And now, a special sneak peak at Falling From Grace
In a sparkling city of canals and magic, there is a prince named Victor. He is married to a strong headed princess, and they have two daughters who are the center of their world. Together they have fought monsters and men, and changed the course of their country, Septa, forever.
But before Victor was a prince, he was a common man. And he loved another, a girl named Grace. This is her story.
Thirteen years ago
The night was black, the wind slicing cold. At a little house near the woods where creatures crept, scratched and howled, a girl sat in front of the door. She was barefoot, wrapped in a quilt, shivering. But she had to get out of the house for as long as she could stand the cold. The darkness and smell inside were too much for her.
Ma was coughing again, and sobbing. The sobs were so loud that Grace could hear them over the wind. A moment later they were stifled, and Grace could hear Yulia, the village’s other healer, talking. The wind was too harsh for her to hear her words.
Until she called for Grace. Grace swirled around and pulled the door open. The wind caught it and tried to drag it out of her hands. She had to use all of her strength to close it.
“Come and help me,” Yulia cried. Grace’s ma was jerking in the bed, her body twisting and convulsing. Her Da, lying next to her was still during this fit, ghastly still.
“Come here!” Yulia called again. Grace ran to the bed. The two of them turned Ma to the side, as flecks of spittle flew from the woman’s mouth.
Finally, she was still. Her chest rose and fell, and her breath was labored. But at least the terrible seizing was finished. “Good, good girl,” Yulia said. “Do not be running outside again. Get yourself to bed.”
“But, but Da,” Grace whispered. “There is no helping him now. I will move him out of your ma’s bed, but you are not strong enough to help with that. Now off to bed with you.”
Grace retreated to her bed, and fell on it. Her da was dead. What would she and her ma do without him? She settled into her blankets, and tried to do as she’d been told. But she just couldn’t close her eyes.
Eventually she dozed, as Yulia stoked the fire. Grace was never sure how long she slept, when she was woken someone walking past the foot of her bed.
She sat up, startled. It was Yulia, but she had her cloak on. And she was holding Grace’s ma’s book. The book of medicines and herb lore that had been her own ma’s legacy. It was black and leather bound. When it was closed, her ma tied it with a red ribbon. This now was missing. “What are you doing, Mistress Yulia?” Grace asked. “Rochelle next door is having her baby. I must go attend to her,” Yulia said, and turned to go with the book.
“Wait, but what about Ma?” she asked, struggling to get out of bed. “Yulia, what about my ma?” But Yulia was gone already. And a single glance towards the big bed showed Grace that there was nothing more she could have done for her ma anyway. Both of her parents lay still, their chests not rising.
And just like that, Grace was all alone. She thought at first that surely Yulia would return to help her, to tell her what to do. But she didn’t.
The fire was low, its warmth and light fading fast. Grace hurried to the wood pile next to the fireplace, and began feeding it logs. There weren’t many, and Grace prayed the few remaining would last her until dawn. With her parents now only husks that had been people, the thought of darkness was too much. She tried to think of good memories of her parents. There were many to choose from. But right then, she could only be aware of the ghastly lumps tucked into their bed. Grace huddled close to the fire and waited for Yulia to come back with her ma’s book.
She was still there, alone, when the sun came up.
The next day men came to take away her parents. One of them was Calvin, Rochelle’s man. He was also the da of May, June and Morgan, three little ones that Rochelle had occasionally asked Grace to help with in exchange for a few eggs or vegetables from her garden. He looked haggard, but was the only man to spare her any attention. “Little girl, are you hungry?” he asked.
“I, I do not know,” she whispered. He gave her a gentle smile. “Maybe you can come and help with the children while Rochelle heals? We do not have much to spare, but I will see that you have something for your help.”
“Thank you,” Grace said softly. “Did she have her baby?” Calvin’s face darkened. “I am afraid it was still born. The Sky did not smile on this village last night.”
A boy came in to the house a few moments later, Calvin’s little brother Victor. He was only a year older than Grace. “Calvin, Rochelle is missing. I cannot find her. Morgan is crying for her, I do not know where she could have gone.”
“Ah, damnation,” Calvin muttered. “Victor, do you know Grace? Maybe she can help you look after the little ones while I go and find that fool woman.”
Victor looked over Grace, her hair a mess and her dress stained. “Please, if you do not mind,” he said. “I do not know what to do with babies.”
“I can help, yes,” Grace said. “I will be happy to help you, Victor.”