Today I am so pleased to welcome Libby Drew to Joyfully Jay. Libby has come to share an exclusive excerpt from her latest release, The Lost Year, part of the Secrets of Neverwood anthology. She has also brought along a copy of the anthology to give away! Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
They split up, Nicholas tracking one line of shadowed figures and Devon the other. Keeping an eye on Nicholas, he approached the first group of people, late teens by his guess, huddled around a flickering barrel fire. One boy stepped forward when he got close, blocking Devon’s access to the group. “We don’t want any trouble, man.”
“No trouble.” Devon held out a flier. “I’m looking for this kid.”
The youth pulled his cap lower over his head before taking the paper out of Devon’s hand. “Never seen him before.”
Devon had expected as much. “Can you ask your friends, please?”
The kid bit his lip, weighing the request. “Hang on.”
“Thank you.” Devon didn’t make any attempt to follow, keeping his posture relaxed and hands in plain sight while the boy passed the paper around. Expecting to hear a definitive negative, Devon couldn’t hide his surprise when the boy returned with a different answer. “Wes knows him.”
Too shocked to react immediately, Devon had done little more than stutter out a garbled question when another boy stepped away from the fire and came forward, holding the flier. He was younger than the first, but not by much. Sixteen, maybe. A patchy unkempt beard dusted his cheeks. Dark, flinty eyes cut over Devon with a mixture of curiosity and distrust.
Devon recognized him immediately. He’d been in the original picture with Robbie, hovering on the edge of the shot. Heart pounding, he pointed at the flier in his hands. “Do you know Robbie?”
The older teen stepped back, keeping the younger behind him as he eyed Devon.
“Maybe,” said the younger boy, Wes. “Who wants to know?”
Both boys snorted. The older curled his lip. “I bet.”
“Not that kind of friend.” Devon’s cheeks flamed. “I’m a friend of his dad, actually.”
Wes sneered. “The fag?”
“That’s right.” Nicholas stepped into the meager circle of light. “The fag.” He twisted the stack of fliers in his hand. “Do you know where Robbie is?”
The boy shook his head and backed away.
“Please.” Nicholas’s voice broke. “Please.”
Devon stretched out a beseeching hand. “We just want to help him.”
“He said he didn’t know. Now leave us alone.” The older boy began to back away, pushing Wes behind him.
“Wait!” Nicholas fought the restraining arm Devon flung across his chest. He stumbled after them. “Please. I’ve been looking for him for a very long time.”
Devon slung a second arm around his waist. “Easy,” he crooned into Nicholas’s ear as he walked him backward. “This isn’t helping.” He retreated several steps, then pointed to a spot several yards away. “Wait for me over there.”
“No,” Nicholas snarled. His muscles flexed against Devon’s restraining arm.
This was getting out of hand. Devon eased his grip and felt Nicholas relax in turn. “Take a deep breath and settle down. You’re scaring them.”
A fine tremble infused the body tucked against his side. Devon curled his arm, drawing Nicholas close once more, and he came willingly, lowering his forehead to Devon’s shoulder. “I’m not trying to scare them. I just—”
They both turned, Nicholas lifting his head to track the voice. Wes had come forward, though the other boy hovered a few feet away, watching. He stood with his hands on his hips, mouth twisted into a sneer. All bark, Devon suspected, but bravado went a long way on the streets.
“Yes?” Devon asked. He kept a tight grip on Nicholas. “Wes, right? Can you help us?”
Wes shrugged. “Maybe. Are you gonna convince me to?”
Ah. Slowly, Devon reached into his back pocket and retrieved his wallet. “Do you know where Robbie is?”
Wes eyed the wallet. “How do I know that’s his dad anyway?”
Devon almost smiled. “Look at his eyes.” Nicholas could have tattooed “property of Nicholas Hardy” on Robbie’s ass, and it still wouldn’t have proved his paternity as convincingly as the eye color they shared.
Wes took a step forward, halting when the older boy made a sound of warning.
“It’s okay,” Devon said. “I promise. If you really do know Robbie, this is the proof you need. Take a good look and tell me this man isn’t his father.”
Wes drew a shaky breath, but moved close enough that Devon got a good view of his gaunt cheeks and filthy clothes. He zeroed in on Nicholas for several seconds before backing away. “What do you want with him?”
“I just want to make sure he’s okay,” Nicholas whispered.
Wes blinked. “Sorry, man.” He sounded genuinely remorseful. “I haven’t seen him in weeks.”
Secrets of Neverwood… Three foster brothers are called home to Neverwood, the stately Pacific Northwest mansion of their youth. They have nothing in common but a promise to Audrey, the woman they all called mother—that upon her death, they would restore the house and preserve it as a home for troubled boys.
But going home is never easy.
Cal struggles to recover from past heartbreak, while Danny fears his mistakes are too big to overcome. Devon believes he may never break down the barriers that separate him from honest emotion.
On the path to brotherhood, they discover the old mansion holds more than dusty furniture and secret passageways. Audrey’s spirit still walks its halls, intent on guiding “her boys” toward true love, and an old mystery stirs up a new danger—one that could cost the men far more than just the house.
- Secrets of Neverwood #1—One Door Closes
- Secrets of Neverwood #2—The Growing Season
- Secrets of Neverwood #3—The Lost Year
Libby glimpsed her true calling when her first story, an A.A. Milne /Shakespeare crossover, won the grand prize in her elementary school’s fiction contest. Her parents explained that writers were quirky, poor, and often talked to themselves in supermarket checkout lines. They implored her to be practical, a request she took to heart for twenty years, earning two degrees, a white-collar job, and an ulcer, before realizing that practical was absolutely no fun.
Today she lives with her husband and four children in an old, impractical house and writes stories about redemption, the supernatural, and love at first sight, all of which do exist. She happens to know from experience.
Libby’s State of Mind received rave reviews for being fast, clever, and relentless and was nominated for a Bookie Award for Best M/M Novel of 2011. 40 Souls to Keep, Libby’s third novel, has been described as intense and heart-poundingly good and was praised by Publishers Weekly for maintaining a high level of suspense.
An avid supporter of gay rights, Libby donates her time to the Trevor Project and organizations that work to support marriage equality.
Libby has brought a copy of the Secrets of Neverwood anthology to give away to one lucky reader. This includes all three novellas that are part of the set. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Thursday, July 3rd at 11:59 pm EST.
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