The Stone of Shadows

The Stone of Shadows
Print: 978-0-9893157-0-8 Ebook: 0-9893157-1-1

Trouble comes this day….

When Thia McDaniel’s great aunt Lettie sends her a polished crystal sphere and tells her to protect it at all costs, naturally she has some concerns…about the elderly woman’s sanity.

What else is she to think? Lettie is convinced the innocuous stone holds an otherworldly power which dangerous people will stop at nothing to get.

Unfortunately, Lettie is perfectly sane, and Thia finds herself caught up in a world beyond her imagining. A world of myth and magic, where a secret society seems to hold all the answers, an ancient sorcerer wants her dead, and an enigmatic charmer is either the last man she should trust—or the only one she can.


Where to Buy

Print

Since this is set up as a “Print on Demand” book, the chances of it being in a physical store are slim to none—but your local store should be able to order it for you, either through their usual supply system or (if they are an independent retailer) through IndieBound.

Ebook


What People Are Saying

Not much, since editorial reviews and small press/self-published books are an increasingly difficult pairing. Here are links to all the reviews found to date: Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Goodreads.

If you have read and enjoyed it, a rating (or, better yet, a brief review) on any of the online sales sites—and/or, if you’re a member, on the book’s page on Goodreads—would be very helpful. Thank you.


Excerpts

From Chapter One: HERE

From Chapter Three:

Thia stared, dumbfounded, at the scattered boxes scattered all over the sidewalk. Madame Demetka made a sound of dismay and flew into action, clapping her heavily ringed hands at a growing crowd of pedestrians. 

“Everyone, everyone,” she cried, gesturing wildly, her kaftan sleeves flapping like the wings of an angry swan. “The boxes! Please now to get the boxes!”

“No, it’s okay,” Thia protested as people, some looking quite dazed, moved to retrieve the fallen shipment. No one paid her any attention. “Please, don’t trouble yourselves. I can—”

“That one! That one!” Pointing here, whirling to point there, Madame Demetka wove through the crowd like a tempest of silk and velvet. “No, not yet—you in the sport hat, take that one! Yes, yes, yes. No, the other!” 

Thia murmured quiet thanks as the mountain was rebuilt in her arms.

When all was done, Madame Demetka bellowed, “Many, many thanks! Many blessings!” to the hastily departing crowd and then, for Thia, lowered her voice…slightly. “My sorrow is great. Miri mora, please, you must tell me nothing has broke.”

She seemed so distraught, Thia would have said everything was fine even if it were not. But, considering she had packed everything to withstand use in a football game, she said with confidence, “It’s all fine. Thank you.” She moved to go. “I’ll see you when I get back, okay?”

“No, no, sweeting—I must talk with you now.” Madame Demetka reached out a restraining hand, only to pull it back with an understanding nod at Thia’s flinch, and instead took a step closer to say in an amazingly loud whisper, “My guides tell me there will be trouble for you. Trouble this day. Very clearly this comes through.”

Thia smiled. “Trouble, like dropping boxes?”

“You joke, but they do not. Not this time. Oh, maw!” Her hands fluttered in irritation. “They will not tell me more. Not here, they say. I will ask for more details, and meantime, you will be careful. Promise this.”

“Of course,” Thia agreed easily, figuring that after so many years in Los Angeles, she was always careful. Well, careful enough. Granite Springs was a safe town. Quite odd at times but safe.

Madame Demetka leaned in even closer, her face only inches away. Too close. The scent of patchouli was dizzying, while the woman’s features distorted so that all Thia could see were big, dark eyes. Bottomless pools. She had heard that description before but never fully understood until now. Thia needed to step back, to create some space, but couldn’t seem to move. She felt really strange. A bit nauseous. Light-headed. Was she about to faint? Please, no. She’d drop the boxes again.

Madame Demetka blinked, and Thia felt herself snap out of…whatever she had snapped into. Although she did still feel a little weird. Shaken. “Did something—” 

“Wait one moment.” Raising her hands, Madame Demetka tilted her face toward the sky and closed her eyes. A sudden wind blew through the liquid amber trees that lined the sidewalk. Red and orange leaves trembled noisily overhead, some blowing loose, and Thia ducked her face against the boxes. Several leaves slapped against her head on their way by. 

“Answer they do not,” Madame Demetka said as the wind died down.

Thia lifted her head. “Your guides?”

Madame Demetka nodded gravely. “We will both think on this, you and I, until they do.”

“Sure, of course.” Thia had no idea what the woman was talking about. She turned to go. “See you later.”

“You will be careful,” Madame Demetka called after her. “Trouble comes this day. Trouble in shadow and storm. No lie, this. Be wary! Be wary of the bird!” 

What in the world? Frowning, Thia turned back, but Madame Demetka was already darting up the street in the opposite direction, fabric snapping around her like colorful flames. No wonder her readings were in such demand. She had a true gift for the theatric. 

But, really, what was that about? Thia didn’t know whether to be amused or concerned. She supposed she could sort it out later—after Madame Demetka had consulted her “guides” or whatever it was she really did. According to the invoices in Lettie’s office, her legal name was Sally Wilson, so there was no telling where the line between truth and fiction lay.

Three blocks later, after shoving and bobbling past the post office’s tight-hinged exterior doors, Thia was still pondering that—and what to make of that whole episode. None of it made any sense. She pushed through the service area’s equally tight-hinged doors to go straight for the unattended counter. She managed to get the whole tower of boxes onto it without incident. Things were looking up.

“Hey, Dave,” she called as the postmaster stepped out of the back office, a bundle of envelopes in hand.

“Thia.” His heavy, white beard split in a grin, and he gave a nod to the boxes. “Web business doing good, huh?”

“It is, thanks,” she replied, matching his grin with her own. There was something infectious about his good humor. “And thanks for that advice on the delivery options. We’ve already seen a pick up in sales.” 

“Glad to help—even if it makes my job harder,” he joked, the merry twinkle in his eyes giving no doubt as to why he was said to be a shoo-in for the role of Santa in the town’s Holiday Parade.

She watched as he typed on his computer. “How was your vacation?”

“Cold,” he answered with a chuckle. “We were in the north of Finland for most of it. Peg has family there. Now”—he reached for the topmost box—”what have we here?” 

Packages were weighed; routine security questions, asked and answered; stamps, printed and affixed. An efficient ten minutes later, Dave handed over a pile of tracking slips and transferred the boxes to a waiting pushcart. 

“See you tomorrow,” Thia told him and, stuffing the slips into her pocket, turned to go. 

He stopped her with a wave. “Not so fast—I got something for you. Came in this morning. I’ll just be a sec.” He took the cart with him when he went, disappearing into the silent back of the building.

Thia tried to think what the “something” could be or why it wouldn’t have gone to Eclectica along with the rest of the midmorning delivery. To make life easier, she and Lettie had all mail directed there, personal and otherwise. 

Trouble comes this day.

“Here you go,” Dave said, returning. He held a small, square box wrapped in brown paper and coated with enough tape so as to be entirely waterproof. Thia didn’t need to see the British stamps and words “Royal Mail,” to identify the sender. Only one person had a more paranoid hand with tape than she did. 

“Funny she sent it here, isn’t it?” Dave passed Thia the box and then, saying something about seeing her tomorrow, went back to his office. 

“Thanks, again.” She looked at the box in her hands. Heavier than she’d expected for something so small. She gave it a little shake by her ear. Nothing rattled. She frowned. There, under several layers of glossy tape, was the curious direction, “hold for pickup,” written in Lettie’s elegant hand. 

It was a silly thing to wonder about, especially when Thia could simply ask her about it later.   

On the way back to Eclectica, she turned her imagination toward a more intriguing subject—namely, what might be in the box. She didn’t doubt it was a gift of some sort; Lettie typically gave her some sort of trinket from her buying trips. Which was odd really, considering the rest of the family got things like socks and…well, socks. 

It must really be something if Lettie didn’t want to wait to deliver it in person. Thia ran a finger along the thickly taped surface, looking for any potential way in while she waited for traffic to clear at the crossing. But without something sharp, there was no way. 

She waved her thanks to a stopped car as she jogged across the street. 

After a quick trip to her London house in early summer, Lettie had given Thia a small collection of Roman coins and glass beads. Fairly common, she’d said they were, and not fine enough to be of interest to historians, but Thia thought them fascinating.

She pulled open Eclectica’s door to find the sales floor overrun with exuberant teenagers. A school group—possibly two, given the numbers. At this time of year, the Shakespeare Festival attracted at least eight groups a week. Abby, barely visible beyond the cluster at the main counter, spotted Thia and made a dramatic pantomime of relief. The noise level was incredible, with the super-energized students picking up and exclaiming over anything and everything while carrying on conversations regardless of distance. Thia stashed Lettie’s box beneath the counter, shut off the store music that couldn’t be heard anyway, and found herself volunteering to retrieve a porcelain dragon’s original packaging from the stock room. 

Forty unchaperoned teens with time to kill. 

Trouble, indeed.

© R. A. Finley — All Rights Reserved No portion of this text may be reproduced or used without permission