Sweat rolls from under my hair and slides down my neck. I raise my arm to brush the dribble away. My deodorant has failed. At least nobody’s around to know.
I swipe my fingers across my denim shorts and head for home—for Gramma’s house. Honeysuckle Hollow is not my home. And never will be. Midway along the park’s paved road, I turn right, onto a five-acre field that was once Gramma’s watermelon patch.
Even if the land had still belonged to Gramma, the drought of the past six months would have killed off any chance of a watermelon crop. The brown withered grass crunches under my feet. All the oak trees in the field are drooping. Their stiff leaves curl like tight leafy fists of desperation. Except for a two-second downpour Monday afternoon, no rain has fallen. Every step I take raises dust. The wisps levitate like ghostly tentacles and curl around my bare legs as if pleading for my help. Honeysuckle Hollow Park is so dry the dust is begging for water.
That would be a great picture for art class.
Thunder booms and I jump. In the minutes since I entered the park, the clear blue sky has turned black. Thick heavy layers of clouds roil as the wind thrashes in angry water-scented gusts. Rain? After all this time, rain is going to fall now?
Lightning cracks, a wicked white whip snapping at the racing clouds. The hair on my arms lifts straight up. The swirling, heated breeze carries the scent of ozone and dampness. Thunder booms again, followed immediately by another sharp crack of lightning.
I run. Being caught outdoors in a thunderstorm is not smart. I’m new to Honeysuckle Hollow but I’ve lived in Florida all my life. The Sunshine State is known as the lightning capital of the country for a good reason. Once I saw a picture of a man blown right out of his shoes by a bolt of lightning. His white sneakers were singed black and a chalk outline on the sidewalk showed where he landed.
I dash through the trees lining the clearing to the sagging rusted wire fence that separates the land Gramma still owns from the rest of the park. As I near the fence, the scent of honeysuckle grows stronger, sweeter, chokingly thick. The wire is covered with pink blossoms and dark glossy vines. I’m lucky I’m not allergic.
No, not lucky. If I was allergic, I could convince Mom to get us out of here.
I stop in front of the fence. Maybe I can fake an allergy. I try out a phony sneeze as the clouds dump their load of water in a drenching downpour. I barely have time to blink against the first icy drops before I’m soaked.
Great. Now Mom will know I didn’t ride the bus and I’ll have to explain why.
Forget about faking an allergy. Get to Gramma’s house and dry off. I shove my dripping hair behind my ears and separate the strands of fence so I can slip through. My book bag bangs across my arm and the top flies open. Pencils scatter into the leaves and books and papers flop into the wet sand. A gush of water runs into my sneakers.
I release the fence, sling the bag back onto my shoulder, and grab the sodden mess of schoolwork. As I snatch up Wednesday’s art project, the wind whips more fat chilly raindrops across my face. I’m stuffing the books into the bag when the ground moves under my feet. I wobble sideways.
An earthquake? In Florida? No, earthquakes are California’s claim to fame. I must have imagined—another shift tosses me into the fence. This is not my imagination.
I clutch the rusty wire to keep from falling. The earth shudders. A hungry giant roused from sleep rumbles in the field. A peculiar gurgle follows, as if the giant is using a straw to suck up the last of a super-sized milkshake.
Before I can blink the rain out of my eyes, the field I raced across moments ago disappears, trees and all.
Genre: Middle Grade/Young Adult fantasy
Rating: Sweet, clean (minimal offensive language; no explicit love scenes)
Suitable for: Ages 10 and up
Length: Novel (44,000 words)
“I would recommend this book to anyone who loves horse stories, you won’t be disappointed!”
“This book does well at showing a character who struggles with doing the right thing, even if it means not fitting in with the “popular kids.” And it does so without being preachy or cliche. The author is gifted at descriptive writing and the story will grab you from page one. I read it in one sitting! I don’t know if the authors plan to write a book two, but it would be quite interesting if they did.”
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When fourteen year old Tovi Taggert moves to Honeysuckle Hollow to take care of her grandmother, she has a hard time fitting in. For one thing, she’s been tagged with the hated nickname Too-Tall Tovi. For another, everyone at Honeysuckle Hollow High believes Tovi played the Choking Game with someone else’s boyfriend and made out with him besides.
As if she doesn’t have enough problems, after the latest stand-off in the school hallway, Tovi finds a gorgeous speckled egg nestled in a feather lined nest.
She takes the egg home. Mysterious visitors begin appearing almost immediately. Even more worrisome, whatever is inside the egg starts chipping its way out.
When the egg hatches, revealing a winged horse, Tovi’s troubles multiply.
As she struggles to return the horse to the magical land where he belongs, Tovi must make a courageous decision—and accept what that decision will cost her.
About the author
HL Carpenter is a mother/daughter duo who write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, the Carpenters enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit HLCarpenter.com to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country.
Find them on https://www.hlcarpenter.com