A Skye Full of Stars is, as I type this, in the most capable hands of my beta readers. They are helping me dot all my i's, cross all my t's...and generally making sure I didn't make a mess out of anything. I'm hoping to have it back, polished and perfected and ready for release by the end of this month.
There's a lot about the UK in this book, specifically a two night air raid in a little town called Clydebank not far from Glasgow during World War II. Readers get a better look at who Finlay was, and Noah plays a big part in this sequel. Thank you to all the readers who urged me to write this second book. Alabama Skye, in my head, was always meant to be a stand alone novel. Now, it's become the beginning of a trilogy. For anyone who is wondering...there is another book of the Gannon Family Series coming. Perhaps this time next summer, I will be posting the first chapter of Under a Southern Skye.
So, without any further delay, here is the first chapter of A Skye Full of Stars. The book has two story lines running through it. This is how Noah's begins.
Life was a funny thing. Noah hadn’t spent much time with either one of her parents in the past ten years. Now they were both on their way back to Kelby, and one of them was about to die.
Noah, of course, didn’t know this. She didn’t know that soon she would be seeing both of the people who had brought her into this world, and she certainly had no idea that she would be there when one of them left it.
She ran down Main Street, her sneaker clad feet thudding along the sidewalk and the early morning sun reaching warm fingers of light to dazzle the blonde strands of her pony tail. At the corner she turned left and caught sight of the gray blue waters of the Gulf. She was too busy to think about death, and if someone were to ask her when it was that she last thought of her mom, she would have been hard pressed to come up with an answer.
“Good mornin’,” a rounded man garbed all in white greeted Noah with a friendly dip of his double chin. He wore an apron wrapped around his considerable girth and a smudge of flour across his sweaty cheek. He stood on the sidewalk just outside his shop squinting into the sun with a cigarette pinched between two beefy fingers just as he did every day at this time. Noah nodded back and offered him a smile as she jogged around him.
“How’s the day been treating you?” she asked as she ran past, her blue eyes hidden behind a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses.
“Oh, I can’t complain, but it’s early yet.” Noah almost mouthed the words as the man said them. She’d known what his response would be before she posed the question.
The road stretched out for another block in front of her before it turned into sand and she picked up her pace. None of the souvenir shops were open yet, although there were bright signs in many of the windows advertising discount prices on colorful trinkets, beach towels and refrigerator magnets. Three t-shirts for ten dollars! Genuine abalone shell necklaces! Sunscreen, buy one get one free! Unwieldy plastic shapes stared out at her from behind big plate glass windows; floats and water toys painted to resemble round eyed dolphins and big polka dotted doughnuts. There were coolers and umbrellas in all the colors of the rainbow, and swim trunks with garish palm trees and other loud tropical prints splashed over them. The bikinis were over-priced considering how little fabric was used to make them. Noah smirked as she ran by. She’d spent quite a bit of hard earned cash on a handful of similar suits over the years. It was true what some people said; sometimes less is more.
She brought a bottle to her lips and filled her mouth with cool water. The sun was a brilliant shade of gold without a single cloud in sight. Her feet carried her closer to Pelican Square, and the sun glinted off of the chrome that shaped a number of the boats bobbing in the marina. From the window of a parked car floated enough of a discernable weather forecast to assure Noah that the perfect early morning would give way to a perfect afternoon and evening. Another day in paradise.
Noah swallowed more water before forcing her body even harder. It would be in the mid-sixties by noon. The temp now was a bit cooler than that, and the air was moist with humidity that made errant wisps of hair curl coyly around her flushed face.
Foil ribbons danced from a doorway of a novelty shop up ahead, the long tendrils of shiny purple, green and gold fluttered in the sea breeze as she ran past. Fat Tuesday, not even a week gone, was still evident on the streets in the heart of the business district. Kelby, a small town on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, was just a little more than fifty miles southeast of Mobile, the original home of Mardi Gras. The Big Easy liked to claim the world’s largest Carnival celebration, but true Alabamians knew the French had brought the tradition with them to their great state fifteen years before New Orleans was even a spot on the map.
Noah glimpsed more proof of the weeks’ long celebration in the remnants of crepe paper streamers bunched up in the boughs of the redbud trees that lined the oceanfront street. The branches were still bare except for the gaily colored paper they wore like gaudy rings on their finger like limbs. The trees looked as if they’d had a few wild nights and Noah’s mouth quirked in silent empathy. She’d done her own fair share of partying from the third weekend of February straight into the first dozen days of the new month. There was never a shortage of places to visit packed full of enthusiastic revelers, both tourists and those native to the area. Most people who came to the beach were looking for a good time. Throw Mardi Gras into the mix and things could get downright wild.
Her mind drifted as she ran, thinking about Hurricane drinks the shade of passion flowers mixed with rum, fruit juice and grenadine garnished with sweet cherries. Of course nothing compared to the Bushwackers her best friend Greer liked to make. She’d gotten the recipe from her grandmother, Sarah, who everyone knew in the town of Kelby, and in the city of Mobile where she’d been born, to be a true Bay Lady. Bay Ladies, along with their many other talents, were capable of throwing memorable get-togethers complete with tables weighted down with plates of barbecued pork and beef, dirty rice, potato salad and fruit filled pies topped off with an abundance of sweet southern hospitality. Sarah had been famous for her Bushwackers, and always mixed them in the blender with ice cream and Kahlúa. Later in life, Sarah came to the conclusion that she could still be a respected lady even if she chose not to string her pearls around her neck everywhere she went. In her opinion, it was more advantageous knowing how to mix a good stiff drink than it was remembering to show up at a tea party with clean, white gloves. After all, there isn’t a single soul alive who doesn’t appreciate a well-mixed drink, and handling a tumbler full of bourbon was a heck of a lot easier with bare hands.
Greer definitely had a talent for mixing drinks, but she was also one hell of a good cook, and every delectable little thing she created always threatened to add inches to Noah’s svelte frame. It never failed. No matter what other thoughts filled Noah’s head, and she thought about a great many things, she eventually came back to food. All the pies, cakes and cookies Greer baked and brought to fill the case in the store next to Noah’s were hard not to overindulge in on a normal day. When the calendar brought about any sort of holiday, the temptation to eat was tenfold. As if the king cakes, with their iced dough braided and baked with cinnamon and sprinkled with colored sugar weren’t enough during Carnival, there was the chicken and sausage gumbo, the oyster po’boys and the hush puppies. Oh, Lord, the hush puppies.
“Damn it,” she cursed Greer, although her friend wasn’t there to hear her. As she set her sights for the marina her stomach growled and she felt a spring of hunger pop up beneath the tank top she wore. Just like yesterday, she’d run an extra mile this morning so she could treat herself to whatever fattening collection of desserts Greer would deliver in another couple of hours. She’d have to if she still had any hope of fastening the top button of her jeans. She would scold Greer for making it difficult to keep the body she’d been proud of since puberty hit fifteen years prior, right before she ate whatever confection taunted her from behind the glass display. Greer would smile at her, say nothing, and the two of them would then do the exact same thing tomorrow. Some things never changed.
Noah took a deep breath as the scenery around her bounced in time to her plodding feet. Life was good, she thought. Actually, she corrected herself with a bob of her pony tail, life was better than good. It was fantastic. As amazing as it all was, though, Noah found herself wondering when it had gotten to be so predictable.
The trapped air rushed out of her lungs and she could feel the burn start in the muscles of her quads. Sometimes in the midst of all the wonderful she found herself wishing for something more. She’d never been good at listening to those who told her she should be careful about what she wished for. This time, as she ran down the street with the ocean rushing up over the sand on her left, and the shop keepers opening their doors for another day of business on her right, she silently gave herself this oft spoken piece of advice. Predictably, however, she didn’t listen to it this time, either.