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Windsinger

Windsinger

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Windsinger

Length:
247 pages
3 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Oct 21, 2019
ISBN:
9780463402177
Format:
Book

Description

Cecy is a “Twixter," the half-human offspring of an Air Elemental, who doesn't always fit in with the rest of our world. In addition to her magical heritage, Cecy bears another gift, one which will lead her to Brad, a scientist who is studying a very strange phenomenon – one that might signal a far deeper problem and a danger to life as we know it. Together, they stumble upon a mystery that affects them both, and discover that playing it safe means nothing when love is Elemental and desire is in the air.

Publisher:
Released:
Oct 21, 2019
ISBN:
9780463402177
Format:
Book

About the author

Britt DeLaney lives and writes near Philadelphia. In her spare time she watches too much Netflix, eats too many Pop-Tarts, and is currently writing her ass off.


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Windsinger - Britt DeLaney

Mr. Nelson

He watched her with the old man.

Most of the time she sat quietly, holding the man's gnarled hand. From the curl of his fingers inward, and the way the veins stood out in stark relief against skin that was near-translucent, it was clear the man was close to death.

The girl had come by nearly every day. At first, Brad thought she may have been a relative. A grandchild, perhaps. When Brad visited again later in the week, he saw her in a different room at first and then noticed the name tag pinned to her sundress. It was possible she was a volunteer, since she wasn't in uniform.

She'd spent more time with the old man than anyone. The tag on the door said simply, Nelson and she'd sat with Mr. Nelson in watchful silence, always with patience and a smile playing about her lips. He'd never come to consciousness, not in all the time Brad had been visiting.

He found himself leaning forward in his chair, trying to get a better view as the girl's face suddenly became shuttered. Her eyes closed, and she took a deep breath in, letting it out slowly as she pushed herself to her feet. Her golden-blonde hair fell forward as she bent over the old man. Her eyes stayed closed and Brad watched, spellbound.

She tucked her hair back behind her ear, leaning even closer, and then Brad saw the man buck, his back arching slightly. The girl placed her hands on his shoulders, and then in an action so bizarre that Brad found himself looking on in a horrified fascination, her lips almost seemed to brush the old man's softly as she hovered there.

She stepped back hastily as alarms began to go off on the machines by his bedside, and when help arrived she gave a gentle nod as the nurse grabbed his chart from the foot of the bed and checked his vitals.

He has a DNR, the nurse said, placing the chart back with an efficient snap, does he have any family?

No, the girl replied, shaking her head. Not anymore. He lost his wife eleven years ago, and he has no living children.

The nurse left to summon an orderly to remove the body, and Brad watched as the girl gently folded the man's hands across his chest.

Fair winds, he heard her say softly. And thank you.

She turned to leave, and for a brief moment, they locked eyes. Hers widened slightly as she realized he'd been watching, and then she forced a smile and hastily looked away. Brad finally found himself able to move and his feet propelled him forward to the door, where he stood with his hands on the doorframe, watching her walk away.

What the hell had she been doing?

Her actions had bordered on the obscene, considering the situation, yet she had an aura of reverence about her. Was it some kind of weird custom?

She was just about to turn the corner, and strangely, she paused a moment to look back at him. He stood frozen, and was just about to step through the doorway when she continued on, and out of sight.

"Jacob?'

Brad turned at the sound of his grandmother's voice behind him.

No, Nana. It's me…Brad.

Hurry! she whispered fiercely.

Nana. Brad moved back to her side as her eyes, wide and fearful, focused on the wall behind him. He reached out for her hand and she threw his hand off, shouting loudly.

Help! Help me!

The nurse, who had just left Mr. Nelson's room, leaned in the doorway.

Is everything all right? she asked.

Help! Help!

Brad's grandmother was trying to sit up now, and the nurse signalled another orderly from the doorway before crossing the room to check her chart.

Mrs. Wilder? The nurse raised her voice. It's almost time for your medication. I'm going to go ahead and give it to you now, okay?

No! Brad's grandmother turned her head in panic, reaching out and grabbing his arm. Bradbury?

Yes, Nana, that's right. I'm Brad.

Don't let them. Don't let them!

Brad's eyes met the eyes of the nurse, who then looked past him to the orderly, who'd just entered the room.

It's time for some medicine, Nana, he said in a low, soothing voice.

She shook her head wildly as the orderly gently held her still, and the nurse quickly administered the sedative into the IV line in her arm.

Nana's eyes filled with tears, and her lips moved feebly as she tried to speak. The medicine worked quickly, and her eyes glazed over as she slumped back down.

Has she been having a lot of these episodes? The nurse asked.

Brad ran a hand through his hair. That's the most she's said in three weeks.

That's common for late-stage dementia, she said gently. Eventually, she'll lose the ability to speak at all, but the aggression will disappear, too.

Brad nodded, reaching out and taking his grandmother's limp hand.

I just hate seeing her like this. She's always been so full of life.

It's a terrible disease, the nurse said, not unkindly. It's never easy to watch.

She tossed the empty syringe into the sharps disposal on the wall. I'll be back to check on her once I fill out Mr. Nelson's paperwork, she said.

Was that his granddaughter? Brad asked. The girl that was sitting with him?

The nurse shook her head. She's no relation. Mr. Nelson didn't have any family. She's one of our volunteers.

She seems very…caring, he replied.

She's made it a personal mission that no one dies alone. Some people are just big-hearted like that. The nurse peeled off her latex gloves, tossing them in the garbage can.

What's her name? Brad asked. At the nurse's curious look he added, She's been really good to my grandmother.

Cecy, the nurse said with a smile. Her name is Cecy.

Chapter 2

Cecy

Cecy paused at the top of the stack of rocks, smiling as the sound of harsh breathing echoed in the darkness.

I know you're there, Sami.

How? The girl's voice came out the darkness. I was so quiet!

"I can hear you breathing. And you're dislodging rocks right and left. Are you sure you're a Twixter?" Cecy's lips twitched with mirth, but she wasn't going to embarrass the girl by laughing out loud.

I'm getting better, right? Sami asked as she pulled herself up on the rocks next to Cecy.

You are, Cecy agreed. You had to have been following me from the park entrance, and I just now caught onto you.

I've been following you since before that, Sami said proudly. And I was keeping up.

Cecy looked down at the younger girl fondly. Does your mother know you're out here?

No. She's asleep. She never heard me leave – of course. Sami looked around, surveying the territory.

You can't keep running out like this, Sami, Cecy cautioned. Sooner or later, she's going to catch you. And how will you explain?

You could meet her and talk to her, Sami suggested. Maybe she'd believe you if you told her the truth.

And the council would tear me to pieces and scatter me on the breeze, Cecy laughed. You're going to have to be much more circumspect. I'm already risking a lot just for having told you what you were before you reached your maturity.

Sami made a mutinous face. "I am mature."

Of course you are, Cecy said placatingly. But it's not up to me to write the laws. We could both be in a lot of trouble if it came to light.

Fifteen months, Sami grumbled. Fifteen lousy months.

You'll still have to live with your mother until you're eighteen, to maintain the human customs, Cecy pointed out. So don't think just because you've met the requirement of four and four that you'll be allowed to move out. Appearances must be kept up.

They climbed for a while in silence, Cecy skipping and dancing across the rocks as Sami followed, making a real effort at being more light-footed. Cecy paused for a moment on a vista, stepping out to the edge and surveying before spying a higher peak and heading for it. Sami fell into step beside her.

So…where are we going, exactly?

Higher.

I figured that much out. Sami tottered a bit on a cluster of rocks before slipping and going down on one knee.

Sami! Cecy turned around, rushing back to her.

I'm okay, I'm okay, Sami said in disgust. She slapped the dirt out of the knee of her jeans. I just can't tiptoe across the tops of them like you do.

The shoes get in the way, Cecy said, pointing down at Sami's sneakers.

I am not running over hot, jagged rocks barefoot, Sami said. I may be half-magic but I'm not stupid."

You need to stop thinking of the ground, Cecy said. Think only of the air. If you let it lift you, the ground becomes meaningless.

Meaningless. Sami gave her a deadpan look. Well, I'm not ready to risk cutting my feet on the meaningless ground yet, so I'll just stay in some shoes with some traction until I get used to this stuff, if you don't mind.

I could never mind having you along, Cecy said. But you do still have a lot to learn.

And you're going to teach me. So it's all good.

Sami scrambled up an incline full of loose soil and rock, half-sliding as she went until she skirted around and found some sturdier rocks to climb over.

Is there a meteor shower tonight? she called out.

No. You'd feel it if there was, Cecy said turning around to give Sami a pointed look. You're not old enough for one, anyway.

Sami made a face. I'm not a kid.

You're a newling. Until you reach your four and four, you are sheltered. It isn't good to grow up too fast.

Cecy pulled herself up to the very top of the rise, pulling her fingers through her hair as she waited for Sami to catch up.

So…do you have a song? Sami panted eagerly.

Yes.

Is it good?

They're all good, Cecy said. But this one…oh, the heartache. The love.

There's love?

Cecy nodded. Deep and abiding love – such a rare thing. And he was in the army – in combat.

A soldier! They have such good stories! Sami couldn't hide her excitement.

I'll let you stay if you promise to be quiet. We mustn't call attention, Cecy warned.

I'll be quiet. Promise. Sami crossed her heart, and then wiped the sheen of sweat from her brow.

Cecy pointed up to the outcropping above them. I'm going up there. If you can't keep up, just call out. I'll wait for you.

I can keep up, Sami assured her, and with a nod, Cecy began to climb again, her feet dancing across the rocks as she darted this way, then that, leaping impossible crevices and balancing on her toes on tilting rocks.

At last they reached the top, and to her credit, Sami kept up the entire way, though she was still breathing hard.

Be still, Sami, Cecy said, reaching out and putting a hand gently to the space where her ribs met her belly. Just let the air fill you. You're trying too hard.

Sami closed her eyes, breathing slowly in.

Feel it, Cecy said, pressing in lightly with her fingertips. Here. Then let it fill you up. Imagine it swirling around you, lifting you as you walk or run.

Sami nodded, then opened her eyes and took a few skipping steps.

Hey! That does help!

It'll be second nature, eventually, Cecy said. Come on, you get a front row seat.

Cecy lowered herself gracefully, sinking down onto the rocks with her legs crossed before her. Sami scrambled down next to her, looking up at her with shining eyes.

This is going to be a good one, Sami said. I can feel it.

Cecy took a moment, cleared her mind, and felt the wind dance against her skin, pulling at her, tickling her nostrils. She opened herself to it, breathed it in, feeling it swell inside her.

She parted her lips, and she began to sing into the cool, dark night.

And the stars looked down in wonder.

Chapter 3

In The Desert

Jesus, is it hot today!

Brad looked up from his iPad. What part of 'desert' were you unclear on?

The young woman rolled her eyes and took a long pull from her water bottle. I guess I thought my internship would involve a little more desk work, is all, she complained.

You're a seismologist, Jen, Brad pointed out. That doesn't come with a lot of desk. And on top of that, you're in intern. You start out with the grunt work, and for now, that means calibrating equipment.

Yes, sir, boss, Jen said with a sarcastic salute. What do you want to do with this one?

Brad reached down into his pack, pulling out his bandana and giving his forehead a swipe before tying it loosely around his neck.

The sensor's shot, he said, studying the data once again. You tried adjusting the calibration coil?

Twice, Jen replied. It's not budging.

Brad looked down at the iPad again, shaking his head. These readings are all over the place. Like there's no pattern to them. It's crazy.

We looking at an event in the making? Jen suddenly looked a lot less tired and a lot more interested.

Doubtful. We did have that big storm roll through here a few weeks ago, and the barometric pressure is dropping again.

The pressure shouldn't affect a standard strainmeter, Jen pointed out. What about up on the ridge – where the inertial is?

Well, Brad looked up towards the canyon rim, If we're going with the digital signal, we need to decide if we're going high-pass, band-pass or low-pass. How do we determine that?

Uh… Jen chewed her lip. The type of ground motion?

Specifically…?

Displacement, velocity, variation.

Good. And in this case, again, we're all over the place. Brad looked over as Jen finished the last of her water. Look, why don't you head back to the institute? Run the data from today and import it into those spreadsheets I was working on this morning, okay?

You sure?

Yeah, I've got a couple more hours out here, easy, but we need to get a jump on those comparison studies.

Jen glanced up at the sky. I don't think you'll get a few hours, she said. Those clouds will be rolling in soon enough. She pointed off to the west, where things were looking decidedly dimmer.

Brad set his hand over his eyes and shook his head. Mostly bluster. It'll blow right by most likely. They're not calling for rain anytime in the next month.

Whatever you say, boss, she gave him a smile and shoved her empty water bottle down into the pack at her feet. I'll take this one with me. She reached down and grabbed the strainmeter. You want a ride back to your car?

It's okay. I'll hike out.

Jen rolled her

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