I promised, and now, it’s time to deliver. When I started to cut things from A Heart of Salt & Silver, I saved them all in a separate document. Some things were made redundant by later scenes. Others were eliminated completely because they no longer fit with character personalities.
This scene still fit with the character’s personality, but Elias was going to have to tell his story to Ness later. Including this scene and his later conversation with Ness would have been repetitive. It also got cut because Astrid and Alva (Elias’ mother and sister, respectively) don’t feature in the rest of the book outside of his thoughts and memories.
But I can show it to you here and give you a glimpse of his personality and my writing style.
“Elias, could you bring me your sister’s veil?” my mom calls from her bedroom.
“Of course, Mom,” I answer, grateful for something to do.
She and Alva have been locked in there for nearly two hours already, marking up the necessary adjustments to make Mom’s wedding dress fit Alva. They insisted I be present to see it pinned up, but of course, I’m not allowed in the bloody room until they’re done.
I’ve already tidied up, hauled in everything I could pick from the garden, and split some wood for the fireplace. I even stacked it carefully against the cozy, little house I grew up in.
What else am I supposed to do?
The delicate lace veil rests atop my mother’s writing desk, a dangerous spot considering the bottle of ink nearby. The cork sticks out of the top haphazardly, not at all secure. She never quite closes those things right.
Carefully, I lift my sister’s veil from the desk. I reach for the ink bottle, intending to close it properly, but stop mid-reach. Looking around, I search for a spot to place the creamy lace, but find none.
I slide the band over my head.
Perhaps I’ll wear the damn thing into the room with them, get a little laugh.
I grab up the ink bottle, close it, and place it back on the desk. A stray drop, slopped over the side of the rim by the messily placed cork, falls on a letter, apparently written just before I arrived.
“Damn it all,” I whisper.
Reaching down to dab away what I can with my sleeve, my eyes notice the words next to the droplet.
“Dearest Everett,” it begins.
My brows furrow in confusion. Why, after all, would she be writing my father a letter? He’s been dead for 25 years, now.
Though prying isn’t normally my style, my hands lift the letter free of the desk, and my eyes roam the page. Not that it clears anything up. What difference is it going to make, telling him about Alva’s wedding?
He can’t exactly come. The Etherrealm doesn’t typically grant day passes.
The door behind me opens, and my mother gives a great chuckle. “I asked you to bring it here, son, not wear it,” she admonishes with another laugh.
Still holding the letter, I turn to face her. Across the small kitchen, I watch her face fall. “Oh, Gods,” she whispers, hand rising to cover her mouth.
My frown deepens. “Why are you writing to Dad?”
Taking a deep breath, my mother falters beneath my gaze. Her eyes fall to the floor, and sadness overtakes her features, pulling her entire face downward. “I forgot I’d put the veil just there,” she whispers, shaking her head.
Exhaling, she puts her hands on her hips, considering. When she finally meets my gaze, her eyes glisten with tears she won’t let fall. “Come in here. I’ve something to tell you.”
Hands falling to my sides, my mother’s letter dangling uselessly in my grip, I follow.
Stunning in cream satin and lace, Alva stares at us, mouth hanging open, as we enter the room. “What’s wrong?” she begs, dark eyes shining with worry. Blonde hair swept up hastily, bits and strands hang loose about her face.
I shrug and hand her the letter, hoping she can make more sense of it than I have.
“What is this?” she asks, looking to our mother.
Pulling in a shuddering breath, she closes her eyes to fortify herself. “Please, sit down.”
We do, pushing fabric aside, and clearing a spot on the bed. The lace of the veil tugs oddly as I sit, catching between my knees and the edge of the bed. Pulling it off, I offer it to Alva.
“Thanks,” she murmurs reflexively. Her fingers worry at the edges of the lace as we wait.
“Your father,” my mother begins, clearly struggling for words. She paces and turns her back to us. One hand on her hip, she dips her head, using her free hand to wipe tears away. “Oh, please, don’t hate me,” she whispers.
My heart clenches. In an instant, I’m on my feet, pulling her into my arms. “Mom, we’re not going to hate you. Just tell us. We’ll be fine. We’re tough.”
Her ribs expand with a massive breath, and I loosen my arms to accommodate her. The long braid which hangs halfway down her back pulls tight under my arms, so I lift it free.
Bending my knees, I stoop to look her in the eyes. One hand on her face, wet with tears, I say, “Mom, really, we won’t hate you.”
Long lashes sparkling with tears, face red from partial breaths, she nods. “Your father isn’t dead.”
The world around me stops, it must, for nothing outside this room exists, nothing beyond my mother’s face and the words still hanging in the air.
Behind me, Alva asks, “What?”
Yet, I still can’t form a coherent thought. My mind is a blur. Confusion and anger fight a vicious battle in my chest for, if he’s alive, where’s he been all this time? Why would he leave us to fend for ourselves? Why would he leave his children, two and three years old? Why would he leave his wife?
“At least,” Astrid goes on, “I assume he isn’t. Killing him is a rather difficult thing.”
Brows knitting themselves together, I find words, finally, “What do you mean?”
“Come, let’s have some tea. I’ll explain everything.” Then, she amends, “Well, I’ll try.”
We venture to the kitchen, and my sister perches gingerly in one of the chairs at the table, not wanting to dislodge any of the pins they’ve put into place in the dress. My mother begins to put on the kettle, but her hands shake.
Grateful for the activity, I offer to take over, pleading with her to sit.
“You’ve got to know that your father… Everett was, I mean, is a good man.”
He only abandoned his family.
I slam the kettle onto the stone counter a little harder than I intend. Trying to still the rage which boils in my blood, I grit my teeth. Pulling some herbs from the cabinet, I pour some into a little cloth pouch and tie it off. The string nearly rips as I tighten it.
He must have had a good reason to leave us.
I roll my eyes, thankful my back is to my mother. With everything prepared, I venture to the fireplace, careful to keep my expression neutral so she doesn’t assume I’m mad at her.
Setting the kettle by the fire, I sit on the hearth. Eyes closed and chewing away at the inside of my cheek, my temper flares. Every rough winter, all the times Mom had to work her fingers to the bone stitching away to scrape in enough coin for food, every hardship flickers across my eyelids.
All those birthdays, missed. All those nights, Mom was alone. And for what?
Shaking my head, I tap my fingers on the stone.
“Do you know why he left? What makes you think he’s alive?” Alva says, voice weak and small.
Finally opening my eyes, I see my mother shake her head. Bits of sunlight slip through the windows to glisten on the tears that stain her face. “I don’t know why he left. But he was part of the Pack. They don’t die easily.”
“The Pack?” I ask, incredulous. “Are you serious?”
She nods, and my world collapses around me.
“We lived with them, at first. Then, we had you two. The first full moon after your first birthdays, neither of you showed signs of having inherited it, and werewolf children don’t exactly play like normal children,” she says, words tumbling out now that she’s finally resolved to explain.
“Neither of you would have survived, so we moved here. He went back and forth, staying here most of the time, but he had to be there for every full moon, and a few days before and after them.”
Leaning her head forward into her hands, she goes on, “For a week before he left, he acted so strangely. I think it may have just gotten to him, being so far from his Pack, from his Alphas. I don’t know. There were a few others in the Pack that managed just fine living in town…”
My head spins.
Dad’s a werewolf?
He’s a werewolf, and he’s probably alive?
It just… doesn’t seem right. All this time, he’s been in the forest, just…not showing up for his family?
“You two were used to him disappearing for a week or so at a time, and you were so young,” she pauses, drawing the word out. “But two weeks in, a month in, I didn’t know what to say, anymore. It didn’t look like he was coming back. Eventually, after months of telling you over and again that he’d be back soon, after months of you asking when he’d be back every day, I just told you both that he was gone. I didn’t want you to think badly of him. If it was because of what he was, he couldn’t help it.”
“And if it wasn’t?” I ask.
Beside me, the tea comes to a boil. Mom notices first, rising to her feet and gathering cups from the cabinet. She kneels beside me, pouring tea into the cups. “I don’t know, son.”
“That’s not good enough,” I say. Standing, not bothering with the tea, I rush for the door.
“Where are you going?” my mother asks, concern lacing her words.
“I’m going after him.”
“What?” my mother and sister say in unison.
Alva stands abruptly, pushing her chair back with the motion. It nearly topples over behind her. “You can’t be serious!”
“This isn’t right! We deserve answers. He should BE here,” I say, voice rising with every word. Then, tone softening considerably, “He should be here to see his daughter get married.”
“So you’re going to confront a werewolf? Are you stupid?” Alva asks.
“Sometimes,” I say, placing a hand on the doorknob. “Obviously, this is one of those times.”
“What do you expect? Do you think he’s going to apologize? To offer to be a part of our lives now, after all this time?” Her voice breaks with pain.
Mom sits, hunched over the kettle by the fire with a cup in one hand. Her eyes are tight, and her braid hangs over her shoulder. Mouth working uselessly, she struggles for words.
“I don’t know what he’ll do,” I say. “But I have to try.”
Mom drops the cup, and it shatters against the stone. Pushing herself to her feet, she rushes to me and throws her arms around me. “Please, just let it rest. I’ll send the letter. There’s plenty of time for it to reach him. The wedding isn’t for another three months.”
Her tears stain my shirt, but I know I must go. My bones, my very blood cries out for answers. “I have to see him. I have to know.”
“It’s dangerous, though,” Alva pleads, approaching me slowly. “What if you don’t come back? I can get married without him. I can’t get married without you there.”
“I’ll come back, I promise. I wouldn’t miss your wedding for anything.”
I pull her into my arms, smashing her and Mom to my chest. Their shoulders tuck nicely under my arms. They fit there so comfortably, like they’re a part of me.
But I have to do this.
And then, he set off, all by himself with very few provisions. He ran into the Forest of Immortals, intending to cut through to save time on his journey to Tor, the city the Pack calls home.
Only, his trip didn’t quite go to plan. If you’ve read the blurb, you know that he and Ness meet while he’s being chased by a vampire… nowhere near Tor.
If you want to know more, A Heart of Salt & Silver is officially available at all major retailers. You can even ask for it at your local bookstore or library if you want to help support them.
If you want to stay home, chilling in your jammies, click here for the Amazon link.
Don’t forget, I’ll be live on Instagram at 3pm CST for a reading of the first chapter followed immediately by a Q&A session. Follow here to catch the live stream.
And as always…
Keep reading. Keep writing.