The Winter People by Rebekah L. Purdy
Salome Montgomery fears winter—the cold, the snow, the ice, but most of all, the frozen pond she fell through as a child. Haunted by the voices and images of the strange beings that pulled her to safety, she hasn't forgotten their warning to "stay away." For eleven years, she has avoided the winter woods, the pond, and the darkness that lurks nearby. But when failing health takes her grandparents to Arizona, she is left in charge of maintaining their estate. This includes the "special gifts" that must be left at the back of the property.? ?
Salome discovers she's a key player in a world she's tried for years to avoid. At the center of this world is the strange and beautiful Nevin, who she finds trespassing on her family's property. Cursed with dark secrets and knowledge of the creatures in the woods, he takes Salome's life in a new direction. A direction where she'll have to decide between her longtime crush, Colton, who could cure her fear of winter. Or Nevin, who, along with an appointed bodyguard, Gareth, protects her from the darkness that swirls in the snowy backdrop.
An evil that, given the chance, will kill her.
About the Author
Rebekah Purdy grew up in Michigan, where she spent many late nights armed with a good book and a flashlight. When not hiding at her computer and getting lost in her stories, she enjoys reading, singing, soccer, swimming, football, camping, playing video games, and hanging out with her kids. She may or may not have an obsession with anything chocolate…Rebekah currently resides in Michigan with her husband, kids, and gazillion pets.
Read an Excerpt
The Winter People
By Rebekah L. Purdy, Robin Haseltine, Liz Pelletier
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2014 Rebekah L. Purdy
All rights reserved.
Winter, Eleven Years Later ...
"Come on in, Salome." Grandma ushered me inside on Friday afternoon. She gave me a warm smile that crinkled the edges of the blue-gray eyes we shared and wrapped me in a tight hug. "Nasty stuff, Michigan in winter and this snow."
"Yeah, tell me about it." My short drive over the icy two-track had been hell, only colder. Even now, I couldn't get into the safety of the house quick enough.
Grandma's intense eyes focused on my face. "I've got a couple of things to finish up. Why don't you go on into the living room with Grandpa?"
She disappeared behind a concealed door into the hidden room. This was the first time I'd seen it unlocked since I was little. The scent of old books drifted from the room, and I took a step forward. When Grandma saw me trying to glimpse inside, she shut the door. I wondered as I always had why they'd never allowed me to go in there.
With a frown, I ambled into the living room. "Hey Gramps. What'cha reading?"
He held up an Arizona travel brochure. "Trying to see what's in this blasted state," he grumbled. "Damn doctors, sending me away from my home."
I flopped on the couch beside him and leaned my head on his shoulder. "Wish you didn't have to go."
"Me too, pumpkin. But winter won't last forever, and then we'll be back. It'll be summer before you know it, and you'll be over here stealing my ice cream."
"I don't steal your ice cream." I laughed. "Grandma gives it to me."
"A bloody conspiracy. That woman is always giving away the good stuff."
"I heard that." Grandma joined us in the living room. She had on a long gray coat, black boots, and carried a knotted walking stick that reminded me of a staff. She gestured for me to follow her toward the door.
"I'm all set now. I'll show you what you need to do."
I stood up, nice and slow, like my legs had forgotten how to work. Worry tightened like a noose around my neck.
So much for therapy.
God, I was such a freak. Most kids loved winter. It meant sledding, ice-skating, snow angels, and snowballs. Even the badass guys enjoyed whipping donuts in the school parking lot. But for me it meant nightmares of icy dark water and skeletal trees heavy with snow.
Chills ran up my spine as I glanced toward the backyard. Eleven long years I'd heeded the warning that whispered around in my head and the hideous face that went with it. I'd stayed out of the woods and away from the pond. Eleven years of avoiding winter, or at least trying to. And now, I had no choice but to face it head on. At seventeen, you'd think I would've outgrown my fear of winter — of the voices I'd heard.
"Salome." Grandma grabbed my mittened hand in hers. With a gentle tug, she led me forward. "I'm sorry we couldn't afford a caretaker. I know how hard this is for you. But with your mom on crutches and your dad on the road driving his truck, we had no one else to ask. No one we could trust to take care of things."
"It's okay," I lied. If Mom hadn't gotten hurt then I wouldn't have to do this. She could've handled it, and I'd just stay inside where it was safe.
Gusts of wind billowed into the house as she threw open the door. Snowdrifts covered the stairs, deck, and path looking like small mountains. In the distance, I saw the gazebo my grandpa had built a couple summers ago. It, too, was coated in white like a frosted cupcake.
My eyes drifted to the pond. No ice yet, but it was only a matter of time. The water rippled, lapping against the shore and dock, the breeze tracing invisible fingers over the surface.
Grandma led me toward the burgundy-colored shed. Producing a key from her pocket, she released my hand and unlocked the door.
"This is where I keep most of the supplies." She gestured to the large bags of seed. Small trinkets and gadgets I'd never seen before littered the shelves. Water jugs, animal food, shovels, rakes, and piles of sticks took up close to every inch of space in the shed.
Turning to Grandma, I slid my hat out of my face. "You've got a ton of stuff in here."
Her gaze became serious as she produced a list for me. "Yes, and it's all needed. You've got the seed to feed the squirrels and birds with. There's some feed to put out for the deer and the other — um, animals." As Grandma peered away from me, I caught a nervous glint in her eyes.
"Nothing child. You just listen closely, okay?"
I shrugged. That's why I was there.
"Every day you need to check the food and water supply for the feeders. After you've finished, you'll take one of these trinkets and place it in the trunk of the oak tree, near the pond." She pointed to the shelves of jewelry, silverware, bits of string, and shoes. There were old watches, scarves, cups, plates, and even picture frames.
Maybe Grandma lost her mind? Who put things in a tree? Seriously?
"Why do we have to leave stuff out here?" The hair on the back of my neck stood on end.
She stared in the distance. "Our family has always done it. Call it superstition or what have you — but we've done it forever and need to continue to do so. Don't forget."
Not quite the answer I was looking for. If anything, it put me more on edge — as if I needed more things to freak out about right now. "Okay, so feed the animals, put things in the tree, what else?"
"Most importantly, you must make sure the back gate stays locked. Once a week, take a couple pieces of this rowan wood and entwine it in the fence." Grandma bent down and picked three twigs from the pile.
My grandparents had several acres of land, all of which were fenced off from the rest of the forest, and they were adamant about keeping the gates secure. Private property signs were posted along the perimeter to ward off any unwanted guests. Like they were scared someone might actually drive all the way out here just to snoop around or steal something. Somehow though, it felt safer on this side of the fence, other than the pond, of course, which unfortunately sat right down the path from the house.
"Go ahead and grab a bag of food and come with me."
Picking up a partial sack of seed, I stumbled after her. We came to the first feeder, which was close to the house. I emptied some of the contents into the container, and then on we went. I filled four dishes, until we ventured toward the pond.
My mouth went dry, my grip tightened on the containers. A scream lodged in my throat as I remembered the cold dark depths. How my lungs burned for air. The voices and the glowing beings in the water as I fell deeper and deeper. Beings that I knew now were just a hallucination, but still held power over me as though they were real. I could almost feel the bitter bite of the ice on my back as I lay on top of the frozen pond.
Grandma stopped walking and whirled around. "Salome, it's okay. You're safe." She covered the distance between us and clutched my shoulders.
I let her pull me into her arms. Her hug warmed me and her soothing murmurs calmed me as tears slipped down my face.
"S-sorry. I haven't been out here in the winter since ..."
Grandma kissed my forehead. "I know. But you're strong. The sooner you get this part behind you, the sooner you'll be able to move on with your life."
My body trembled, but I continued to follow Grandma to the last feeder.
"I see her. She's back. After all this time, she's come back."
I spun around, glancing over the yard. Who said that? My hat fell from my head when a low hanging branch caught hold of it and knocked it from my head. My hair blew about my face, like small snapping whips.
"And a danger to us all."
"The old lady is with her ..."
I leaned down to retrieve my hat from the ground, but a current of air blew it across the yard, toward the water's edge. Pushing past my grandma, I raced after it, snagging it right before it went into the pond.
For a moment, I was face to face with my reflection. And just below the surface, a pale hand reached up to touch it. The water rippled as if stroking my image. No. This isn't happening. The voices were back. I glanced at Grandma, but she didn't seem to notice them. No one else ever did. It was just me. Crazy. Psychotic. Me.
What was I doing this close to the water? Panic set in, my feet rooted in place.
"Just as I remember her."
"Come away from there." Grandma jerked me back. "You nearly walked right in."
Puzzled and scared, I stared at the pond but I didn't see any hands or strange people coming out. God, I was losing it. The psychiatrist said I might have relapses from time to time, but it'd been a while since I'd heard the voices. And what about the hand I'd seen in the water, had I made that up or had it really been there? Was I losing touch with reality, again?
"Salome, are you listening to me?" Her forehead creased with more wrinkles.
"Yes, I'm fine. And I didn't nearly walk into the water. Not even close." I shuddered because this was the second time something had led me toward the pond. This time, I didn't feel any sinister presence, though.
"Just be more careful next time."
When we got back to the house, Grandpa had suitcases and boxes sitting in the living room. His coat hung over the back of the chair, and he was locking the windows.
Everything had been picked up. No magazines on the coffee tables; remotes were on top of the television. The dishes were washed and put away, no dust clung to the pictures and knick-knacks that lined the large shelves.
Suddenly, it hit me. They were really leaving. And they entrusted me to keep an eye on their house.
Grandma changed out of her yard clothes, then came back wearing a jogging suit and heavy winter coat.
"Well, I think that about does it. Make sure you come over to clean out the fridge and freezer. I don't want any food going to waste." Grandpa's keys jingled in his hand. Grabbing two suitcases, he headed into the garage.
I picked up some of their things and followed him. I hated good-byes. It was only for a few months, but their house was my second home. At least during summer months, when I stayed nestled inside with Grandpa on the couch, eating ice cream in front of a fan.
"Don't look so forlorn, Salome. We'll be back before you know it." Grandma tucked me into her arms, wrapping me up like a blanket.
I took a deep breath, filling it with her peppermint and floral scent. "I'll miss you."
"I'll miss you too, sweetie." She pulled back then handed me the ring of keys. "Take good care of things. If anything comes up, call."
A nervous edge had entered her voice, making me question what she was worried about. I waited for her to elaborate, but instead she turned away.
Grandpa jerked me into a tight hug, making my ribs feel like they might pop through my back. "Be good, kiddo. And try to stay warm." He released me and climbed into the car. I locked the side door then went onto the porch to watch them pull away.
I wondered if their leaving meant bad things to come. Things that could change my life. And I was scared.
Tomorrow I'd be on my own. Alone in the woods.
Once they disappeared from view, I drove over to my friend, Kadie's. She'd understand.
I explained about my grandparents dropping the bomb after school today. That I'd have to watch their house all winter. Be in their backyard alone.
"You've got a little time before your date tonight, and I know just what you need: Perky Joe's," she said when I showed up at her door. The local coffee shop, home to all the high school degenerates. She liked the disturbed guys she met there, most of whom had various piercings and tattoos. Me, I tended to veer more toward the light.
She grabbed some cash from her purse and steered me toward her car. It wasn't long before we'd pulled into a spot near the coffee shop.
The bell above the door jingled as we pushed inside. Coffee and hot chocolate overwhelmed my senses as I stared around the room. Maybe this would help.
The small tables had glass mosaics on top of them and chairs that looked more like bar stools. Dark cherry wood lined the walls, gothic figures carved into the wooden molding. The floor-to-ceiling scarlet curtains, swaying beneath the forced air blowing from vents, looked like waves of blood. Or maybe not.
"I think I know why people might be perky after coming here. Check out the new baristas." Kadie nudged me in the ribs, pointing to the two guys behind the counter.
The first one didn't look much older than us with his shaggy golden hair and skin that seemed to have a natural bronze glow. His brown eyes would make a cup of coffee jealous. I gasped and my stomach took a tumble, like I was falling off a mountain. A smile tugged at his lips when he saw us staring. As if he'd expected us to notice him.
Next to him stood a guy with curly dark hair and eyes the color of topaz. His gaze did a head-to-toe sweep of Kadie then he gave her a smile that lured her right up to the counter.
"Afternoon. What can I get you?"
"I'll have a mocha-latte." Kadie sounded sultry. "With a cherry on top."
She was a complete seductress. Poor guy, he didn't have a chance. But he nodded, unfazed by her in the least, and went to work preparing her drink.
"And for you?" The blond guy's voice sounded like warm, rich chocolate. He stepped closer and turned his deep brown eyes on me. For a moment it felt like he knew my every secret; the way he watched me made me think he recognized me. My insides twisted and churned, and I shifted my gaze to his tattoos, following the strange looping design up his arm. The intricate green and gold strands changed into vines around his bicep, like a cuff.
Vines? Since when did tats change shape in front of my eyes?
Oh no, not now. Not again. I really was crazy.
I reached for the counter as my legs grew weak.
"Salome, hey, are you okay?" Kadie gripped my arm, urging me to sit down.
I buried my head in my hands for a few seconds, attempting to push the images away. I had to get it together or Mom would send me to the shrink if she found out I had had another episode. She'd been on the verge this morning.
I forced myself to clear my mind. Keep calm.
"S — sorry, I'll have a caramel cappuccino," I said, as the blond guy leaned toward me.
"Coming right up." He stood, his nametag catching my eye.
"Gareth?" I said aloud.
"That's an interesting name." I shot Kadie a glance in an attempt to shift their attention from me.
"Well, this here is Simeon." She grinned, gesturing to the dark haired guy. Kadie took a sip of her latte then said, "Gareth and Simeon, your names sound like they belong to medieval knights."
"And doth the damsel need rescuing?" Simeon leaned against the counter, his arms folded at his chest.
"Always." She batted her eyes at him.
"How does Saturday work for you?"
"Perfect," Kadie said.
I watched the two exchange numbers and turned to see Gareth peering at me, his long golden lashes making me envious. He closed the lid on my cup, but kept staring. Did he know something?
Shit. If I kept this up, I'd be questioning everyone's motives for even glancing at me. This guy was just a barista, although he looked more like someone who ought to be a bodyguard or a bouncer.
Gareth handed me a napkin. "Try and take care of yourself." His fingertips brushed mine, and I was filled with sudden warmth, like sunshine hitting you on a summer day.
I stared at the tattoos once more — the shapes looked different now. Instead of the spiraling loops, they seemed more gothic, almost pointy. Had I imagined the vines?
Chills raced up my back, making my scalp itch. I managed a shaky smile. "Um, thanks."
"I'll see you around," he said as we headed to the door.
"Yeah, maybe." I glanced at him one last time as we walked out of the café. Would I see him again? Better question, did I want to? Yet another person who'd learn how crazy I really was. And of all people, I didn't want him to know. That sounded insane, right? I shouldn't care what this virtual stranger thought of me. But I did; I deeply wanted him to accept me, befriend me, and love me even.
"Get over yourself, Salome," I muttered to myself, shaking my head, "He's just a barista."
Excerpted from The Winter People by Rebekah L. Purdy, Robin Haseltine, Liz Pelletier. Copyright © 2014 Rebekah L. Purdy. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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