Friday, March 26, 2010

Excerpt - Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren

Sons of Thunder
by
Susan May Warren


Sophie Frangos is torn between the love of two men and the promise that binds them all together. Markos Stavros loves Sophie from afar while battling his thirst for vengeance and his hunger for honor. Dino, his quiet and intelligent brother, simply wants to forget the horror that drove them from their Greek island home to start a new life in America. One of these “sons of thunder” offers a future she longs for, the other—the past she lost.

From the sultry Chicago jazz clubs of the roaring twenties to the World War II battlefields of Europe to a final showdown in a Greek island village, they’ll discover betrayal, sacrifice, and finally redemption. Most of all, when Sophie is forced to make her choice, she’ll learn that God honors the promises made by the Sons of Thunder.


Excerpt of chapter one:


Excerpt - Chapter 2: Sons of Thunder

Sofia Frangos could save the world with her song. At
least Markos's world, because that's what always seemed
to occur whenever he happened upon her in time to
catch the harmonies issuing from her as she worked.
 More of a humming than a song, really, and he
longed for the words, feeling they'd be plucked from
some garden inside her. Someday, perhaps.
 Yes, he felt a voyeur, but he couldn't stop the lure
of her voice. Probably, she knew her power-felt his
hypnotized presence, although her blue eyes never
appeared to notice him.
Someday, he hoped, she would see the ruddy
fisherman's son.
The sun spilled into the sea by the time Markos
moored his boat and retrieved his catch. He nodded to
the other fishermen repairing their nets along the wharf,
others simply smoking away the twilight.
"What is your catch?" Alexio Mizrahi, the Jewish
doctor, sat with his son-in-law as he worked his nets.
"Barbouni-for Theo's wedding!" Markos lifted
the lid to the metal canister of fish, noticed the smiles of
older, more accomplished fishermen.
Surely, he'd earned his father's toast at
tomorrow's feast.
"Someday you will be a fisherman such as your
father, Markos."
He let Alexio's words buoy his step, despite the
late hour.
 Sofia's song lured him as she stood, elbow deep in
flour, kneading the dough for tomorrow's wedding
bread. Her dark hair whisked back into a lanyard, tiny
unheeded curls dripped around her face.
For a moment, he imagined that he wasn't the son
of a fisherman, wasn't marked with the scratches from
squid barbs, his hands hoofed from tying the nets, his
face darkened with the fury of the sun. No, he fancied
himself a merchant, a man of means, who might be
worthy of such a girl as Sofia.
 Not that his mother would agree. After all, Sofia
was little more than an orphan, thanks to the Turks,
who'd felled her father on the shores of Sangarios, and to
illness, which took her mother during those dark years.
No family, no dowry, no koumbaro to stand beside her
groom as a witness. Only her aging grandfather-and
not even a real relation at that, being that he'd taken in
her father when he was a child-to claim her. The village
of Zante had predestined Sofia, even at fourteen, as their
next midwife, or perhaps a taverna keeper.
Sofia's graceful fingers began to roll the dough
into a long strip, ready to braid, to form the decorative
flowers and stars. She'd already worked the aniseed,
coriander, and fennel into the speckled dough. The
piquant smells of roasting lamb, fresh onions, tomatoes,
and baked figs awakened an animal in Markos's
stomach. He sucked in his breath, willing himself
invisible as he stood in his mother's taverna, the metal
canister of barbouni slung over his shoulder, dripping
seawater onto the stone floor-
"Markos, where have you been?"  flour, kneading the dough for tomorrow's wedding
bread. Her dark hair whisked back into a lanyard, tiny
unheeded curls dripped around her face.
For a moment, he imagined that he wasn't the son
of a fisherman, wasn't marked with the scratches from
squid barbs, his hands hoofed from tying the nets, his
face darkened with the fury of the sun. No, he fancied
himself a merchant, a man of means, who might be
worthy of such a girl as Sofia.
 Not that his mother would agree. After all, Sofia
was little more than an orphan, thanks to the Turks,
who'd felled her father on the shores of Sangarios, and to
illness, which took her mother during those dark years.
No family, no dowry, no koumbaro to stand beside her
groom as a witness. Only her aging grandfather-and
not even a real relation at that, being that he'd taken in
her father when he was a child-to claim her. The village
of Zante had predestined Sofia, even at fourteen, as their
next midwife, or perhaps a taverna keeper.
Sofia's graceful fingers began to roll the dough
into a long strip, ready to braid, to form the decorative
flowers and stars. She'd already worked the aniseed,
coriander, and fennel into the speckled dough. The
piquant smells of roasting lamb, fresh onions, tomatoes,
and baked figs awakened an animal in Markos's
stomach. He sucked in his breath, willing himself
invisible as he


He jerked, stepped back from the doorway,
rounding as his mother, her black skirt gathered, stepped
up from the portico of the taverna. Behind her, the
wooden tables were arrayed in a sort of semi-circle,
appropriate for the dance floor. Today, this moment, Ava
Stavros appeared every bit the mother of the groom, lines
of tradition worked into her brow, her long dark hair
caught back in a black scarf, an apron around her sturdy
form. She knew the sea, her men, and how to build a
home on the golden sands. "I expected you hours ago."
"We got caught in the doldrums, Mama. I'm sorry.
But I caught your barbouni." He slung the keg off his
shoulder and plunked it down at her feet. The water
dribbled from the holes, seawater darkening the white
stones.
"That's my Markos." She caught his face in her
hands, pressed a kiss to each cheek. "Just like your father.
You are destined to be the best fisherman in the family."
She opened the lid. The red-hooded fishes lay, some still
flopping, in a sleek pile. "Brava! Carry it to the kitchen-
Sofia will scale them."
Sofia barely looked up as he carried in the catch.
The heat of the wood-fired ovens ripened his sea-dog
odor, and he tried not to get too close as he set the kettle
down near the table, wincing at his own oafish presence.
She moved to open the lid, and he knocked her as
he stood up.
"Oh!" She held her nose, turning away.
"Are you okay?"
He only made out her blue eyes watering as she
nodded.
"I'm sorry!"
She turned, shaking her head. "No, it's my fault."
She offered him the smile that could sweep thoughts
from his head. Indeed, he stood there like a fool, drinking
in her eyes, the way the sun had tinted her nose, the
beautiful sweep of her lips. And, as if he might already
be inside his wildest dreams, she moved forward.
"Actually, I need to talk to you. My grandfather is-"
"Out of my taverna, Markos." His mother
lumbered into the kitchen.
Sofia cut off her words, turned away.
Mama shot her a dark look then turned to Markos.
"This is not your place. Go-find your brothers. I'm sure
Theo needs an airing out after last night's performance."
She winked at him, grabbing up a towel and a knife.
But Markos's mind hung on Sofia's sentence-Her
grandfather is...? Giving her hand away in marriage?
Dying? Markos longed to scoop the words from her,
hating how urgent they'd suddenly become.
But Sofia had already resumed her humming.
He chased his ego out, not looking back.

*****

Sofia's song twined through his thoughts, through the
wedding preparations, down the street the next day
during the groom's procession. Indeed, it seemed the
entire village had accepted Theo's invitation-propelled,
most likely, by curiosity, since Kostas, Zoë's spurned
suitor, joined the groom's march.


Lucien lurked somewhere behind in the crowd-
Markos caught occasional glimpses of him even as they
tramped through the cobbled streets, past the white-
washed stone homes, scattering the wandering goats
with their tinkling bells, through to the town square,
with the fountain, the bird's egg blue dome of the
orthodox church, right to the front steps where Kostas
stopped to await his bride. Clad in his only clean shirt, a
pair of wool pants, and a multi-colored vest, Markos
sweltered in the sun beside Dino, Kostas, and their
father, Galen, broad-chested and resplendent in his
threadbare-and only-suit."Do you think father will
allow me a glass of retsina?" Dino whispered, as the
women appeared, beautiful Zoë flanked by her widower
father in the bridal procession.
"Shh-no, of course not. It's for the guests."
"I'm a guest."
"You're annoying."
Dino made to stomp him on the foot, but Markos
sidestepped him.
There-on the edge of the procession-Sofia. Like
the rest of the unmarried women in the village, she wore
a twined headpiece of ivy, ornamented with orange
blossoms, little white stars. For a moment, his breath
slicked out, remembering her face yesterday twisted in
pain at his clumsiness. But today she shone, her blue eyes
matching her simple dress, gathered at the waist. Then
again, she would be beautiful in a kitchen apron,
smudged with flour-
"There's Lucien!"
Dino's voice yanked Markos's attention from
Sofia, to where Lucien sat astride the cart attired to pull
the couple from the church to the family taverna for the
wedding feast. He wore the cap of the driver low over his
face, but Markos made out a scandalous smile.
Not today, Lucien. Still, his friend struck a comical
pose, standing on the seat of the carriage and dancing a
mock tsamiko. A few of the women began to giggle.
"Fool," Galen muttered, his voice low. "Always
playing the troublemaker."
Theo only had eyes for Zoë. Radiant, with her
waist-long hair down under a flowing red veil, a
matching ornamented dress swishing along the
cobblestone center square. Her father marched at her
side, her hand tucked in the crook of his arm. A small
man, with narrow shoulders and a tiny paunch, he might
have looked younger had life not stolen his wife before
she bore him more children. Thus, he guarded Zoë like a
treasure, his surrender to Theo Stavros most likely won
by Ava Stavros's attention, delivering meals from the
taverna over the years.
Markos-and the rest of Zante-wasn't blind to
the way Zoë's father eyed Markos's mother. Some even
whispered that Ava Stavros, a foreigner from Athens and
educated in literature at the university, might be more
suited for a man of his station.
But Ava's devotion belonged to Galen. Now, she
smiled at him, dressed in her finest blue dress, a lacey
white scarf bridling her dark hair. The Ionian blue topaz
ring, the one she kept hidden behind her bed in a notch
in the wall, sparkled in the sunlight.


Today, indeed, was a special event.
Theo clutched Zoë's flowers-a bouquet from
Mama's rose bushes. His forehead wept.
Markos pinned his eyes on Sofia and imagined the
day when he would stand in the sun, holding roses,
sweating.
The Orthodox Church should have been cool, with
its soaring, frescoed ceilings, but the smell of incense
stifled the air, and the heat of too many witnesses
hastened the priest's recitation of the prayers, the biblical
tale of the wedding feast at Cana, the presentation of the
Stefanos crowns with the circle round the altar...
The grand pronouncement of Theo and Zoë's
future.
They exited the church with a collective exhale.
Thankfully, Lucien had abdicated his position to the
hired driver. Markos searched for him, but he had
vanished.
For their eldest son, the Stavroses laid out tables of
moussaka - baked eggplant, stuffed zucchini, and roasted
potatoes. Giant red lobsters and grilled barbouni, fried
kalamarakia -- squid, and sardines baked in tomato sauce
and oregano, boiled green beans -hortas -- with lemon,
and green beans steamed from their plates, amidst fresh
tomatoes, cucumbers, onions. Another table served
honeydew melons, honey-soaked baklava, almond
cookies, figs, and of course, sugared walnuts. Barrels of
wines, unearthed, perhaps, from the cellars of the
Ramone family-for the Stavros supply of retsina had
gone to buy the favor of the village the night before-lay
stacked on their sides, ready to be tapped.
A hired musician played the bouzouki, the strings
of the small guitar sounding tinny against the stone floor,
as Zoë and Theo stomped out their first dance. A floyera
player stood up, his shepherd's whistle bobbing to time.
Still, no Lucien.
Kostas, however, sulked on the perimeter of the
dance floor, his dark eyes fixed upon the couple, his
hand clutched around a glass of wine, nursing his
second, perhaps more-Markos didn't want to count. He
wore a granite expression, although occasionally he
raised his glass, shouted with the crowd.
Next to Markos, Dino had filled his plate with
enough to feed an entire pack of wild jackals. "You know
you will be sick."
Dino picked up a shrimp, dangled it towards
Markos. Markos looked away and found Sofia, sitting
with a knot of girls. She glanced over at him, gave him a
whisper of a smile-
 "Time to dance the Kaslamantiano." Papa
appeared at the table, whisking a hand across Markos's
back. Whoops and clapping drove the musicians' beat,
the tempo increasing. His father moved to the next table,
urging his guests to the dance floor, to join in the hand-
to-hand circle.
Markos timed his movements and caught his hand
into Sofia's soft, yet strong hands. She tightened her hold
on his, and for a blinding second, he again wished for
merchant's hands instead of his-rough-cut, callused,
and reeking of the sea. But she looked up at him, her
smile in her eyes. Then the music started, and he fell into
the dance.


Round and round, faster and faster. Slow step to
the right, quick step right with the left foot, quickstep
right with the right foot, repeat. Markos counted out the
steps in his head, watching Theo lead them around the
portico. Slow step backwards with the right foot,
quickstep backwards with the left, quick weight shift-
Kostas broke into the crowd, grabbing a hand, the
other clutched around his glass. Something about his
exuberance sent a ripple into the circle, the
embarrassment of watching a man suffer.
Markos could even smell Sofia, something floral,
the orange blossoms and the hot Ionian sun baked into
her skin. Maybe he would ask her to take a walk with
him across the moon dappled sand to his boat. Maybe he
would tell her that someday they would have their own
Kaslamantiano dance, and he would hold her bouquet of
Mama's roses-
With a shout, Kostas dove into the center of the
floor, twisting and turning in an erratic solo as he
danced-no, leered, Markos decided-at Zoë, then
grinned like a shark at Theo.
Drunk. Of course. Like father, like son.
Zoë blanched. Some of the dancers stopped,
although the music twined on, tinny and quick.
"Kostas, go home," Theo said, still trying to
reclaim the night, moving to shield Zoë. Despite his
smile, a sharpness edged his tone, his eyes stony.
Kostas danced over to a table. "We're still
celebrating." He picked up a plate, and with a flick,
threw it to the floor. It smashed, a thousand white shards
spraying the stones. Sofia jerked back, her hand over her
face. The music stopped.
"Go home," Theo said again, advancing on the
man, his hand around Kostas's wrist before Kostas could
pick up another plate.
Kostas jerked his wrist from Theo's grasp, his face
hard.
Go home, Kostas. Markos drew Sofia close.
For a moment, everyone stilled, as if drawing a
breath. Beyond the taverna, the sea clawed at the shore, a
storm in the wind, the chilly breath snaking into the
party.
Kostas threw down his glass. It exploded against
the stone floor. "You're a thief, Theo Stavros!" Kostas
glared at Zoë. "And you're a harlot."
"That's enough, Kostas." Galen stepped across the
floor, two giant steps, voice solemn, but enough to
thunder. "You are not welcome here."
Hours later, Markos still fought to sort it out. He
wanted to will it all into stone, something he could
snatch and fling away into the night.
Perhaps if he'd been faster, slipped up beside his
father, taken Kostas's blow on his own chest....
Heeded the impulse inside.
Because, in the sliver of time between Galen's
words and Kostas's attack, Markos knew. He heard it-a
warning, or more of a moan, emitting behind him. Saw it,
too, an omen written on the face of Lucien, who
appeared at the edge of the portico, his mouth bloodied,
his eyes wide with a warning that bespoke his
mysterious absence from the party.


Markos even sensed it in a tremor through him,
like the storm edging in on the shore. A cold, slick
turning of the tide-"No!"
But he hesitated, afraid of the thunder inside.
Kostas outgirded Galen, and wine made him bold.
He slammed his fist into the center of the older man's
chest, the full weight of his sodden fury behind his blow.
Galen stumbled back, his mouth open, without a
breath.
He fell with a deadened thud.
Mama screamed as Theo erupted.
He tackled Kostas, knocked over tables, drawing
blood, brawling at the feet of the musicians. In the chaos,
a man roared and charged into the brawl-Yannis
Pappos, bully drunk, dangerous. He pushed aside Kostas
to beat Theo.
Sofia had let go of Markos's hand. Which was
better anyway, because Markos may have hurt her as he
threw himself at Yannis.
Kostas turned to the first man who tried to
intervene, threw him down, and broke his jaw with a
kick. He then caught Markos off the top of Yannis's back
and threw him with the force of a mule across the room.
Markos landed, stunned, the breath whisked out
of him. He gulped like a fish to live.
At once, Lucien appeared. His hands closed
around Markos's wrists, pulling him up. "Run!"
But Markos had no sight to recognize his friend's
warning. He shoved Lucien away and turned back to the
fight.
Dino had his skinny legs clamped around Yannis's
beefy back, a crab even as Kostas closed his hands
around Dino's scrawny neck.
Theo, on the floor, had gone limp, his face white,
his eyes unseeing.
"Dino!" Markos lost himself to his rage, unable
even to sort through his movements as he snapped.
Kostas unhanded Dino, whirled around, yet not
fast enough to catch Markos. He tackled Kostas with the
speed of a wild boar, slamming him with a bone-jarring
crash into the wall.
Kostas screamed, writhing on the floor, hands to
his neck.
The ugly shard of a broken plate protruded from
his neck. Blood poured onto the stones.
"Markos!"
His mother bent over Galen, her hands on his
chest, her twined hair undone. "Help me!"
His father's eyes had swiveled back into his head,
leaving only the eerie white of a fish's underbelly.
Markos skidded to his knees, put his ear to his father's
mouth. No breath. He grabbed his shoulders, shook.
"Papa!"
Everything stopped moving then, a silence broken
only by his mother's quiet pleading. "Galen, Galen..."
Markos looked up. Dino, white-faced, crawled to
his father's feet. He bled from the mouth.
Theo lay in a widening pool of blood, his mouth
slack, his skull crushed.
And Kostas's blood spilled freely, as he slumped
against the wall, his eyes glossy.

No one moved to rescue him, even as Yannis
pressed his hands against the wound. "Kostas!"
Markos looked away, a fist in his chest, crushing
him, squeezing his breath.
"Kostas!"
Markos winced. Tightened his jaw. Because he'd
seen the whites of Kostas's eyes too.
And then-"You-Stavros!"
Markos glanced up to see Yannis, blood dripping
from his hands. He found his feet.
"Leave him be!" Mama threw herself at Yannis,
intercepting his rage. "Leave him be!"
She held on, even as Yannis slapped her, held on
as she screamed to her sons, "Run!"
Run.
Markos grabbed Dino's arm, yanked him to his
feet, and, bile in his throat, fled from the wedding of his
oldest brother.
In the distance, thunder shook the heavens, and it
began to pour.





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Enter Susan’s Memory Prize Pack contest:
Each one of us has a wealth of stories from the past – while they might not all be as sweeping and dramatic as that of Sofia and the Stravos brothers (swoon), your family history is a treasure nonetheless.

Well – let’s hear them! Were your great-grandparents ‘fresh off the boat’? Was your great uncle a war hero? Did your grandmother make unbelievable sacrifices to help or protect the family? Did your father harbor a family secret until his death? Are you related to someone famous (my assistant is related to presidents Harrison and Jackson – wow! Who knew?) Do you have a family treasure? Maybe you just have some lovely memories. Whatever it is that is unique in your family history – share it with us.

Have a photo to go with your story? Even better!!!! Email those to amy@susanmaywarren.com !

One grand prize winner will win a Memory Prize package containing a gift certificate to create your own hard cover photo book, a 6 month membership to Netflix (to satisfy that flick fix!) and a signed copy of Sons of Thunder! 5 runners up will also win signed copies of Sons of Thunder! Contest ends March 31st. Winners will be announced April 2nd.

TO ENTER THE CONTEST VISIT THE SONS OF THUNDER WEBSITE: http://brothersinarms.susanmaywarren.com/  AND CLICK ON THE SHARE PAGE!

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