Exclusive Excerpt from Jacqueline Carey's SANTA OLIVIA


Thanks to Jacqueline Carey, here's an exclusive excerpt from the upcoming Santa Olivia (Canada, USA, Europe).

And in case you did not know, you can read the first chapter of Carey's forthcoming Namaah's Kiss here.

Here's the blurb for Santa Olivia:

Loup Garron was born and raised in Santa Olivia, an isolated, disenfranchised town next to a US military base inside a DMZ buffer zone between Texas and Mexico. A fugitive "Wolf-Man" who had a love affair with a local woman, Loup's father was one of a group of men genetically-manipulated and used by the US government as a weapon. The "Wolf-Men" were engineered to have superhuman strength, speed, sensory capability, stamina, and a total lack of fear, and Loup, named for and sharing her father's wolf-like qualities, is marked as an outsider.

After her mother dies, Loup goes to live among the misfit orphans at the parish church, where they seethe from the injustices visited upon the locals by the soldiers. Eventually, the orphans find an outlet for their frustrations: They form a vigilante group to support Loup Garron who, costumed as their patron saint, Santa Olivia, uses her special abilities to avenge the town.

Aware that she could lose her freedom, and possibly her life, Loup is determined to fight to redress the wrongs her community has suffered. And like the reincarnation of their patron saint, she will bring hope to all of Santa Olivia.

Enjoy!
----------------------

Fear and grief.

That was what Carmen Garron remembered most about carrying Martin’s child after he vanished. They were months of fear and grief. The Army poured men into the base. Patrols were tripled, swarming the cordon. Soldiers went over the wall, soldiers claimed to have captured one of El Segundo’s top men. Claimed to have found a cache of weapons.

No one in Outpost rejoiced.

There was a sullenness that had set in; a realization that they were trapped here. That they would never be a target if it weren’t for the base. That the soldiers could leave, and they couldn’t. It made them resent both sides of the conflict in equal measure.

But only Carmen doubted the news.

As her belly swelled, the fear and grief and doubt grew. She went to church and made her confession to Father Ramon, pouring out the tale of Martin-with-no-last-name, the Lost Boys, his departure, the missiles. The fact that the child growing in her womb might not be wholly human. There was no confessional booth, just the two of them, talking. Father Ramon listened, smoking a cigarette, his dark, piercing eyes narrowed. "What do you think?" he asked when she had finished. "Speak from the heart."

"I think Martin told the truth," she whispered. "And it scares me more than lies."

The priest-who-wasn’t-a-priest blew out a meditative plume of smoke. "It would explain a hell of a lot. But I think it is best if these words remain between me, you and God, who doesn’t seem to be listening anyway. Don’t speak of it aloud again." Father Ramon stubbed out his cigarette and rose with careless grace, laying a hand on her bowed head in benediction. He bent to kiss her brow, his breath smelling of nicotine. "Whatever the truth, do your best to love the child. Mercy and compassion are all the grace left to us."

"Okay," Carmen said. "I’ll try."

She went into labor during the Festival of Santa Olivia. For as much as Outpost had forgotten and been forgotten, it remembered its patron saint’s feast-day. Orphans from the church carried Santa Olivia’s effigy into the town square and placed her carefully on a dais. Townsfolk carried baskets of food over their arms in emulation of the child-saint and picnicked in the square.

Once, there would have been banners and streamers and firecrackers, but the first two were too costly and the last had been outlawed. But there was food and music, and for a day, Santa Olivia remembered what it had been.

Her water broke without warning in the early afternoon. The contractions came hard on its heels, hard and fast. Too fast. Carmen stood dumbstruck and dripping, Tommy tugging at her hand. There was commotion all around her.

"Carmen." Hands clasped her shoulders; Sister Martha’s intent grey-blue eyes gazed into hers. "Can you walk to the clinic?"

"No." Another wave struck, doubling her over. "It’s coming!"

Maybe God or nature had some small measure of mercy left, because Carmen didn’t remember much afterward except pain and the shocking swiftness of it all. Not the resurgence of the panic she’d managed to keep at bay since visiting Father Ramon. Not the humiliation of giving birth in the town square. Not the worry over Tommy’s whereabouts that dogged between the swift contractions. Only pain building and building, then Sister Martha’s voice telling her yes, push; now, already.

And then it was over.

Carmen lay panting, her head pillowed on the knees of an unfamiliar girl; one of the church’s orphans. A throng of others surrounded her, their backs to her, keeping the crowd at bay. There was a single thin, angry squall, then silence. She made an effort to lift her head. "Is it?"

"Oh yes." Hands helped her sit, supported her. Sister Martha placed the baby in her arms. "I’ve never heard of a labor that quick. Maybe it’s gift of the saint after all. You ought to name her Olivia."

A girl. It was a girl.

"I can’t," Carmen whispered. "I made a promise."

There wasn’t much at first to indicate that Loup was different from other infants. She only cried when she was hungry, but then Tommy hadn’t been a fussy baby either. She ate a lot and slept a lot, but so had Tommy.

"You’re blessed with easy babies," Sonia observed. She’d volunteered to watch Loup along with Tommy when Carmen went back to work.

Carmen eyed the baby. "I guess."

She was a cute baby with caramel-colored skin, a thatch of black hair and black eyes like her father. At first they were as wide and wandering as any newborn’s. It wasn’t until her eyes began to focus that Carmen was sure. In her round cherub’s face, those eyes were as steady and fearless as the effigy of Santa Olivia the child-saint, just like her father’s had been.

"Loup Garron," Carmen murmured, stroking her cheek with one finger. "What are you gonna be, wolf-cub?"

The baby smiled at her with surprising sweetness.

Tommy adored his baby sister without reservation or a hint of jealousy. He seemed to mature overnight, taking the role that Martin had given him with great seriousness. And it was a good thing, too. At six months, Loup began crawling with dexterity and vigor. Tommy was far more adept than poor arthritis-ridden Sonia at chasing her down.

"No, baby!" he said, scooping her up as she nearly tumbled down the narrow stair that led to the diner. "You have to be careful."

She wasn’t.

Given half a chance, she fell down stairs and out of cots, banged her head on table legs, burned her fingers on the hotplate. As soon as she began to walk, at less than a year old, it got worse. But Loup never cried or complained when hurt, only frowned in wounded perplexity. And because Carmen was working herself to exhaustion trying to support then both, it was Tommy who explained to her, over and over, that she had to be careful. And Loup listened to him with wide, grave eyes, trusting and doting on her older brother. At eighteen months, she began talking.

Life in Outpost continued. There were no more missile attacks, only the ever-present rumors of El Segundo’s intentions. Soldiers went out on patrol and came back weary and thirsty. Sometimes they found bombs, traps like the one that had killed Tom Almquist. Sometimes they found them in time. Sometimes they didn’t. But at least there were no more missiles. And Carmon Garron never, ever spoke of her doubts aloud again.

Between the ages of two and five, the differences that marked Loup grew more pronounced. She was an agile, darting child, curious and fearless; and yet when she was still, it was an unchildlike stillness.

"Tell me about my daddy, Tommy," she would ask.

Tommy never got tired of talking about Martin. "He was the strongest man in the world." He extended his arm, making a fist. "He used to let me hang from his arm. I couldn’t budge it an inch."

Loup would plant her feet and tug at her brother’s arm until it trembled, lowering. At twelve he was a strapping boy; but she was preternaturally strong and weighed more than appearances suggested. Tommy grinned and dropped to his knees, ruffling her thick, coarse hair.

"You’re just like him, loup-garou," he whispered.

It was true and it filled Carmen with secret pride and hidden fear. She adored her responsible son and her strange, fearless daughter with a deep, aching ferocity. She treasured their bond; and envied it a little, too. She was terrified that word would get out that she’d borne a daughter to a man who wasn’t wholly human, a man the government wanted to catch. Fearful that Father Ramon would talk, or Grady or Sonia, or that Danny Garza would unearth her secrets out of spite. Fearful that one day there would be soldiers on their doorstep to take her baby away to a laboratory.

But no one came.

Instead there came another wave of sickness, passing over Outpost like a bloody-winged angel. For once, for a mercy, it passed lightly over the children. It ravaged the elderly and took a handful of healthy adults. It left a number of others with weak lungs and racking coughs.

Carmen was one of the latter.

Sonia was one of the former.

"Mijo." Carmen stroked her son’s hair. "You know Tia Sonia is gone?" He nodded gravely. She sighed. "I think it’s time you went to school, mijo. You and your sister."

Tommy knelt by her bedside, leaning on folded arms. "Let me take a job. I could work at the reservoir. Or I could haul garbage like Martin. I don’t mind. Then you wouldn’t have to work so hard."

"No!" Carmen coughed and spat blood.

"Mom..."

"No."

So they went to school, brother and sister. It had been a good school once; or an okay school, anyway. Now the halls were nearly empty and most of the classrooms dusty and abandoned. Ancient, yellowing signs hung from the walls cheering on the Santa Olivia Jaguars, but there weren’t enough students to field a team in any sport, and no one to play against them if they could. All forty-odd kids met in a single big classroom, all ages grouped together. The only teacher left alive was Mr. Ketterling, a bitter drunk who’d only gotten more bitter with age. On the first day, he mocked thirteen-year-old Tommy for his poor reading skills.

"I’m trying," Tommy said calmly.

The yardstick cracked over his shoulders. "Try harder!"

"Don’t." Six-year-old Loup was out of her seat, standing atop her desk. She snatched the yardstick from Ketterling’s hands, wielding it like a pugil stick. Her black eyes glittered. "Don’t hit my brother."

Ketterling flinched.

"Loup," Tommy said. "No."

"Holy shit!" someone said fervently.

Ketterling grabbed for the yardstick. Loup leaned away just enough to evade him. Ketterling overbalanced, arms wheeling. Forty-odd kids of varying ages snickered. His face turned red and he lunged. Loup leapt backward, landing lightly on the floor, watching him with interest.

"Loup." Tommy got between them. "Give me the stick." For a moment, her small face turned set and mutinous, then she handed it over. Tommy turned and gave it to Mr. Ketterly. "I’m sorry, sir."

The man was shaking with rage. "Get out!" His voice emerged high and strained. He pointed at the door, his hand trembling. "Take your freak of a sister, get out and never come back!"

"It won’t happen-" Tommy began.

"Get out!" The words were shrieked.

They went.

Outside it was dusty and sleepy in the late afternoon heat. Brother and sister sat on the school steps.

"Sorry, Tommy." Loup propped her chin in her hands. "I didn’t mean to ruin school for you."

"S’alright." He ruffled her hair. "I didn’t really want to go."

"Me neither."

They sat companionably for a while until Tommy roused himself. "Hey. You want to go someplace special? Someplace I always wanted to see?"

Loup raised her head. "Sure."

5 commentaires:

Anonymous said...

She is sooo good.

Luis said...

A character named "Loup Garron"? You have GOT to be kidding me. For those of you that don't know what I'm talking about - "loup garou", french for "werewolf".

C. Bonnici said...

Originality is not going to be a big part of this trend in Action/Horror/Romance Fiction. It's sad to see Carey jumping on this bandwagon, the Kushiel series was apparently actual quality fiction.

Hopefully, Carey actually brings that quality to this genre as it really needs a decent writer to save it.

Pete said...

Luis, that is exactly what I was thinking.

thornofcamorr@aol.com said...

Im so tired of covers like that. I tend to think they're all by Brent Weeks at first glance.