And here is an excerpt from Before the Full Moon Rises
Deston woke with a start at the sound of a slamming door. His heart was racing and he was drenched in a cold sweat, as he was every time he awoke from the dream. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and looked up to see an old woman hobbling down the front steps of a small stone cottage. Neatly trimmed bushes and tiny, white and yellow flowers ran in a wide border along the foundation of the house, and a variety of multicolored flowers edged the walkway to the small gate and wire fence that separated the house from the road.
The old woman herself looked like a gypsy, complete with the stereotypical puff-sleeved, scooped-neck blouse tucked into a long, print skirt with an apron tied over it. Her round, wrinkled face was framed by a scarf, which covered her hair except for a long gray braid that dangled over her shoulder almost to her waist. She wore two large gold hoops in each ear, and the sun reflected off the cluster of medallions around her neck.
The woman stopped to talk with Peter for a moment, pointing to a window in the upper level of the house, before making her way around to Deston’s side of the car. As she approached, Deston unfolded his legs and stepped out, bracing himself with the door, as his legs were tingling and buzzing from the long ride in the cramped quarters.
Standing face to face with the woman, he noticed she was no more than a few inches taller than him, and wasn’t at all what he expected. She looked to be as old as Peter, and as he stared, he wondered how she could possibly be Joliet’s cousin.
As Deston scrutinized Nicolette, her eyes were locked on him as well. She reached out, gently placing a hand on his cheek, and smiled into his eyes. It wasn’t just a surface smile like Mrs. Motley’s, though. Her smile lit up her whole face, causing her wrinkles to fade and instantly making her look decades younger. Her violet eyes, just like his and Joliet’s, sparkled with a youthful intensity, and her cheeks plumped out like two rosy balls.
“Deston, I have waited a long time to meet you. I was so afraid I would pass over before I had the chance,” Nicolette’s eyes were glassy with unshed tears, and she spoke in a thick accent. “You have the Lespérance eyes. Did you know that?”
Deston had never met anyone quite like this woman before, and as Nicolette held his gaze, he felt hypnotized. He was unable to move, unable to think, and had the strangest sensation she was looking into his head reading all his thoughts and secrets. The spell kept him completely captured until she blinked and stepped back an arm’s length to look him over.
Disoriented and confused by what just happened, Deston took hold of the car door with both hands to keep from falling. The silence pounded loudly in his ears, and his palms grew sweaty. He knew it was rude not to respond, but with his mind so scrambled he found it impossible to think of anything to say. As the seconds ticked off and the pressure to speak rose, he finally blurted out the first thing that had popped into his head.
“You look like a gypsy.”
Seeing the amused look on Nicolette’s face, he flushed a deep red and dropped his eyes to the ground.
Nicolette laughed a loud, hearty laugh. “Pfew, non! So you think I look like a gypsy, eh? Did you know here in this country, calling someone a gypsy is considered an insult?” Waving the comment away with her hand, she continued, “But I know you did not mean it as such. Non, Deston, I am not a gypsy. I am Nicolette Jolicoeur, your maman’s cousin, but I want you to call me NiNi, like all my friends do. Oui?”
Deston’s cheeks were still hot as he looked up through his eyelashes. “Mom’s never mentioned you before. She told me all her family was gone. She said there was only the two of us.”
“Ooooo! You poor bébé!” NiNi said, a sad expression instantly replacing her smile. “Such a shame you grew up not knowing your family. But as you see,” she spread her arms wide, “I am here and very much alive. And there, you see?” She pointed over her shoulder at the cottage. “That house is where your maman grew up. We used to play together right out there in that meadow.”
Her brow creased. “I do not know why Jolie would tell you such things as that. But … well, it has been fifteen years so I guess she must have thought …” NiNi paused and shook the thought away. Looking back at Deston, her smile returned. “Did you know your maman wrote to me once, right before you were born? I still have the letter somewhere in the house. I will show it to you later. After that one time I never heard from her again.” NiNi cocked her head, a pensive look in her eye. “So much time has passed,” she sighed. “So much time wasted. I can see how she might think I was gone by now.”
Deston stood up straighter, a belligerent look suddenly hardening his face. “My mom is not dead!” he blurted out.
A soft light came to NiNi’s eyes. “Oui, I know.”
“Huh? … You do? How?” Before she had a chance to answer, he hurried on, “Well, if you really believe that, you also know I shouldn’t be here. When Mom comes back she won’t know where I am.”
“Non, you are wrong in that, Deston,” NiNi said, shaking her head. “Jolie will know exactly where you are. Trust me. There is no other place she would want you to be right now but here with me. I am all that is left of your maman’s family, and this is the safest place for you to be right now.”
About the Author-
MJ Bell’s love of reading and everything magical is what motived her to jump head first into a writing career. Her first novel was honored with a Gold medal in the Mom’s Choice Awards’ Fantasy category in 2009. From there she has gone on to write the first two books of a new fantasy trilogy, Chronicles of the Secret Prince, and is currently working on the final chapter of Deston’s adventure.
MJ grew up in Iowa, but now considers Colorado her home and lives there with her husband, Tim and her dog, Tasha. Her growing family has always been her pride and joy and provides her with a great source of inspiration to write and bring a little more magic into the world. She loves to hear from readers through her FB page at MJ Bell Author. Or visit her website at mj-bell.com.