“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.”

Author Bio:

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.
Author Links:

Find the Book:
Amazon : amzn.to/1uYoAxK
Barnes & Noble: bit.ly/1wolB4h

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19192975-forecast

Get your copy of The Lost Eyes, the prequel to Forecast for just 99 cents!

Peru, 1889. A strange archaeological discovery and a spirited local girl draw amateur explorer Tobias Randolf into an adventure that will drag him into a legacy of magic and seeing the future.

A quest in the vein of Indiana Jones filled with intrigue, romance, ancient ruins, and a race against time.

Amazon: amzn.to/1q30x2e
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-lost-eyes-elise-stephens/1120182809?ean=294015053664

Brief Summary:

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.

September 1 – The World As I See It – Review & Excerpt

September 2 – Tea Party Princess – Review

September 3 – The Book Referees – Review

September 4 – Ski-Wee’s Book Corner – Excerpt

September 4 – Chick Lit Plus – Review

September 5 – Keep Calm and Blog On – Excerpt

September 8 – Authors and Readers Book Corner – Review

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