Phoenix Rising


In the last excerpt from Phoenix Inheritance, I left Charlie and Renee in trouble in the last teaser and now here comes a cat, doing what cats do. :)

The book is available at Amazon on the link above, at Samhain Publishing, and at iBooks. I also have a Goodreads giveaway running.

****************

 

“You okay?” she asked Charlie.

“Scared.” His teeth chattered. “I didn’t go higher. I’m sorry.”

“You went plenty high. Not your fault the tree didn’t cooperate.”

Her back set against the tree, she wondered how long before their perch gave way from
the weight of the snow collecting on its leaves. Seconds, minutes, hours? She really did need Captain Marvel right now. Damn.

She swatted around the flakes that had gathered on her face and eyelashes and tried to stare up into the storm. She caught a glimpse of her scarf, hanging from what was left of the tree branch. She glanced down at her wrist. It was still attached. It must have ripped apart.

“Ma, the kitty’s here,” Charlie said.

“What?”

“Look!” He pointed and she heard a meow above them.

I could kill you, cat, she thought.

The cat meowed again.

“He’s worried about me,” Charlie said.

The cat did sound scared. Join the club, furball.

“He says he could have gone to a warm spot, but he likes me. He says I need a cuddle.”

To her disbelieving eyes, the cat picked his way down the slope, through the branches, leaves and snow, and jumped onto Charlie’s chest.

Oh, great, she thought. Now I’m not just trapped out here in the storm with my son, now I have to deal with a stray cat on top of us. Wonder of wonders, the cat started purring and settled down against Charlie.

“I guess he does like you,” Renee said. “But be careful and don’t move around too much.”

“He’ll be calm. He likes me, likes me better than other people he knows.”

“He sure seems to like you.” The cat was distracting Charlie from their situation, so that was good, so long as it didn’t scratch or claw at them.

“Ma? We’re stuck, aren’t we?”

“Yeah, we’re stuck. For now. But I’m catching my breath and then we’ll try something else.”

“You’ll get us out. I know you will. Even if he says you can’t.”

“Who says I can’t?”

“Odin. The cat.”

Great. She was being doubted by a cat. Not just a cat, the cat who’d caused this problem in the first place. No, wait. Charlie was probably the one who was scared and doubting her and pretending it was the cat.

To show you how my writing process goes, this was originally the first scene in Phoenix Inheritance. It’s now scene #3, as Renee has just picked up her autistic son, Charlie, after an incident at school.

A storm’s coming, quite literally.

**************

Renee’s hand-knit scarf rippled in the wind as she wrestled the last patio chair toward the open garage. The sky overhead had already turned from bright blue to a foreboding shade of gray. The colorful fall was now more like a moving, shifting Ansel Adams photograph.

Charlie trailed behind her, but she kept watch on him all the same, especially since he was particularly afraid of storms. She didn’t want him panicking inside while she was busy outside.

“Almost done,” she said.

“Can I help?” Snowflakes dotted his dark hat and he looked so sweet in that instant that she wished she could bottle it. He was a great kid. There had to be a way to help him cope. There had to be.

“Nah, I’m good. Just keep me company and remind me next time not to buy such heavy patio chairs.” She’d bought them so the winds wouldn’t knock them around. She’d forgotten about the part where she needed to drag them inside for the winter.
She glanced at the huge oak trees that dotted the borders of her yard. Their branches were still laden with leaves, making them vulnerable to the weight of the falling snow.

Charlie tugged at her sleeve. “When will it be time for hot chocolate?”

“Right about now, soon as we get the chair set and go inside.”

“Great.”

Thor and Loki barked from the inside of the house. They didn’t like her being out
without them. Silly boys. Too cold for them to romp outside now. The temperature must have dropped twenty degrees in the last two hours.

She turned the corner and slid the chair into her garage. There. Done. Nothing left now but hunker down and hope for the best.
Her son tapped her hip and pointed. “Mom! Look! The cat’s back! I have to get him!” Not that stray cat again. “He’ll be fine. Cats can survive storms.”

“But he says I have to come get him. He wants my help.”

The problems at school were bad enough. She’d hoped this insistence on talking to animals was just a phase. Could he really be hearing voices?

“I’ll walk over there to see how he is. You stay here,” she said.

“No, he said I have to come!”

Renee reached out to grab Charlie’s sleeve, anticipating what was coming, but he was too fast for her and she missed. He took off at full speed across the lawn, toward the trees and the edge of the forest. She sped after him, yelling at him to stop but he ignored her. She ran full out, the cold air stinging her lungs.

Just before she caught up to Charlie, her feet slipped on the wet leaves. She stumbled, went down to one knee and saw him plunge into the woods, helpless to stop him.

“Wait!” she yelled again but the only response was the sound of leaves crunching far ahead. She scrambled to her feet.

Oh, God, oh God. There was a nasty drop-off only about ninety yards into the trees. Visions of Charlie going over the edge had her stomach in knots. She might have thrown up if she wasn’t so busy running after him. Here she’d been pissed at the school for letting him out of their sight and she’d made the same damn mistake.

She leapt over a bush and hit the brambles at a run. Branches swatted her face and prickers grabbed at her pants. The snow fell harder and faster. The trees seemed to all meld together, obscuring visibility. She couldn’t see Charlie at all, and she wasn’t sure she heard him anymore either. She wanted to rage, to slam against the nearest tree in frustration.

But panicking would be the absolutely wrong thing to do. She halted.

“Charlie!”

Her throat was so closed up in fear that her yell came out as a whisper. She drew a deep breath and tried again. This time, his name came out as a scream. Still no answer.

Everything she’d learned in her search-and-rescue work told her panicking would get her nowhere. Yeah, that training worked awesomely when it wasn’t her own kid. She cupped her hands around her mouth and screamed his name again. Answer me!
Silence. Where could he have gone so fast? She had visions of him going over that edge and hitting the bottom hard. She blinked away tears.

“Mom! Help!”

Oh, God. That came from the direction of the drop-off.

“Coming, Charlie!” She tried not to run because she couldn’t see more than two feet in front of her, but the fear in her son’s voice drove her.

“Mom, I’m gonna fall!”

“I’m right here!”

Her lead foot pushed against empty air. She grabbed the nearest branch before she went
over the edge, only just halting her fall.

“Charlie!” Where was he? She dropped to her knees to peer over the edge, trying to see
through all the fat, wet snowflakes. This was the only place he could be. But where? All the way to the bottom? No, no. Dammit…

“Mom!”

The voice came from directly below, and she finally spotted him. He smiled, but she fought not to collapse in terror. The only thing keeping him from plunging to the bottom was that he was hanging on to the exposed roots of a white birch tree that was growing half sideways out of the cliff.

After the birch tree, it was a thirty-foot drop.

Oh, and a little arm porn for you all.

To save their son, they might have to sacrifice their love--and their lives.

To save their son, they might have to sacrifice their love–and their lives.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

phoenix inheritance by Corrina Lawson

phoenix inheritance

by Corrina Lawson

Giveaway ends July 03, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

Still wondering whether to enter? Here are some reviews to help you decide: Romantic Times gives Phoenix Inheritance 4 stars: Lawson’s newest addition to the Phoenix Institute series is sentimental, exciting and also spotlights Charlie, an autistic boy who steals the show at times. Fans of the paranormal will be wowed right out of their seats, and those who love romance won’t feel left out either, thanks to the passionate sex scenes, which are tastefully done. The several twists and turns keep readers engaged in the suspenseful plot. An all-around great book! –   From Just Talking Books: I really enjoyed reading Phoenix Inheritance and even though I hadn’t read the previous books in this series, I found it very easy to follow which is a true test of the author’s story telling abilities. This is a paranormal story so expect telepathy and telekinesis to feature heavily as gifted humans appear, but it’s also a story of two people finding the courage to take a chance because it’s not always easy putting your heart on the line. This was a sensual romance that didn’t feel rushed or forced and the background information to the couple’s first encounters really helped pull me in. What really surprised me was the concept of making their son Charlie autistic.   I found it quite poignant that both parents had a very different approach to their son’s behaviour. Renee is a woman fighting for support for her son, whilst for a lot of the story Dax is a man in denial and that felt very realistic. I’m sure it’s terribly difficult for parents to accept any difference in their child and ignorance and prejudice is an awful thing. Luckily, as the story progressed, Dax grew in my estimation (trust me he had a lot to make up for!) and realised autism is not something to run from but just a part of his son’s makeup. Charlie’s autism is, quite simply, just a part of who he is and all differences should be embraced!

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

 

The Curse of the Brimstone Contract by Corrina Lawson

 

The Curse of the Brimstone Contract

 

by Corrina Lawson

 

Giveaway ends July 01, 2015. See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

 

Enter to Win

 

Reviews:
From CriminalElement.com: What at first seems like a fun, magic infused mystery, turned out to be quite a bit more. Joan is seemingly bound by not only her social status, but also her family obligations, and not only does magic mean a way out, it helps to gives her the courage to assert herself and take control of her destiny. There is a bit of light romance, but this is Joan’s journey, and the steampunk-tinged setting of Victorian London (and the clothes, oh, the clothes!) is icing on the cake.

Night Owl Reviews Top Pick!: This is a fun introduction to what promises to be a very entertaining steampunk series featuring atypical main characters. I greatly enjoyed the focus on different cultures as it contrasts with the challenge of dealing with a society that is stratified by magic. This gives a very different view of historical England as it deals with both the complications and progress made as industrialization progresses plus the struggle to gain equality for women.

4 and 4 1/2 Star Reviews on Amazon.com For The Curse of the Brimstone Contract:

“illustrates the author’s wondrous facility at creating a compelling and imaginative story.”

“Joan is a strong heroine and Sherringford is a man of mystery. The plot sucks you in deeply and quickly. Be prepared to read the book in one sitting!”

“Lawson has managed to incorporate both genres into a multi-layered world uniquely her own. After the midpoint I couldn’t put it down.”

First, look at one of my Mother’s Day presents:

agent carter, SHIELD

Yep, time to get cracking on the Agent Carter cosplay.

That was from the eldest daughter who, UNBELIEVABLY….

Graduates college this weekend.

The mind boggles.

I also received three wonderful reviews of my books.

A 4-Star review from the Romantic Times magazine (the biggest romance magazine going) for Phoenix Inheritance, calling it an “all around great book.”

The longer quote:

“Lawson’s newest addition to the Phoenix Institute series is sentimental, exciting and also spotlights Charlie, an autistic boy who steals the show at times. Fans of the paranormal will be wowed right out of their seats, and those who love romance won’t feel left out either, thanks to the passionate sex scenes, which are tastefully done. The several twists and turns keep readers engaged in the suspenseful plot. An all-around great book! – 

2. Another review of Phoenix Inheritance that used explanations points for “recommended” at Just Talking BooksI love it when reviews use exclamation points.

What really surprised me was the concept of making their son Charlie autistic. I found it quite poignant that both parents had a very different approach to their son’s behaviour. Renee is a woman fighting for support for her son, whilst for a lot of the story Dax is a man in denial and that felt very realistic. I’m sure it’s terribly difficult for parents to accept any difference in their child and ignorance and prejudice is an awful thing. Luckily, as the story progressed, Dax grew in my estimation (trust me he had a lot to make up for!) and realised autism is not something to run from but just a part of his son’s makeup. Charlie’s autism is, quite simply, just a part of who he is and all differences should be embraced!”

3. An unexpected and welcome review of my Holmes-inspired steampunk, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract at Ramblings From This Chick. 

“There is so much more than a mystery to be solved in this book. Romance. Of course there is romance. Gregor’s and Joan’s ability to merge their minds to solve a mystery presages the sweet uniting of their hearts. In addition to mystery and romance, there are class issues, an arranged marriage (unwanted), old magic, curses, new magical ability, and secrets. So many secrets. There is not a boring page in The Curse of the Brimstone Contract. I hope to be reading another book in the series soon!”

Now I have to go. The mother-in-law is coming in a couple of days, which means..cleaning. Lots of cleaning. :)

First up, a 4-star review from Night Owl Reviews on Ghosts of Christmas Past:

“The strong compelling characters grab the reader’s attention from the very beginning and the fast paced and smooth flowing plot keeps readers shivering in apprehension with suspense, excitement and passion.”

Love Al and Noir. Plus, hey, you don’t need it to be Christmas to read it!

Phoenix Inheritance was reviewed at the big romance reader site, Dear Author. I love that the reviewer completely got the story. My publisher made this cool image for me, so I’ll share the whole review. As for my prose? Well, lyrical language isn’t a specialty though every now and then I turn a pretty phase. To me, story is all.

PhoenixInheritance_Review_3.11.2015_DearAuthor

fools for love retouched

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” –As You Like It, William Shakespeare.

SF Romance Station is running a HUGE sci-fi romance reading giveaway throughout the month of April. Check out the prizes below. Each winner will have their choice of a gift card for either Nook, Kindle, All Romance or iBooks, plus they will win great eBooks from participating SF Romance authors. You can see all books below!

Be sure to join the Facebook party, too, for discussions, silliness, and, well, fun. :)

But, now, on the theme…this one was hard for me because to me, being foolish, means being stupid. But that’s no so, especially when it comes to relationships.

In so many ways, falling in love is the most foolish act of all.

It takes a leap of faith to believe that the person you love somehow loves you back in equal measure. In a sense, every romance novel character who falls in love is a fool.Shards_of_honor_cover

The first example that jumped to mind isn’t from my own work but from Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold. Cordelia Naismith and Aral Vorkosigan are on opposite sides in an intergalactic war. Even so, they’ve managed to save each other’s lives. But when Cordelia returns to her home planet, nothing is right. Her superiors believe she’s a hero, the spy agency believes she’s been brainwashed to serve Aral’s people (untrue), and even her mother doesn’t trust her own judgment.

Cordelia flees, wearing casual clothes and with only her slippers on her feet. She goes to Aral, taking a leap of faith that she can be herself among his people.

Undoubtably, the most foolish thing any of my characters have ever done is when Beth kidnaps Alec in Phoenix Rising. Beth sees this smart, powerful, and, most of all, kind, man that she’s come to love being trained by his superiors to became a weapon in a war. She can’t stand it and kidnaps him, having no idea if he’ll listen to her when he wakes up, if he’ll ever trust her again, but she knows whatever the outcome, her own life won’t be the same.

He was born to be a weapon. For her, he must learn to be a hero.

He was born to be a weapon. For her, he must learn to be a hero.

“How would you like to go farther than the clearing?”

Was she asking him to her place?

“That could be good.” He put his arm around her shoulder as they reached the bottom of the hill. The
connection between them was a steady hum. He was close to full arousal and wondered if she was too. But she seemed more distracted than anything else.

Gravel from an old service road crunched under his boots. “How would we get to your place? It’s too far to walk.”

She paused, as if thinking hard about the answer. “A friend left me a car around here,” she said. “At least, I think it’s around here.”

“You’re kidding.”

She leaned against him. He pulled her close. “You want me to go home with you?” He held her out from him, searching her face to see if she’d object. This was better than he hoped.

“In a way. The house where I want to take you belongs to a friend but he lets me use it.” She put her hand on one of the large pine trees, looking around, squinting. She took two steps, and banged her knee into something that made a hollow metallic clunk.

“You okay?” he said. “That was no tree.”

“No, it’s our ride.” She rubbed the knee. “This way, we can leave without anyone following. I wanted to surprise you.”

“I’m surprised.” He knelt down to look closer, and dropped her hand. She’d walked into the front fender of a car that was covered by a green tarp.

“Cool camouflage.” He peeled back the tarp. A Honda. He’d been hoping for a sports car. But at least he was leaving with Beth to go to her place, where they could be alone with no watchers.

“Thanks.” She punched in a code on the driver’s side lock.

He got in the car as she pulled the rest of the tarp off. She dropped the tarp in the backseat, sat down behind the wheel, picked up the keys from the driver’s seat and turned over the ignition.

“Wait, how’d you get a car out here?”

“Just lucky, I guess.” She reached down into a side pocket on the door and slipped something into her hand.
His back stiffened. This whole thing was weird. He hadn’t been seduced many times but this suddenly didn’t feel like it should. He grabbed her right hand.

“Counselor? What’s really going on?”

She turned, eyes wide. “I—” Her hand closed over whatever was in her palm. “I work with the CIA on occasion, so I’ve learned to be careful and plan ahead. The car was left here by a friend in case I needed it.”

“Plan ahead for what? Why would you need to hide a car from the Resource? It can’t be just to have sex with me.” He gripped her hand tighter.

“The Resource isn’t as benevolent as you think, especially its director.”

“What exactly are you afraid of?”

She tried to pull her hand free. He tightened his grip. Lansing had warned him the CIA would like to
get hold of him. Maybe that’s what she was doing. And he’d walked right into it because she’d let him put his arm around her shoulder. Daz would never let him hear the end of that one.

“Alec, it’s complicated. It’ll take too long to tell it here, especially given how quick they’ll miss you. As soon as we get where we’re going, I’ll tell you. But I swear, I will not hurt you.”

“Not good enough.” He dug his fingers into her wrist. “Talk to me now, before we go anywhere.”

She tried to pull her hand free. He let her pull him closer to her, intending to pin her to the seat and get some real answers. But she twisted and her left hand came forward. He caught a glimpse of something sharp just before she plunged it into his shoulder. He jerked backward and hit his head on the rearview mirror. He looked down at his shoulder. A syringe was stuck in there, just above his collarbone.

Oh, fuck, another tranq?

“You—” He grabbed the syringe and pulled it out. Blood trickled down his T-shirt. Lethargy started to spread through his arm. Drugged. Again. “Why? I trusted you!”

“I’m sorry. We need to get away from this place. Fast. I won’t hurt you.”

“Yeah, well, this needle doesn’t scream harmless.” He jerked away from her and banged his back against the passenger door. He took a deep breath. Already, his arms and legs felt twice as heavy. He fought to keep his eyes open. “I’m out of here.”

He fumbled for the door lock. Bad enough to have Daz drug him but now he’d been fooled by someone half his size. And Lansing had been right again. He couldn’t trust people from outside.

Alec set his jaw and pushed Beth against the driver’s side door with his TK. She let out a muffled cry of pain. His vision started to go blurry at the edges. Okay, let’s see how she liked a fire show, close-up.

Something shifted inside his head, like a finger scraping against an open wound. He put his hands over his ears to block it out, almost doubling over. What drug did this?

He felt the car lurch into gear as he lost consciousness.

When Alec wakes up, Beth knows she’ll have an angry, possibly uncontrollable firestarter on her hands. One she can’t keep locked up, or she’s no better than the people using him, and one who might turn her into those same people.

It’s a supremely foolish act on her part. But so was falling in love with Alec.

Now onto the PRIZES!

prizes fools

To Enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: this is a universal entry form, meaning you can only fill it out once, not on every blog in the April even that you’re visiting. :) However, many of my fellow bloggers are giving away prizes on their individual posts as well. Check out not only that but some wise and witty words about science fiction romance.

PhoenixInheritance72lgWe’re up to book 4.

Wow. Part of me is pumping my fist and thinking “hells, yeah!” especially with the recent SF Romance Galaxy Award for the Phoenix Institute series. The other part of me is just grateful: for my editor, for my readers, for my friends and family who’ve supported me through my writing career.

This book is different. Well, they’re all different. But there’s a great deal of personal blood and sweat in the pages of this one.

By that, I don’t mean the book drove me crazy or was hard to write. I mean that this one hit home hard.

Usually, I can keep my writing separate from my personal life. My writing is all the fun stuff I read about that I want to write about and I have a glorious time doing it.

Phoenix Inheritance, however, is my first book with a kids, dogs and a cat. Like me.

Have I gone sentimental? Yes but for  a good reason. We were going through stuff at my house that’s reflected in the issues Renee and her son autistic son Charlie are having in the story.  A more elaborate explanation is over in my post on Superheroes and Mental Illness at TheMarySue or at SF Signal in my post in Special Needs in Strange Worlds.

Don’t worry, however: things still blow up in this book and there’s still sexy times, though of the more human variety, since neither Renee or Daz Montoya, the hero, have superpowers. They’re still heroes, however, and I wrote about how Daz came to be my series’ version of Batman over at EverydayFangirl.

I hope you all enjoy Phoenix Inheritance and come to love these people as much as I did. In the meantime, I’m also running a Goodreads contest to win a print copy of Ghost Phoenix, Book 3. And I’ll be along later with some excepts and other goodies, like the hidden Easter eggs in my books.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Ghost Phoenix by Corrina Lawson

Ghost Phoenix

by Corrina Lawson

Giveaway ends March 13, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

 

Final author’s note: As always, I write my books so they can be read as stand alone novels. That’s because I’m one of those readers who will pick up any book in a series and read it and I wanted my series to be accessible for people like me.

autistic kids, superhero romance, SF Romance

 

Isn’t it pretty?

Phoenix Inheritance may be the geekiest book I’ve ever written.

It’s definitely the most personal. One, because the heroine is very much a geek, like me, and loves all her geeky attire. But mostly because Renee Black deals with her autistic child on a daily basis, often without help, and I know what that’s like. Without giving away too much of my children’s privacy, I’ve been in her shoes any number of times. For that reason, I’m terrified at the book’s possible reception.

I also know it’s a book I had to write.

As part of the SF Romance Brigade Showcase, here’s the first scene with Renee and my lovely cover, with Daz. The book is already up for pre-order on Amazon and comes out March 3, 2015. And check out the showcase link for other science fiction romance sneak peaks, covers, and other fun news.

Renee Black stored the last of her full gas canisters in the backyard shed. There. That was enough to keep the generator going for days. Even if the early snowfall materialized and knocked out power, she and Charlie would be all set.

The old-fashioned ring tone of her cell phone echoed in the quiet air of her backyard and she tugged the phone out of the pocket of her military-style peacoat.

Please don’t be Charlie’s school, please don’t be Charlie’s school.

It was Charlie’s school. “Hello?” “Ms. Black? This is Principal Partnope.” “Yes? Is something wrong? Is Charlie okay?” “Your son is fine now, Ms. Black, but we really need you to come immediately. How soon can you be here?”

“What happened?” She hated when they did this, told her to come down without telling her exactly why.

“We’ve had an incident. It’s best we discuss this in person. Will you be able to come?”

“I’m already on my way.” She dug out the keys to her pickup from the coat. “Is my son okay?”

“He’s calm and safe now.” Now. Implying he hadn’t been before. Oh, Charlie. How bad had it been this time?

“What happened?” she asked again.

“I’ll explain when you get here. Thank you, Ms. Black.”

He hung up on her. Dammit. The least he could do was give her some hint what had happened instead of making her run fifty million scary scenarios in her head on the way. She whistled for Thor and Loki. Her search-and-rescue-trained German Shepherds came bounding over from the other side of the yard. She knelt down and hugged them, noting the white on their muzzles, which struck her as especially prominent today. They were elderly dogs by regular standards and especially old for SAR dogs, as the work took a toll. Any day they could get outside and romp was a good day for them. She dreaded the coming of winter. They felt the cold so much now.

“I heard you barking at some animal, boys. What did you find?” They didn’t chase squirrels. They knew better. Maybe it was the stray cat Charlie had spotted over the last few days.

“I guess it doesn’t matter. In the house you go!”

She pointed and they headed inside through the open garage and through the doggie door. She pulled her truck out, closed the garage door, and drove down her long, winding driveway at a higher speed than she should have. She’d made this kind of trip far too often lately.

Charlie needed routine and order. He was already on a 504 Plan—special accommodations—because of his diagnosis of autism. She stayed hyper-alert around Charlie because if she spotted the signs of an incoming meltdown, she could head it off. But Charlie’s teacher had a full classroom and couldn’t do the same.

She’d asked the school for full psychological testing that might result in Charlie being classified as special ed and being given an aide who could watch him fulltime at school, like she did at home. Charlie’s teacher, Mr. Lamoreux, was on her side but he kept saying the principal, Partnope, was against it. Partnope had given her an entire litany of excuses as to why they should put off testing.

“He’s not that impaired.” “His grades are very good.” “His behavior chart, full of rewards, will be a big help.”

A big help? It obviously hadn’t helped today.

Every time she convinced herself her son was stabilizing, the school called again. It was one step forward, two steps back.

A text alert blared from her phone. She ignored it while she drove along the twisty corners of the back road. Only when she entered the center of Bernard and stopped at the main traffic light did she glance at the text. It was from the school too, but this time a general message informing parents the school had an early release because of the impending snow.

The light turned and, as she went through the intersection, she noticed the traffic was heavier than usual. Likely everyone was preparing for the storm.

Once she reached the school, finding a parking space was nearly impossible. She finally parked the truck on the grassy divider between the two main lots. The office buzzed her in the front door without even asking for her name. After her many visits over the past two months, the staff knew her by sight. She ran her hand over her hair to smooth it down and unzipped her jacket.

Only then did she realize she was still wearing her Captain Marvel “Princess Sparklefists” superhero T-shirt.
She bet Principal Partnope wouldn’t get the joke. Add that to the old peacoat and her looking ragged because of this morning’s work outside, and she’d earn Partnope’s disdain again. Maybe if she wore designer clothes and shoes like half the women in town instead of her jeans, work boots and her geeky T-shirts, the principal would take her more seriously.

Steeling herself for yet another confrontation, she opened the front door to the school office. Dorothy, the office manager, smiled at her. “Good to see you, Ms. Black.”

Dorothy, impeccable as always in a pretty sweater, seemed glad to see her. “Good to see you too. Where’s Charlie? Is he okay?”

“He’s fine, Ms. Black. He’s been asking for you.”

“Thanks.” Not for the first time, Renee wished Dorothy ran the school. Charlie liked her and listened to her. “What happened? Where is he?”

Dorothy pulled a pencil from behind her ear and pointed with it. “He’s in the conference room over there. He promised to draw me a picture of Thor.”

“Great. Did he mean my dog or the superhero?”

“You know, I didn’t ask. But I’d love either.”

Renee turned to the conference room but Principal Partnope came out of his office and intercepted her. “I’d like to talk to you first, before you see Charlie. This was a pretty serious incident.”

“I just want to make sure he’s okay, thanks.” She pushed open the door to the small conference room. Charlie sat there with a supply of crayons and blank paper in front of him. He smiled and ran over to her. She hugged him tight.
She drank in the sight, smell and feel of her son, his dark unruly hair, his brown eyes, his favorite Batman T-shirt and the whiff of peanut butter on his breath. I love you, kid.

Yes, she definitely needed this hug before talking to Partnope. She knelt down to look him in the eye.

“I like your T-shirt,” he said. “Is it new?”

“Just came yesterday. Along with your new Batman Beyond shirt.” “Awesome.” But he stared at the floor instead of at her. He shuffled his feet. “I did something really bad, Mom. But it was their fault. They were mean to me.”

“What did you do?” “I hit Mr. Revis,” he whispered.

“Who’s Mr. Revis?” she asked.

“Our substitute teacher this week.”

“Right.” Mr. Lamoreux was out for several weeks after having broken his leg. “What happened?” she asked.

Charlie waved his hands. “He was really mean. He tricked me!”

Mr. Partnope poked his head into the room. “May we talk now, Ms. Black?”

“All right.” Now that she’d seen Charlie, she could deal with whatever this was. “Charlie, I’ll be right back. Are you finishing that drawing for Miss Dorothy?”

He nodded. “Yes! I promised her I’d finish before school gets out.”

“Good.”

Once in the principal’s office, Partnope sat behind his very official desk. He looked like a bureaucrat with his thinning hair, thin red mustache and conservative tie. She preferred Mr. Lamoreux, who sometimes wore loud ties and shirts that broke the mold.

“Would you please sit down?” Partnope asked.

Renee thought about standing but decided since Charlie admitted he’d hit his teacher, looming over the principal and taking out her frustration with the situation was the worst thing she could do.

“That’s an interesting T-shirt, Ms. Black.” His gaze flicked over the shirt. It featured Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel, in a red, blue and yellow costume with her energy power blazing at her hands. Hence, Princess Sparklefists.

“Thank you, it’s one of my favorites.”

“Interesting.”

“I think so.” She took a deep breath. She wouldn’t rise to the bait. “Why did Charlie hit his teacher? What happened?”

“I’m glad he admitted it. A lot of kids don’t.” Partnope laced his fingers together. “First of all, you should know that we take any assault on a teacher extremely seriously.”

She nodded. “Of course. Was the teacher hurt?”

“No, I don’t believe he was injured at all. Still, we might have to suspend Charlie.” She took a deep breath. She wanted to protest because she was sure Charlie’s impulse control issues had caused him to overreact, but it would be far better to hear this out first. “Could you please tell me what happened?” she asked again.

“Mr. Revis gave the students a surprise quiz today.” He paused. She nodded but what she wanted to do was say that didn’t they know Charlie hated surprises? She’d talked to all the school officials about it, including Partnope. Teachers were supposed to give him advance warning of any quiz. “And Charlie failed this surprise quiz?”

“It wasn’t that kind of quiz,” Partnope said.

He handed over a sheet of paper that started with Read this over fully first, and included all kinds of instructions about drawing shapes and writing sentences. It was busy work but work Charlie knew how to do. It wasn’t until she reached the last sentence that she knew why Charlie thought they’d been mean to him.

“It says at the end that no one has to do any of the problems.”

“Yes. The very first instruction was to read the paper fully and the last instruction is that they don’t have to do any of the work. This is a test we give to make sure students follow instructions and read their papers fully.”

“How many students in third grade read this all the way to the end?”

Partnope’s eyes narrowed. “Only two.”

“And after Charlie did all the work and got to the last sentence and realized he didn’t really have to do any of it, he lost his temper?”

“Exactly.” Partnope nodded. “He rushed to the front of the class, screamed at Mr. Revis for tricking him, kicked him in the leg and ran out of the room.”

Renee rubbed the bridge of her nose. Of course, Charlie would see this as being tricked and react. The whole quiz was a trick. Still, he shouldn’t hit anyone. But his reaction was entirely predictable and could have been avoided by letting him know beforehand.

“What happened after he ran out of the room?” she asked.

It was Partnope’s turn to take a deep breath. He cleaned off his glasses. “Charlie ran out of the school, toward the road.”

“Toward the road?” The elementary school was located on one of the town’s busiest streets.

“He was out the door before anyone could catch him. We did get to him before the road.”

“How did you get Charlie inside?” she asked, hearing the hoarseness in her voice.

“Dorothy called to him. He slowed down. Then she asked him to come back and sit next to her for a while.”

Dorothy. She had no way to repay the woman for this. “And he did?”

“Yes, he listened to her. And then she asked him for a drawing because she knows he likes to draw. Once your son was settled, we called you. Thank you for coming so quickly.”

“I understand your concern.” She tucked her hands into her lap, having no idea what to say. She was frustrated at the school for a situation that could have been avoided, worried about Charlie for running outside and just completely sick to her stomach because she had no idea how to stop it from happening again.

As bad as it had been at school so far, she’d thought he was at least physically safe there.

 

A nice start to my holiday shopping day with a great review of Ghosts of Christmas Past over at Long and Short Reviews:

“The romance between Noir and Al began before the book started but I had no trouble picking up what was happening.

The love is there, but so is the mounting tension. Personal barriers, police vs. transient population, politics and greed all play a part in this great novel.

I will be going back for more books from this author and she is on my must read list for urban fantasy.”

Full review here.

And, about that cover…

 

Ta da…the cover to Phoenix Inheritance, due out on 3/3/2015!

 

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