Wednesday Sampler: Changeling by Debbie Herbert
March 16, 2016
In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Wednesday’s Sampler features an excerpt from Changeling, a metaphysical and visionary fantasy by Debbie Herbert.
As one reviewer said: Herbert does a great job of tackling the new adult genre with her two characters Skye and Keelan, both of whom are struggling to find their place in the world and are seeking to assume their true identity, whatever that may be.
Skye’s a young witch who sucks at spells and works at a metaphysical store, The Green Fairy. Strange things are happening there at night: black specks of movement out of the corner of her eye, mysterious buzzing noises, unidentified dragonfly-like carcasses in the basement, and a hidden cache of absinthe (aka fairy crack).
Kheelan is a human changeling. Raised with the fairies, he’s viewed as an inferior species whose only use is to serve his kidnappers. He’s been totally screwed by the Fae and his only goal in life is freedom. When he meets Skye, he sees an opportunity to escape. The last thing he needs is to be distracted by feelings for this quirky witch.
Skye stumbles upon the remains of dead fairies at the store and is approached by Kheelan who has been sent to investigate the pixie murders. Skye falls for him–only to discover he’s using her to win his freedom. He tells her she is half-fairy and has secret powers, but Skye finds it hard to believe when she can never get a spell to work.
As Samhain, the witch’s Halloween, draws near she must make a bold move to claim her heritage and power, restore order in the fairy realm, and try to win Kheelan’s freedom and love. Absinthe, autism and augury meld into a paranormal cauldron where fairies are sly tricksters waiting to trap you in their Realm.
Another spell gone kaput. Damn.
A thin curl of smoke wafted to the left from the candle’s weak flame, an omen of defeat. The same sign as last week when she tried to concoct a love potion with a lock of Tanner’s hair. If her family’s Book of Shadows were any lamer it would have a picture of freaking Tinker Bell on the front. She should have been studying tonight instead of casting worthless spells. Freshman year at college was harder than she’d anticipated.
Skye blew out the sputtering pink candle. No matter how hard she tried, they never worked. Maybe asking for Tanner to come over immediately and declare his hidden and undying love was too much of a stretch for even the all-powerful divine.
Bet Callie could do it.
Skye whipped out her cell phone, but stopped mid-dial. Callie would say it was wrong to request a specific person’s love because it violated their free will to choose for themselves. Only do a spell to open yourself to love and for the right person to come along. Same thing Skye told customers at The Green Fairy trying to get their boyfriends back.
As if there could be anyone for her but Tanner.
What she really needed was courage. She should tell Tanner how she felt. It was possible he was blind to her feelings even after all these years.
The crunch of gravel in the driveway and the rumble of a car engine startled her and Skye opened the curtain. Tanner’s old Dodge Charger pulled up.
Unbelievable – her spell actually worked this time. Maybe she had some witchy-talent after all.
Tanner sprang out of the car, waved, then bounded up the steps laden with paper bags in both arms. His easy smile twisted her insides like it had since grade school.
She would do it. Tonight. Just get it over with. She’d mooned over him all during those miserable, outcast high school years when she’d been branded as the weird, Goth girl. College was supposed to be different. Her chance to escape labels and dare try new things.
Skye opened the door and Tanner stopped short, one fisted hand raised to knock. “Eager to see me?” His deep voice filled the silence, his tone was always teasing, always seemed to hold a secret laughter and confident charisma.
Skye’s breath caught for a moment. He looked sexy as hell with his dancing eyes and wind-swept hair. Her spell was answered; maybe her dreams would be too. If Callie were here, she would tell Skye to believe and all would work out.
“Michael asked me to drop this by.” Tanner held up the bags. “He noticed your fridge was looking pretty low last time you cooked for us.”
“Oh, right. Thanks.” She led him to the kitchen and put up the groceries, hyper aware of his masculine presence. “What’s Michael doing tonight?” Her brother and Tanner were almost always together.
Tanner wouldn’t quite meet her eye. “He’s busy. Where do you want me to put this bottle of Diet Coke?”
Everything clicked. Michael’s dad, their dad, was in town on a visit. A visit that didn’t include his daughter. It hurt, but it was no surprise. He’d left home not long after she was born and they were strangers. Michael had been two years old at the time. Time enough to, in pop psychology-speak, ‘bond’. Dear ole Dad must have slipped Michael some money and her brother was sweet enough to share.
“Just put it on the counter,” she said dully. Here she was trying to build her confidence to talk to Tanner and rejection slapped her in the face.
“Mind if I have one?” Without waiting for an answer, he filled a glass with ice and poured a drink.
Don’t let your father’s neglect keep you from talking to Tanner.
Skye gathered her courage. “Tanner, can we talk?”
“Okay.” He pulled a chair up to the kitchen table and she sat across from him. “Shoot.”
She stared in his eyes; they always sparkled as if he was secretly amused by everybody and everything. In the ensuing silence, Skye heard the hum of the fridge, the drone of the TV from downstairs, and music blaring from several houses down.
“Spit it out.” Tanner hated stillness.
“How long have we known each other?”
“Fifth grade. Michael was the first friend I made when I moved to Piedmont. You were the second.”
Skye saw her opening. “Is that how you still think of me – as Michael’s little sister . . . a friend?”
Her heart contracted into a hard little bundle of hurt. He certainly wasn’t keeping her in suspense; there had been no hesitation in his answer. He shifted his eyes to the floor. Not a good sign. But she might as well keep going. Her heart pounded and her palms sweated.
“What if I wanted more?” The words were quiet, but in the silence, the inner thrumming of Skye’s racing pulse roared in her ears.
Tanner’s mouth dropped open. He gulped. A couple of seconds ticked by. Major awkward. Oh goddesses, what had she been thinking? She’d ruined everything. Any chance or hope of . . .
“You’re joking, right?” He leaned across the table and cuffed her shoulder, very friend-like. “C’mon Skye, we’re buds. Always have been.” Tanner’s laugh sounded forced, his smile nervous.
Skye jumped up. “Right. Forget I said anything. I’m in a weird mood tonight, must be the full moon. Tell Michael thanks for the groceries.” She walked out of the claustrophobic kitchen quickly, eyes burning and face flaming. She would not cry.
She would not cry.
He followed her out and then paused to answer his cell phone. She heard his voice, low and hurried, “Hey, call you back in a few minutes.”
Probably some girl. It was always some other girl, never her. At least now she knew.
Skye sat on the couch and faced the TV as if she hadn’t gone and made a complete and total fool of herself. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Tanner standing in the hallway, running his hands through his dark hair and shuffling his feet. Why the hell hadn’t she kept her mouth shut?
“Gotta go.” He held up the cell phone and waved it. “Some of us guys are getting together for a party.”
Skye took a deep breath and faced him with a fake smile. “Sure, see ya later.” She jerked her head back to the TV screen. She would not cry.
Skye was so intent on not crying she didn’t hear Tanner cross the room, and suddenly his breath was in her hair, his lips kissed the top of her head. The warm breath sent an electrifying tingle from her scalp to her toes. Skye dug her hands in the chair’s arms to keep from flinging herself on Tanner. This was nothing but a pity kiss.
The heat from Tanner’s body withdrew and he left without another word. Her body chilled from the loss of contact. The door shut. Alone, Skye let the tears flow. That kiss said what Tanner couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say to her face. She tried to convince herself that in knowledge was power and healing.
It didn’t work.