Exclusive excerpt: Crimson Footprints lll: The Finale by Shewanda Pugh #PassionateSpot


In Stores January 14, 2014

Deena woke with a start, with the burn in her heart telling her that it had happened, that death had come on her watch. But Tak’s wide-eyed look and shake of the head said no, they had a little longer.
“I need to talk to you,” he said.
They sat in the shadows, all lights extinguished in her sleep so that only the one over the doorway remained. Tak’s face floated, hollowed and shadowy, camp ghost-story style and divested of its body.
“I’m listening,” Deena said.
He drew away, drew away with a bite of his lower lip and a pinched expression. Wrestling, weighing his words. Accepting and rejecting each one.
“I promised your grandmother that we’d take her somewhere.”
“Well, that’s fine. But it wasn’t in your power to promise.”
Something flickered there. A wink of annoyance, a shadow of challenge. Just as quickly, it was gone, his expression smoothing out to earnestness.
“Hear me out,” he said. “She hasn’t been anywhere her whole life, Dee. Only, where she was born in Eufaula, Alabama and the one time we evacuated to California for the storm. We talked—”
“You talked?” Deena said doubtfully. Her grandmother hadn’t been lucid enough to navigate the intricacies of a conversation for awhile now. Whatever serious conversation they’d had, had been entirely one-sided.
“We talked,” Tak repeated, firmer still. “And this is what she said. She had me take it down.”
He stood, lean body unfolding in skimp lighting, and dug deep into the pocket of his jeans. Long sleeved black thermal stretched over muscles flexing imperceptibly, flat against well worn jeans and hard, narrow hips. Age had done him justice as superbly as his father. They said that black didn’t crack. Hell, Deena thought, there wasn’t a monopoly on that after all.
“She even signed it,” Tak said. “After I read it to her.”
Deena looked around. “How long have I been sleep again?”
It didn’t seem long enough for a signed contract. Earlier that day, she couldn’t get her grandmother to say if she wanted red jello or green, but a pretty man could do wonders, it seemed.
Deena took the paper. Read it over. Read it over again.
Dropped it to the floor.
“No. Hell no.”
“Sweetheart, it’s what she wants.”
“She doesn’t know what she wants!” Deena turned from him, an old familiar urge to scream, bubbling to the surface. Any mention of her family, of her kin, had that sort of power.
“You can’t possibly want this,” she said. “Or think it’s a remotely good idea.”
Tak dropped down next to her. “I want her to have peace. And I love her enough to make that happen.”
Deena looked up at him. Then away. She exhaled air she hadn’t known she hoarded. She looked down at the paper, resting face down.
“It’s not fair when you say it that way. I need choices, Tak. Control. You know that, don’t you?”
“I know it. But that’s not always an option.”
She shot a look at a blackness devoid of stars, bereft of clouds and emptied as she felt at the moment.
“All of them?” Deena said. “An open invitation to Hammonds and Tanakas?”
Tak had the decency to offer an apologetic smile. “Apparently, she wants nothing less.”

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