#Giveaway: Forecast by Elise Stephens
Posted by brriske
Author: Elise Stephens
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Calvin isn’t a teenager, not really; instead, he’s spent his life trying to protect his mother and sister from his alcoholic father. Calvin keeps a knife close and sleeps with one eye open, even years after his father has left the family. A summer vacation spent at their late grandfather’s estate promises him and his sister the chance to leave their problems behind.
Instead of blissful freedom, they find the old house harbors secrets at every turn, like a mysterious stone door in the forest with rumored powers to give its entrants the gift of future-seeing. When Calvin faces the return of his seemingly-reformed father, he throws himself through the door to receive the gift of foresight. But the door offers more doubt than certainty, and the future he sees is riddled with disturbing confusion. With a revenge-obsessed lawyer hunting him down and a secret society out to control him, Calvin must figure out how to stop what he’s started before he loses what he holds most dear.
As he battles the legacies of his past and the shadows of his future, Calvin must accept help from unlikely sources, give trust he never thought possible, and learn that the greatest challenges lie not in the things to come, but in the present moment.
Elise Stephens received the Eugene Van Buren Prize for Fiction from the University of Washington in 2007. Forecast is her second novel. Her first novel Moonlight and Oranges was a quarter-finalist for the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Her short fiction has appeared in the Unusual Stories anthology, as well as in multiple journals.
She lives in Seattle with her husband where they both enjoy swing dancing, eating tiramisu, and taking in local live theater.
Amazon : amzn.to/1uYoAxK
Barnes & Noble: bit.ly/1wolB4h
There will be a tour-wide giveaway for a $10 Amazon gift card, a long with these books:
Charis: Journey to Pandora’s Jar (by Nicole Y. Walters)
A Kingdom’s Possession (by Nicole J. Persun
Doublesight (by Terry Persun)
Always and Forever (by Karla J Nellenback)
Moonlight and Oranges (by Elise Stephens)
“The drawer needed breaking,” Calvin assured Cleo as he spread its contents across the desk. “I’m sure everyone who would’ve cared about what’s inside this is dead now.”
The drawer’s innards included: scraps of fabric tied to the ends of trinkets, keys, rings, coins with holes punched through them, several sealed envelopes, sheaves of yellowed paper covered with elegant handwriting, a piece of graph paper hand-printed with Greek-ish symbols, a bundle of laminated ivory-colored cardstock, leaves torn from books, photographs, faded sales receipts and a box of more silver business cards like the one Calvin had found earlier.
As he spread the assortment across the desk, Cleo whispered,
“What’s that?” Her finger stroked the edge of a laminated sheet.
“Looks like a set of rules.” Calvin read one out loud, “Client may only inquire for
personal details as to his/her own future death. Insight for matters of future decisions, tragedies, wealth, etc, shall not be given.”
“And this one looks like a translation, maybe?” Cleo tapped the graph paper.
It bore three lines of symbols that looked like Greek to Calvin, and below this, three rows of English words. The English translation, at least what Calvin assumed was a translation, read:
Enter and see what cannot be unseen
Know and know what cannot be unknown
The future lies within
“Why don’t you ask Mrs. Seabrook to make us some lunch?” Calvin offered. He doubted Cleo would take the bait and let him explore on his own.
Sure enough, her eyes had already caught on a news clipping that had slid from under a sloping stack of letters. She unbent its folds and a brittle corner crumbled.“This article is about him.” She read,
“March 15, 1969
NEW ‘SIGHT-SEEING’ BUSINESS TAKES CLIENTS
“WHERE THEY’VE NEVER BEEN BEFORE”
Two weeks ago, Mr. Percival Humboldt opened a new private enterprise, best described as a branch of psychic services.
Rumor and gossip claim that Humboldt sees the future, but only a small section of it. He does not consult, advise, or hinder the choices of his clients, according to his literature. He, to quote the entrepreneur himself, “merely says what he sees.”
So far, Humboldt’s uncharacteristic endeavor has met with huge success. Hugo Remington, a colleague from Humboldt’s stock market days, commented that he “never in a million years saw this sort of thing brewing” in Humboldt during their work together. Humboldt’s wife, Ingrid Humboldt, declined an interview but said that she “sincerely hoped” this new business would give Humboldt the “chance to impact lives for the good.”
Cleo gently flipped the sheet over, then replaced it on the desk. “The next page isn’t here.” She brought her nose close to the black and white photograph at the top of the article. “Sheesh, Cal. You really do look just like him.”
Calvin walked around the desk to stand beside her. The photo of Percy portrayed a man with thinning hair and the start of a plump belly, posing jauntily before an oil painting that Calvin recognized as the one hanging over the living room mantle. One hand gripped a full glass of something with a sprig of mint stuck in it. Percy was smiling, but not at the camera, looking off into the distance.
“I hope you mean only our faces look alike,” Calvin muttered, “because I don’t have a beer belly.” He silently re-read the news blurb. “A psychic, huh? I haven’t changed my mind about calling them crooks and freaks.”
Cleo smoothed the clipping again, as if stroking someone’s face. “He’s dead. Be respectful. And don’t you think it’s possible that some people could be gifted in that sort of thing?”
“Assuming your belief is correct, which I don’t think it is, what really matters here is whether Percy was honest. I want to know if he was running a shady business, telling people their fortunes—what they wanted to hear, like Mrs. Seabrook said—and then making butt-loads of cash off them for it.”
She rolled her eyes. “Why do you instantly assume it was shady?”
“Why did he keep all of this stuff locked up and tell nobody to touch it?”
“Maybe he was trying to protect people. He had clients, and I bet he kept files on them. If any of those clients are still alive, that would be a good reason for privacy.” She looked around as if expecting the client files to be sitting in plain sight.
Calvin jabbed a triumphant finger. “And now you’re finally curious about other people’s business. I knew you’d come around.”
FORECAST EXCERPT 2
On the morning Joseph buried the key, he wrapped it in white silk and placed it in his winter coat. Night rain had glossed a thick sheen of ice over the earth, forest, and all the manor’s windows. Joseph melted the bathroom window seam with hot tap water and wriggled through it since creaking floorboards and mothers had signed a pact centuries ago. He had to shove his coat out the window ahead of him so he was small enough to fit. Once outside, he shivered violently in his boots and pajamas as he jammed his arms into his sleeves and blew breath down his collar to defrost his freezing heart.
The massive weight of the key pressed on him, heavy enough to split his pocket lining. He walked with a limp, one foot pounding the ice-crusted earth as he roamed the forest, seeking a hiding place to guard his strange and precious gift. The unfairness of his promise rang through the leafless wood, and Joseph imagined mournful wind-whispers that told him he shouldn’t surrender the one thing his father had given him, no matter what he’d vowed.
Frightened by the shadows of the trees, Joseph’s feet turned back toward the shelter of the tall house with the second story room where he’d met his father for the first and only time. His father had passed away in that same room two weeks before, eighteen days after Joseph had seen him.
Again the icy unfairness choked Joseph, but it couldn’t subdue the fire of his promise. A small sound, insistent but unobtrusive, tapped like a drum on Joseph’s soul, which was already stretched tight with longing.
His eyes roved the frozen lily pond, then turned up to the frigid sky. Christmas sparkle had faded with the passage of the old year. A few clouds in the pre-dawn firmament crumpled like discarded wrapping paper, and the woodpile reeked of mold. The house’s tears tumbled down two big drainpipes, the largest of which opened onto the ground in front of Joseph’s feet.
It was this ping – tap – thump that had woken him earlier. The drainpipe’s drip had summoned him here. Where else would frozen earth be soft enough for digging than under falling water? He knelt, ignoring the mud that seeped into his flannel pants, and dug earth chunks free with his fingers. He rinsed his palms in the falling trickle and withdrew the key.
Rest in peace, he thought. He imagined the tired, hopeless eyes of his father and their bewilderment when Joseph’s mother introduced Joseph and his sister to him with, “Percy, these are our twins.”
That day, Joseph’s father had given him this key and made him promise to hide it. Joseph had agreed with as much earnestness as his heart could command. He couldn’t deny this first and only request.
Suddenly it wasn’t just the rain pipe dripping, but his eyes were dripping, and then his nose ran. Joseph lowered the key carefully into its hole, the pale silk wrapping bright against the dark earth. He placed a large stone over the key, then stamped the sodden earth closed, gritting his teeth to hold a sob captive. He glanced once more at the second story window, then looked away.
He hung his head, wiped his nose, and prayed. He prayed for security and protection, for warnings and obstacles against the key’s discovery. He pressed a handprint into the earth, then stood, scrubbed his palm on his pajamas, and prepared to scramble again through the bathroom window.
Dark lashes and a round face observed him like his own reflection from the other side of the windowpane. He’d begged his twin not to follow him, but now that the deed was done, he couldn’t shut her out anymore.
Joseph touched the window, and a curl of ice fell to the ground as Hazel opened it for him. They crept back to their room with the twin beds, and he pulled his blanket over their feet as they huddled together on his bed.
Hazel hugged her knees. Her flannel nightgown had a pattern of moons and shooting stars, and the collar was wet where she’d chewed it.
“Did you do it?” she whispered.
“I buried it.”
“Is it safe?”
“The house is guarding it. It’s as safe as I can make it.”
That afternoon, as Joseph and Hazel drove away from the house, their mother tight-lipped at the wheel, he stared at the iron bars along the outer gate. Withered bouquets still clung to the fence, left by strangers who mourned the death of the great Percy Humboldt, his father.
Joseph squished his palm against the cold glass of the car window and watched items pass: the funeral flowers, the looming gate, the forest beyond, and finally, looking over his shoulder, the outline of Humboldt Manor with the key below in its earth until, at last, everything faded into the sheathing protection of distance.
FORECAST EXCERPT 3
“My door was opened last night,” Calvin told Cleo as he joined her at the breakfast table.
She sat cross-legged in her chair in front of a bowl of corn flakes. She didn’t meet his eyes. The sun through the windows stroked her cheek with a soft finger of light.
“Did you try to come in?” he asked.
As soon as he sat beside his sister, Calvin felt a knot inside his chest uncurl. Cleo’s quietness always had a calming effect on him, and he loved it. He swore he was a better listener if she was in the room. Still, all her good effects aside, he wished she’d hunch and let him feel taller every now and then.
Cleo tugged the cuff of her pajama pants and didn’t answer him.
When they were both little, sneaking into his room had happened frequently. Their mother had always kept herself busy with her garden, housework, and cooking. When hugs and kisses did come from her, they arrived in fits and bursts. Up to the age of ten, when Cleo was worried or lonely, she’d crawl into the seat beside Calvin and take his hand. At night, she’d crawl into his bed, wordless, just needing to hear his breathing.
It stopped forever on their tenth birthday. Calvin’s friends had teased him that his sister was his girlfriend. As soon as the guests left, Calvin explained over a table covered in cake crumbs that the displays of affection had to stop.
His timing could not have been worse. Only two months later, their mom called the police on Martin, and if Calvin hadn’t been a fiercely proud ten-year-old, he would have gone back on his rule and hugged Cleo. But his stubborn will forced him to let her cry alone, believing it would make her stronger. He was never teased again at school.
Calvin said, “An old house makes a lot of noises at night.”
Cleo nodded, still not looking at him.
He added, “I think they sound like voices trying to whisper secrets.”
She rubbed her eye. “I had another nightmare about Dad, and the night noises didn’t help. I went into your room just to know you were okay and that I really was dreaming.”
“He’s not coming back,” Calvin said. He was assuring her as well as himself.
“Everyone says that,” Cleo agreed. Her fingers dragged her locket along its chain. “But part of me really wants to believe we’re important enough to him that he’d want to come back.”
“And what would he do then, Cleo? Isn’t imagining his return giving you the nightmares?”
She stirred her spoon along the edge of her bowl. “I’m a mess. What can I say? I’m not sure I’ll ever feel safe anywhere. Not even way out here.”
“You’re not a mess.”
“We’re broken, Cal. We’re going to have family issues, just like Mom and Dad, just like our grandfather. It’s probably hereditary.”
Calvin bit his tongue. Now wasn’t the time to argue. Sometimes he wished he could just steal a glance of himself and Cleo years from now as healthy, functional adults who’d overcome the effects of their childhood. A future like that would be something to strive toward.
He changed the subject. “Is cereal our only breakfast option?”
Cleo nodded. “Mrs. Seabrook left a note on the chalkboard. She’s out running errands.”
“So we have the house to ourselves?”
“Don’t sound so excited.”
“That woman has eagle eyes. I’m more comfortable when she’s gone.”
Cleo lifted her spoon to her lips. A knock on the front door rattled the front windows. “Who’s that?”
“I’ll check before I let them in,” Calvin said as he loped down the hall.
Through the tall narrow pane of glass beside the front door, he saw a girl his age wearing flip-flop sandals, jean shorts, and a shamrock-green tank top. She swept sunglasses off her face and clipped them to the fabric of her neckline, then smiled and waved.
Tingles poured down Calvin’s back as he turned the door handle.
“Who is it?” Cleo called.
“Hi.” The girl offered a handshake.
Calvin smelled lavender perfume.
“My name’s Natalie Hathaway,” the girl said.
Her hand was smooth and cool as silk. She had a white flower tucked into a side pocket of her shorts.
“I’m your neighbor on the property next door. I heard there were some humans my age who just moved into Humboldt Manor, and I thought I’d come say hello.”
She lifted a towel-draped bundle from the steps and flipped back the cloth to uncover a lattice crust pie. Dark cherry juice oozed against golden pastry.
“It’s nothing fancy, but I wanted you guys to feel welcome.” Natalie craned her neck to peer past Calvin. He realized his eyes had lingered a little too long near her sunglasses. Her tank top strap slid to reveal a darker patch of skin, a circular birthmark. Calvin blinked himself back to reality.
“Is that your sister?” Natalie asked.
“Uh, yeah.” Calvin turned to see Cleo inching her way down the hall, a furrowed line deepening across her forehead. “So you’ve already heard about our arrival? News sure travels fast around here.”
Natalie laughed. It was low, like a jazz queen diva. “Small towns. What can you do?” She waved to Cleo. “Hi. I’m your neighbor, Natalie. I brought you a welcome pie.”
Cleo smiled, but Calvin recognized forced courtesy.
“Thanks.” His sister accepted the pie.
“If you want someone to show you around,” Natalie wriggled her toes, as if rippling with energy, “just let me know. My family has had permission for a long time to walk in the woods behind this house. I can take you for a hike, show you around town, and give you the low-down on all the bustling activity of vacation towns.” She winked at Calvin.
The tingles on his back transmuted to drops of pleasant sweat.
“You’re both practically celebrities, being relatives of Percy Humboldt and—” Natalie broke off. She scuffed a flip-flop against the porch. “Sorry. It’s just there’s so much Percy Humboldt mythology in these parts, I guess I just get nervous in the presence of…well… anyway, I’m sure you get people acting like this all the time.”
Calvin was about to assure Natalie that everything was okay, but Cleo spoke first:
“Actually we don’t know what’s going on. Our grandfather was apparently famous, maybe infamous, and he ran a business here, but we haven’t got much more info—”
“At least not from the housekeeper,” Calvin cut in.
“Maybe it’s something we’re better off not knowing,” Cleo said in her superstitious voice.
Natalie smirked. “I guess that depends on how prudish you are about knowing the future. Percy Humboldt was a great and powerful man.” She stared at Calvin, her eyes sharp like drill bits.
A delicious chill curled around his stomach.
“You know, you look just like him?” she added.
Calvin felt Cleo stiffen beside him. As much as he didn’t want to say goodbye to Natalie, he realized the need to separate the two females.
Natalie caught the vibe, too. “You’re both still settling in, so I won’t hassle you. I’ll be taking a walk in the forest after lunch, so if you want to come along, just go out into the field by the lily pond. I’ll see you and swing by.” She took a step back and smiled again. “It was nice to meet you, Calvin and Cleo.”
She ambled away, unhurried and confident like a deer in the sunshine. Calvin wanted to shout after her, “What time should I meet you?” but couldn’t bring himself to say it in front of Cleo.
His sister shoved the door closed with a sharp clup.
“Smell this,” she said, shoving the pie under Calvin’s nose. “It’s store-bought. She wrapped it in a dish towel to hide the truth.”
He sniffed it, and his mouth watered. “There’s nothing wrong with store-bought pies, Cleo.”
“Maybe it’s that I just don’t trust people who cover up facts with deceitful facades.”
“Okay, I think it’s time for your shower.”
Cleo checked the window to make sure Natalie had vacated the premises, then sighed. She sniffed her armpit. “On that point, we’re entirely agreed.”