I have Tami Veldura on the blog today, talking about her latest novel!
Araceli was born into slavery on the Cross tobacco plantation. It's a history she doesn't talk about for good reason: an escaped slave can be returned to her master for a hefty reward. Here's a scene from Araceli's past—the day she escaped from the Cross plantation.
CW: racial slur, death of a child
Araceli pet the next tobacco plant in line, parting the leaves to find any sign of budding flowers. Her dark, gentle fingers found a bulb at the center. She pinched it off with her thumbnail and pocketed the flower into her green-stained shoulderbag. Araceli unbent, took a step forward, and inspected the next plant.
There were sixty-three plants in this row. Sixty in the next. Fifty-two in the next because a beetle infestation tried to set in before Mister Cross demanded the infected plants be dug up entirely. There were ninety-seven rows on this lot. One hundred and thirteen on the next. Araceli knew every single plant.
She combed through the palm-sized leaves. She lifted the clay and sand logged lower leaves out of the dirt. Her watchful eyes found every flower. She knew how to spot new budding leaves and let those ones alone. Every leaf counted on a tobacco plantation.
A peal of young laughter broke Araceli out of her high-noon-induced haze. A girl, no more than eight, ran through the field, nimbly dodged Araceli's skirt, and tripped on the hem of her own dress. She crashed into the dirt with a muffled umph.
Araceli reached for her immediately. "Oh, Mistress, get yourself up, then. You're ok." The young girl grabbed the end of her dress with a distressed sound. Her hands smeared the dirt further.
"You don't TOUCH HER!"
Araceli jumped. Master Jeremiah, ten or eleven, pointed his mixed-heritage finger at her. Shunned by the Household and distrusted by the slaves, Lesley was the only soul in his world he could effectively rule over. Araceli showed him her tobacco-stained hands. "I haven't hurt her—"
"No, that's my job." Jeremiah shoved Araceli to one side and smacked Lesley's dress out of her hands.
Araceli's foot sank ankle deep into a tobacco mound, but she stayed upright. She grabbed Jeremiah's hand as he swung it up. He scowled at her. Araceli bared her teeth, knowing the whiteness against her black skin made her look frightening. "You should know better than to hit a lady of the House."
He kicked her skirts and missed anything vital. "Then I'll hit you instead. You're not a lady."
"No!" Lesley pushed Jeremiah's hip with both hands, throwing him off balance. The boy sat on a tobacco plant and sank into the soft dirt.
Araceli grappled Jeremiah's attempt to stand. She shoved him back down into the dirt. "Run, Mistress. Run to your mother." Lesley turned away. Araceli knew she was gone when Jeremiah tried to kick her legs again.
Frustrated, he yanked the mangled tobacco plant out of the ground and threw it at her. "I'll see you whipped for something, negro." He grabbed another plant with both hands and pulled it free of the dirt. "See what happens when you make me mad?" She lost a third plant under his hands. "Who do you think Mother with believe when I tell her we caught you pulling out the plants?"
Araceli gripped her bag in front of her. She was bigger, stronger, but injuring Jeremiah was out of the question. Even if he was the least favored out of everyone in the Household, he was still favored over the slaves. He threw another maturing tobacco plant at her- five lost if the one whose root system she stepped on couldn't recover. Araceli bit her lip. A whipping would be the least of her punishment.
"Do you think she'll believe me? She doesn't like me." He trampled a plant, jumping on the soft mound it grew from. "But you… you're the negro Father had two boys with when Mother only had girls. I bet she hates you more than she hates me." He smiled and Araceli thought a white smile in an almost white face was more frightening than her darker one. "You want to find out?"
He took a deep breath and Araceli's stomach dropped. He screamed, "MOTH--" Araceli tackled him. Her bag smacked the dirt as she fell. She covered his mouth with one hand and he struggled. She sat on him, leaning her weight in while her mind raced. There was no way she could get out of a punishment for the crops and if he wanted to press it, they could beat her for Mistress Lesley's dirty dress. The baby of the House was adored by everyone. But Mister Cross… his punishments were creative and far more intimate. Araceli bit her lip until she tasted blood. Her eyes stung. She didn't know what to do.
She had to talk Jeremiah out of his rage, but how?
Araceli looked down at the boy beneath her and realized he wasn't fighting anymore. She loosened her grip. He didn't try to bite her hand or buck her off. "Master Jeremiah, please, you must listen." She took her hands away and prayed he wouldn't scream again. "Let me plant them back in, I'll tell Mister Cross I've seen beetles."
Jeremiah didn't speak. In fact, he didn't move at all. Araceli stood up abruptly, grabbing her skirt away. She rolled Jeremiah over with her foot. He flopped. His eyes didn't blink.
"Oh, Lord." Araceli couldn't bring herself to touch him again. She grabbed her picking bag and backed down the row of tobacco plants. Her heart choked her. She wheezed.
Araceli turned and ran for the slave house. At high noon it was vacant. Everyone was out in the fields, topping the plants against seeding. It was only a matter of time before someone found the body. Araceli slid in the dirt at her spot in the house. She opened a tiny trunk and grabbed every item she owned. She threw them all—mostly clothes—onto her single blanket and rolled it up. She tucked it under her arm and ran back outside.
Iniabasi, slave enforcer and slave himself, turned at the noise she made. He checked the watch on his wrist—a gift from Mister Cross—and frowned at her. "What are you doing back here?"
Something drastic. Araceli didn't have to fake the panic in her voice. "Please, Inia," She pointed to the field. "Please hurry. Master Jeremiah came into the crop and he's injured. I ran here to find you—"
"Where is he?" Iniabasi stood taller.
"There, row fifty, halfway in. Go help, I'll—I'll... " She stalled when she spotted Master Cross step onto his veranda at the House. "I'll go tell Mister Cross to call the doctor."
"Yes. Hurry." Iniabasi left her at the slave house without question and she immediately regretted the position that would leave him in.
But her life was over, anyway. Araceli turned away from the house and ran to the edge of the plantation. She dove into the wild jungle. She had to move quickly and she couldn't stop for anything. Not food, water, not even sleep. They would search for a slave of the House and she wasn't just a slave anymore.
She was free.
Title: Ruin and Will
Series: Act of Piracy #2
Author: Tami Veldura
Publisher: OLDEWOLFF ALTERNASCENTS
Release Date: September 23, 2016
Heat Level: 4 - Lots of Sex
Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Pirates
To change his fate, Kyros Vindex made a deal with witches: Eric’s heart for anything in the world. But the cost of love was too high. His quartermaster and best friend Araceli Cross is trapped with the spirit Ghalil. Driven by his guilt, Kyros becomes obsessed with the impossible. To get Araceli back, he’ll have to renege on the witches’ blood pact.
Finally free of the demon that possessed him for seven years, Eric Deumont is ready to chase the horizon. Try as he might, he can’t convince his lover Kyros to move on. And Kyros expects him to return to the plantation, and the man, where it all started; as if there was a chance Philippe could pull Araceli out of the jar. But Eric won’t risk unleashing Ghalil, not for anyone. It’s time to cut and run.
Araceli fights Ghalil with everything she has but when the demon merges their souls, they break the seal of their cage. However, physical freedom doesn’t change the fight for dominance. Ghalil’s demand for blood shackles her, and Araceli is nobody’s slave.
With Ghalil free, time is a luxury that no one has. And all the while, the witch crows watch...
Meet the Author
Tami Veldura is a writer, reader, lover and artist. She currently resides in Ventura, CA. She writes science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, and queer fiction.
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