16-year old Emily has accepted her fate with each weakening beat of her heart, but after her best friend's brother and sister arrive in town and turn out to be more than what they appear, Emily's life is turned upside-down. When their friendship includes confronting wizards who harbor dark secrets and dancing with an elf prince, Emily discovers there are some things still worth living for.
Kelly Riad is from Texas where she lived with her husband and a house overrun by pets. She now lives in the San Francisco Bay area and is determined to bring the y'all to the West Coast. While she published her first book - a handmade pop-up titled "The Lost Puppy" - in the fifth grade to much acclaim by the first graders, she only recently picked the craft back up. "Return to Arèthane" is her second published novel.
ExcerptThe rickety wooden door creaked in pain as Emily poked her head inside. The small, rectangular building looked stuffed with greenery. Neat rows of high, wooden benches holding large pots of tall bushes and long-leafed plants filled the center with counters lining the walls containing smaller potted plants like orchids and aloe. Attached to the framing, small shelves held clay pots of herbs.
Dafne sat on a stool at the counter lining the side wall, a pen in hand and homework before her. She already had her head turned over her shoulder, smiling warily at Emily.
“You found me,” she said. “How’s your hand?”
Emily dumped her book bag on the counter, sighing as she felt her anger wane in Dafne’s presence. It was hard to be mad at her, because nothing ever seemed able to make her mad.
“So Sunday night, when you hung out at my house while your grandfather fixed my hand, when I talked to you about the hot guy,” Emily’s cheeks flushed again, “from the restaurant who, as it turns out, was your brother, you never thought to mention they had moved home?”
Dafne dropped her pen, turning away from Emily on the seat before standing up and walking away. “I’m sorry, it was all so unexpected.” She grabbed a metal watering can and turned down the aisle of rose bushes, their tiny buds still clamped shut. “Jabari didn’t tell me about it until Saturday morning and they arrived Saturday night. I just got caught up in them coming home. There was a lot of excitement, reestablishing the routine, readjusting to the order. I guess I was still processing it when you called.”
She stopped before the first rose bush, dumping a rain of water on its soil. She looked distressed, which changed Emily’s tune. Emily tilted her head, looking at her friend.
“Well aren’t you happy they’re home?”
Dafne lowered the watering can, letting it dangle on her fingertips as she turned and paced the aisle. “Yes, I’m very happy. I adore my brother and sister. It’s just all so overwhelming and unexpected. Their being here sort of changes everything.”
Emily followed along as her friend ranted, but soon slowed down, frowning at what happened in Dafne’s wake. At first she thought she had just imagined it, but looking over her shoulder, Emily couldn’t deny the scene that stretched out behind her; she couldn’t take her eyes off it—colorful rows of brightly blooming roses.
As Dafne passed by the bushes, their tightly closed buds burst into full-bloom, their colors more brilliant and deep than anything Emily had ever seen. Both sides of the aisle responded in the same way, exploding to full bloom in unison, revealing an array of velvety petals, the blossoms bigger than Emily’s fist. The sudden fragrance was overwhelming.
“I had become accustomed to this life. I had friends and everything was normal and then they show up and it’ll all change.” Dafne continued, rounding the corner down the other aisle, unaware of the transformation occurring behind her. “Kara—Kara’s special. She’s a bit moody and temperamental; she requires a lot of attention and demands a lot from Jarrad and me. I love seeing her again, but I just don’t know what she’ll do to my life here. I’m very excited about spending time with my brother. He’s so much fun and outgoing; I think you’ll love him.” She spun around, wearing the brilliant expression Emily had grown accustomed to seeing on her, but it quickly fell when she saw Emily’s face. “What is it?”
Emily stood in silent shock, her eyes wide before she slowly turned to the side and gestured to the bouquet spectacle behind them.
“What the hell just happened?” she finally managed to spit out.
Dafne’s eyes flitted over the scene, her arms falling to her side as she scanned the rows of fully bloomed roses.
“Frey damn it,” she muttered. Then quite calmly, she set the watering can down on the ground, reached for Emily’s hand, and pulled her close.
Looking her in the eye, she said, “Emily, I want you to listen very closely to what I have to say. Are you listening?”
The effect of her words was slow, but once they took root, everything else disappeared around her. Emily felt a haze settle over her, like the first creeping sensation of intoxication. Even her spastic heart tapped a little slower. When Dafne continued to speak, her voice echoed in Emily’s head and it was the only sound she could hear.
“You haven’t seen anything unusual here,” Dafne said, never breaking eye contact. “The roses, all of the roses, were already in bloom when you arrived. You only saw me watering the plants. You saw nothing else. Nothing to be concerned about. Nothing abnormal. You listened to me talk about my family. You’re excited to meet them. Do you understand?”
Emily nodded and Dafne let go of her hand, breaking her gaze as she did.
Blinking Emily looked around, confused, and felt silly; she knew she had answered Dafne with a nod, but she had already forgotten the question.
“What did you say?”
The scent of the flowers was very strong and distracting; the room warm. But Emily felt better now after having spoken to Dafne; she knew she had been acting childish to think she had talked to everyone but her.
With her deep dimpled smile, Dafne asked, “Would you like to meet them?”
“Oh. Yeah, I can’t wait!”