Today I’d like to welcome debut Australian author, Kerry Letheby who is here to share an excerpt from her novel, Mine to Avenge. It’s already getting very high praises on Goodreads.
Setting the scene for Mine to Avenge
Chapter 2 (The Fateful Hunting Trip) is integral to the unfolding of events in Mine to Avenge. Many novels set the scene in chapter one, but with Mine to Avenge, the scene is set more fully over the first three chapters. If yesterday’s excerpt from Chapter 1 and today’s from Chapter 2 inspire you to want to read more, you can access Chapter 3 in its entirety by clicking on the link below the excerpt. In my opinion it’s the best chapter of the book, and my own personal favourite. This post is intended to be a teaser for that chapter.
Yesterday at Time 2 Blog, I opened the tour with Chapter 1 (Tragedy in Manhattan). However, the events of that first chapter have a significant backstory. Why is the Galanos family in Manhattan in the first place? The Chapter drops a few hints, but we don’t really know why. We learn that Nicholas is deeply troubled. His wife, Nina, and their two children have been concerned about him for some time. While in Manhattan, they are reunited with Nicholas’s brother, Theo, and Theo knows immediately that something is wrong with his brother. However, when the family is caught up in the September 11 tragedy, Nicholas is lost to them, along with all hope of ever knowing the truth.
Chapter 2 takes the reader back to the Greek origins of Nicholas’s family, just prior to the Second World War, and it is here where the reader must begin to discover what was troubling Nicholas seventy years later in 2001. In Chapter 2 below, we are introduced to Nicholas’s grandfather, Alcandor, and his best friend Constantine, who have grown up together in the same Greek village. Alcandor is married to his childhood sweetheart, Caterina, and Constantine is the guardian of his sister, Helena. Alcandor and Constantine often go hunting together, and during one of their hunts a tragedy occurs – a tragedy that results in the rupture of their friendship, and having repercussions for Alcandor’s family for the next seventy years. The following slightly abridged excerpt from Chapter 2 depicts the lead-up to that tragedy.
Excerpt from Chapter 2
The Fateful Hunting Trip
When Alcandor arrived at Constantine’s house, he found his friend sitting outside by the front door in a crude chair of aged olive wood, reading an old newspaper. The front door was open to catch as much sun as possible on the cold stone floors.
‘Hello, Con. Want to come hunting?’ he asked with enthusiasm, brandishing his hunting rifle above his head.
Alcandor didn’t expect Constantine to refuse.
‘I don’t think I can today,’ he replied. ‘Helena is sick, so I can’t bring her to stay with Caterina while we’re out. And I’ll be leaving soon—for a long time – to the war.’
Alcandor was genuinely concerned to hear that Helena was sick, but found himself, against his better judgment, behaving selfishly.
‘Exactly. This is our last chance. Who knows when you’ll be back, or even if you’ll be coming back?’
‘I’m sorry, Alcandor. I just can’t come. Helena needs me.’
At that moment Helena came to the door, wrapped in the thin and faded coverlet from her bed. Even with her dark complexion Alcandor saw that she wasn’t well, but she was able to smile a welcome to her brother’s friend. ‘Don’t be silly, Con. I’m over the worst. Go hunting. Enjoy the day. I’ll be fine.’
She saw the hesitation in his eyes. ‘You’ll regret it forever if you don’t go,’ she said, and as he looked into his sister’s eyes he knew what she meant, and loved her for it.
‘Besides,’ she added, smiling, ‘I would love a rabbit stew for supper tonight. I’ll pick some herbs while you’re gone.’
Alcandor knew his friend was weakening. ‘C’mon,’ he pleaded. ‘The afternoon’s half over already.’
Constantine gave a deep sigh and stood up. ‘Who needs to go away to war?’ he said. ‘I have one right here in my own house.’
He walked around to the lean-to at the side of the house to gather his rifle and hunting gear while Alcandor sat with Helena in the sun. He didn’t say anything but caught her eye and grinned. He silently mouthed the words, ‘Thank you.’
Constantine returned from the side of the house, pulling his cap down over his eyes. He looked at Helena again and hesitated. Alcandor saw the glance and nudged his friend. ‘C’mon, you old woman.’
Constantine put his hunting kit down on the rough cobbled path and embraced his sister. She kissed his cheek and pushed him away. ‘Shoot me the fattest rabbit you can find,’ she said, and turned away from them towards the kitchen garden.
Constantine and Alcandor left, turning at the end of the lane to wave to Helena. She didn’t see them as she was bent over by the kitchen garden, inhaling the fragrance of fresh thyme. They walked towards the woods in the distance, beyond the olive groves, with the sun just over their shoulders.
Constantine was ill at ease during the hunt and not thrilled by the success of the catch. His conscience pricked him for leaving Helena, but every time he doubted, his ego challenged him and told him to be a man. He was able to silence his conscience for a while and caught a few more rabbits, but as the sun began to disappear behind the mountains he was anxious to go home.
‘Let’s go, Alcandor. We’ve got more than enough for both of us, and for the neighbours.’
Alcandor didn’t press his luck by trying to make Constantine stay. He didn’t want to spoil what would probably be their last hunt together for a long time.
As they approached their village with the lengthening evening shadows racing ahead of them, they passed some of their friends sitting on boulders by the side of the road, smoking their pipes and talking. The men were discussing a group of three strangers who had passed through the village a short while ago—soldiers, they said.
Constantine increased his pace. Alcandor lifted his cap in greeting and hesitated. He wanted to stop and hear more, but he sensed the urgency driving Constantine ahead of him, and followed on after his friend.
Constantine knew something was wrong, even before he arrived at the house. From the lane, in the gathering gloom, he saw the muslin curtains fluttering over the windowsill of Helena’s bedroom. In the shadows around her window, the red geraniums in the window box appeared to be larger than he remembered, and were tumbling from the window deeper in colour than when he last saw them. He suddenly felt the chill of the air about him.
‘She should have closed the window by now,’ he worried. ‘She’ll catch her death.’
Constantine began to run, with Alcandor close behind him. He flung open the picket gate and strode across the kitchen garden, crushing thyme and marjoram beneath his boots as he came to Helena’s window, dropping his gun and hunting kit on the path. He saw that the geraniums hadn’t grown farther out over the wall at all, but a large patch of something red had spilled over the window ledge and blended into the whitewashed wall behind, looking like a smudged mass of geranium petals.
Close behind him, Alcandor stopped in his tracks by the side of the kitchen garden, as his friend leaned his body through the window into the dim interior. He watched in frozen horror as Constantine dropped to his knees, tilting his head to the sky, his face contorted in an agony that Alcandor hoped he would never know himself. He knew he would never, ever forget the cry of bitter anguish from Constantine’s lips as it reverberated on and on for a seeming eternity, echoing eerily back and forth, against the forest-clad slopes of the blackened mountains.
Want to read the next chapter? Download chapter 3 free here.
Thank you for stopping by Kerry, and all the best with your book tour!
If you’d like more information about the book or ways to connect with Kerry, check out these links:
When Alcandor is blamed for the tragic death of his friend’s sister in Greece in 1940, little does he know of the repercussions this will have for him and his family for the next seventy years. Unable to forgive himself, and wanting to give his young family a new start, Alcandor leaves Greece and brings his family to settle in the Riverland of South Australia in 1948. Although Greece and his past are far behind him, Alcandor harbours a terrible secret and he remains a fearful man. Alcandor subdues his fear, and he and his family adapt to an idyllic life of freedom and opportunity. However, eighteen years after leaving Greece, Alcandor learns that his past has caught up with him. His family needs to know the truth, but circumstances tragically intervene before he can warn them. Years later, Alcandor’s sons show signs of odd behavior hinting at possible mental instability, before disappearing without a trace. And in the next generation, Alcandor’s grandson exhibits the same strange behaviour not long before he is killed in the tragedy of September 11, 2001. It is not until 2010 that Alcandor’s great- granddaughter, Alethea, discovers that there is far more behind her family’s tragic history than mental illness, and little does she know that the threat against her family is much closer than she realises, and very far from over.
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