the other, and the water dripping off it cooled my bare legs. The weather had stayed nice long enough for our outdoor graduation ceremony and then turned hot and muggy right afterward. Now the heat clung like a sweatdrenched shirt and wouldn’t let up until October, about the time the monarch butterflies stopped over in the marshes on their way to Mexico.
I used my trolling motor to maneuver the canoe down the clear, fresh water of Sugar Creek toward the Saint Clare River a short distance away. About a mile downstream, the river spread out into saltmarsh before it reached the shallow water of the Apalachee Bay.
A lighthouse stood in the estuary, and I used the whitewashed brick tower to navigate a labyrinth of narrow creeks, each of which looked pretty much like the next. I can’t really say how many times I’ve gotten lost in the marshes. Physically lost, that is. I don’t think I’ve ever felt really lost there. The marshes are in my blood like the grandmothers I never knew—they rock me, ground me, and teach me that many things existed before I was born.
The sun was high, and in the distance, south toward Dog
Island, I saw oyster boats—white flags pinned to the gray water. I hugged the marshy shoreline and then turned down a series of side creeks. As the water grew shallow, I killed the motor and paddled. Around a bend, a big bull alligator sunned on a partially submerged tree, his knobbed back the color of the rotting tree bark and his nose hidden in cattails. He was there more often than not, and neither of us was alarmed. He didn’t move as I paddled within a few feet of him.

Right after I passed the gator, I glanced down a side creek and saw a black man fishing from a skiff. It was rare to see anyone out fishing on a weekday, and I looked to see if it was someone I knew. He saw me and raised his hand in greeting.
He was a good distance away, but close enough that I knew he was a guy I’d seen in town a few times. I wondered why he was fishing on a Thursday afternoon when most people wereworking. I waved back, but seeing him there made me uneasy.
In Emmettsville, about fifty miles away, a black man had
recently attacked and killed a white girl who was out hiking, a terrible crime that Mother was fond of calling to my attention whenever I left in my canoe. That she’d forgotten today was a sign of how angry she was. The incident had sparked riots in Emmettsville and a flurry of heated op eds in the Port Saint Clare newspaper. Race, it seemed, was still a hot button issue.
I always preferred to be alone on my “expeditions,” as Daddy called them. I never even took my best friend Karen with me, though she and I had done pretty much everything together since third grade.

“Tess, I swear you’re the reincarnation of Sacagawea,”
Daddy liked to say.

I always rolled my eyes, but secretly I liked the image. Me,wild and savage in my canoe, leading Lewis and Clark through the wilderness I knew like the lines in the palm of my hand.
I was twelve when I started roaming the woods, most of
which belonged to the wildlife refuge. At first, Daddy forbade me to go. But no punishment he and Mother thought up could keep me from the bay.

On my fourteenth birthday, just after we’d finished my cake, Daddy handed me a package wrapped in brown kraft paper with no ribbon. When I pulled back the paper to reveal a gun, Mother gasped so hard I thought she’d swallowed a gnat.
Her face was as red as I’d ever seen it. I knew Daddy would catch heck later.

“It’s a Smith & Wesson .38 Special. It’s got a four-inch
barrel, so you can actually hit something with it.” Daddy
smiled at me.

“Damn!” Karen said without thinking. I kicked her under
the table.

I smelled a hint of oil as I lifted the pistol out of the box,
admiring its knurled wood grip.

“Walnut,” Daddy explained before I could ask.
I hugged Daddy then. I knew he was turning me loose. He knew it too, and looked like he might cry, which scared me a little.

Daddy spent hours teaching me to shoot the pistol. I was
a good shot, which surprised me, and I almost always hit the cardboard torso he nailed to a tree out in the woods. That seemed to satisfy him. But in the four years I’d owned the gun, I’d never used it for anything other than target practice. I supposed that was a good thing, though it also pointed to the fact that my life had been pretty uneventful.

After seeing the man fishing, I set the paddle aside and reached into my backpack, checking to make sure the gun was loaded. It never occurred to me to question why I was doing it.
I just figured—better safe than sorry.

I paddled alongside a large rock that jutted out into thecreek at a shallow spot and secured the canoe with a rope that I long ago had tied to a nearby tree. Then, I climbed the bank and carried the jar of petals a short distance down a dirt path.
The undergrowth beside the trail was thick with palmettos, pine trees, and oaks veiled with Spanish moss. Wild lantana ran rampant, its yellow blooms attracting scores of bees.
The path ended at a clear pond that reflected the sunlight in brilliant turquoise. A freshwater spring bubbled up through vents in the sandy bottom. The grassy shoreline held few trees, though some cypresses grew along one side, their wide, wet knees sending root tentacles into the clear water. As I approached, a pair of wild ducks half ran, half flew, to the far side, their wings flapping like someone shaking out wet laundry.

I filled the jar of petals with water from the spring, screwed on the lid, and set it on a partly submerged rock. I would leave it there overnight to steep in the light of the full moon. Lulu taught me that. “The full moon gives them power,” she said.
I removed my shoes and sat in my favorite spot, my back against a large rock. My feet touched the edge of the pond, cooling my whole body. After emptying my canvas backpack on the ground beside me, I crushed it into a pillow and put it behind my head. The heat rising from the rock lulled me to sleep.

Some time later, I jerked as if something urgent had wakened me. At a movement to my right, I turned to see a water moccasin coiled inches from my leg. Its thick, black body, easily as big around as my arm, glistened in the sunlight.
The snake lay close enough that I could make out individual scales, little tiles of shiny, violet-black granite. Instantly, I froze. Moving only my eyes, I glanced at the pistol, which lay a short distance away. I weighed my options. I was afraid to make a grab for the gun. If I didn’t move, the snake might just go away.

For what must have been several minutes, I sat so still I felt my heart pulsing in the pads of my fingers where they rested on the hot rock beside me. Water lapped at the edges of the pond, its gentle sloshing sounds a sharp contrast to the terror that gripped me. But still I waited, as sweat trickled down my forehead and stung my eyes.
Then, suddenly, a bird or a squirrel rummaged through
the underbrush. Sensing the movement, the snake tensed and opened its jaws wide. I saw its fangs and the cotton-white lining of its mouth and lunged sideways for the gun. At the same time, I rolled my lower body to the left and drew my legs up under me, away from the snake.

But I wasn’t quick enough. Just as I grabbed the gun, the snake hit my leg hard. The needle-like fangs pierced my skin like bee stings, only much worse. I gasped in pain but rolled quickly back to the right so I could aim the pistol straight on. It would be just like target practice, I thought. I pointed the gun and fired as the snake raised its head to strike again.
But my first and second shots missed. Fear and nerves
affected my aim. I screamed out of sheer frustration, the sound seeming to come from someone else. The snake stretched out almost the length of its body and struck a second time, biting my shin just below the knee. Again the sharp pain tore through my leg. I got a third shot off and finally hit the snake, throwing it backward.

I stood as quickly as I could, wobbling as I tried to put weight on the bitten leg, and fired two more shots into the snake just to make sure it was dead. I felt a little woozy as I watched its body twitch and jump with each shot. I didn’t like the idea of killing something—not even a venomous snake that had just bitten me. Twice. I sat on the rock and examined the two puncture wounds that oozed blood. Already they were beginning to swell. Pain seared through my leg when I tried to stand, and a wave of nausea hit me, forcing me to sit down quickly. I decided to wait a bit for the pain to let up.
But while I drank from the thermos of water I’d brought,
the seriousness of the situation dawned on me. The pain wasn’t going to get any better. A snake bite typically wasn’t as big a deal as people made of it. But I’d been bitten twice, and the tenminute paddle out to the deeper water of the bay was the worst thing I could do. The exertion would set my heart pumping and spread the venom more quickly through my body.
As my leg stung out away from the impact points, up along the veins, I mentally prepared myself to get moving toward home before the pain got any worse. I sat up and splashed some cold water from the spring on my face.

As I struggled to stand, I heard a boat approaching.
Remembering the guy I’d seen fishing, I began to shake,
though whether in fear or because of the bites, I wasn’t sure. The sound of the outboard motor came closer then stopped.
He’d seen my canoe. Nausea caused me to clasp my hand to my mouth and double over.

“Hello?” he called out as he ran down the path toward me.
By the time he reached the clearing, I was on my feet with the gun pointed right at him. I had only one shot left, which he probably knew as well as I did. My aim had to be good this time. But the nausea and the pain in my leg made it difficult to hold the gun steady.
“Stop right there!” I meant to sound authoritative. Instead, my voice wavered, and I knew I sounded pathetic.

“Whoa!” He stopped with his palms facing me as if he
could hold off a bullet with them. “Hey, I’m just trying to help here. You can put that thing down.”

He has big hands. The thought flashed through my mind
and left me wondering about my mental condition.

“Not until you leave.” I swayed a little with the effort it took to remain standing. I needed help, I knew. But Mother’s warnings sounded in my head. I didn’t intend to be the next victim found in the woods.
His gaze moved from the dead snake to my injured leg.
“You’ve been bitten. Cottonmouth, huh?” He could have been commenting on the weather.
I nodded and chewed my bottom lip to curb the nausea. His voice was warm like the rock I’d been sitting on. And he was younger than I’d realized, probably just a few years older than I was. Flushed and dizzy, I let the gun droop until it pointed more toward his legs than his chest. He noticed, but he didn’t step forward to take it from me.
“It’s okay.” He sounded exasperated. “Put that thing away.
You screamed, and I heard gunshots. I came to help.” He watched me closely. I didn’t put the gun down, though by now it was pointed at his feet.
“I’m Jacob Hampton.” He walked deliberately toward me.
At the time, that struck me as incredibly brave, but thinking back on it I doubt I was much of a threat. He seemed blurry around the edges, like waves of heat were rising off his brown skin. He stopped right in front of me and, before I could react, offered me his hand. It was clean with trimmed nails—not bitten, like mine.

“Tess Seibert …” my voice trailed off to a whisper. I dropped the gun and fainted in a decidedly un-Sacagawean way.
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
Laura Templeton
Laura Templeton lives near Athens, Georgia, with her husband, son, and a menagerie of animals. When she’s not writing, she enjoys gardening, learning to figure skate, and taking long walks on the quiet country roads near her home. Something Yellow is her debut novel, and her creative nonfiction has appeared in various publications.

Author Links:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway
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