by Nat Burns
In this highly anticipated second book in The Desert Willow Series, the Grey aliens are back and Lily Dawson, the government liaison to the Interdimensional Beings who protect Earth, is called back into action. Only this time, it is her half IDB daughter, Birdie, and another hybrid teen, Rosemary, who will be called upon to create a treaty to save Earth from certain destruction.
Soon life is further complicated by an unknown earthly threat, a human, who seeks revenge. Will Lily be strong enough to deal with the consequences of protecting the Earth from the Greys? Is she willing to give up everything she loves to protect her home planet and fulfill her duties as a government liaison? Only time will tell, and time is swiftly running out.
Rosemary follows The Liaison in The Desert Willow Series.
FROM THE AUTHOR
"Rosemary came about because I wanted a second hero beyond Lily who was the hero in the first book of the series, The Liaison. Having Lily's half Interdimensional Being daughter, Birdie (Aili) grow from an infant to an adult in the course of only several years was asking a lot of the readers, as well as the unknowing characters in Rosemary, but I felt it was something inevitable to prepare for the upcoming battle. Then for Birdie to find a compadre in arms in Rosemary, well, there was my other hero. The character Rosemary is beyond intelligent and has a grace and tolerance of adversity that we should all emulate. I hope my readers will enjoy this story and, the first person who can tell me which of my seventeen books the walk-on characters are from will win one free digital or paperback copy of any one of my books, their choice."
Ashlee G. - …This series though is very unique, and I love the idea that other beings could have a Liaison like this with a human. Lots of fun to read, especially anyone looking for a little sci-fi fun.
Patrica B. - Really good science fiction romance.
On My Birth
After my human birth on this planet, I quickly realized that I had the knowledge and power of the universe in my hands. Literally. I looked at those small, pudgy baby hands and knew instinctively, even then, that everything I would ever need and want could be made manifest by those hands.
But I was just an infant then, a newborn. I could do nothing on my own. I spent many hours pondering this, wondering at it. What good is having the universe in one’s hands when one’s physical form is so limiting? And then there were the voices that spoke to me constantly, trying to answer all my questions, and the dazzling, smiling facial features that appeared and faded back into bright energy almost instantly. My other family. They were the source of my knowledge and power and they, the Collective, made me giddy as their shared energy shook my tiny body to the core.
My beautiful mother, so young and so jaundiced by past events, had to meet all my physical needs in the beginning. Plus, she had to tolerate the surges of energy that ran through me. I could tell they alarmed her each time they occurred, so I tried to radiate soothing thoughts when I was close to her. I think there was the full knowledge somewhere within her about how special I was. How I was but one small cog in the vast Collective, but that my very existence was unique and important. It was as though she waited, watching me. I could see it in her eyes. I waited as well, creating toys of light alone in my crib, understanding my destiny, knowing that one day I might have to give my all to protect this new round of humanity. The human line that one day might evolve into their own energy collective. If I could help them survive.
The Desert Willow
There was only one more left. Lily looked down, judging the distance to the hard-packed desert dirt below. A good eight feet, at least. She lifted her eyes to the unsightly branch high to her right, wondering if her obsessive-compulsive need to remove the final dead limb was worth the risk. She sighed and the pungent scents of desert willow greenery and bark filled her nostrils anew. The potent scent was making her head hurt.
Small, drab birds watched her cautiously, hopping from branch to branch but staying always out of reach as she worked. They didn’t complain so she knew there wasn’t a mama bird with a nest nearby, but they certainly avoided her. She looked up again. The harsh sun was dappled here in the leafy shelter of the willow, and she leaned her head back to rest and reflect.
The accident or, actually, the rescue, had changed her life in so many ways. Once a capable, energetic waitress, filled with determination and a bit of intolerance, she was now disabled, or challenged, as they say, missing a finger and with one leg crippled by limb-saving surgery. And yet here she was, up a tree.
A tree that was as majestic as it was ancient and one that certainly deserved a perfect pruning. She ran a hand along the gnarled bark. Like her, the willow was a survivor, sending roots down unbelievably deep and wide to glean any moisture lingering below the competing dry scrub that littered the nearby landscape. Lily admired these trees in general, and this one, old and stately, had been in the front yard of Good Neighbor Ranch long before Lily and her family had moved there more than two decades ago.
She took another deep breath and, using her strong arms, hoisted herself a little higher, securing her denim-clad bottom against a protruding scar that was all that remained from a fallen branch. Clumsily repositioning the loppers, she leaned to one side and tried to lock the cutting blades onto the thick dead branch. After much maneuvering, she managed it. She’d need both hands and some sort of leverage to pull the handles together, though. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a skinny feeder branch. It was substantial. Easily handled by the loppers she was sure, if she wasn’t twisted into an absurdly awkward position.
She glanced around, seeking a solution to her dilemma.
“Just do it,” she muttered, seeing no ready way to reposition herself.
Gingerly, she shifted and placed her hands on the lopper handles. Tongue clasped between her teeth, she leaned away from the trunk and toward the dead growth.
Fixed in concentration, she was startled by the sound of gravel crunching loudly under the tires of an approaching vehicle. Looking toward the long driveway, she spied Hunter’s SUV, the dark blue vehicle surrounded by a billow of sandy dust, as her weaker leg, braced against the trunk, failed her. In seconds, she was grasping at air as her world turned upside down. The loppers spiraled away from her, the heavy handles coming dangerously close to clocking her on the forehead. Her good leg folded instinctively and curved around a branch below her as her upper body swung into free fall. Tree litter swirled around her like a green snowfall as she perilously swayed to and fro, trying to calm her racing heart.
“Shit,” she whispered, pressing one hand to her chest. The other hand swung out, trying in vain to connect with anything of substance. She peered toward the trunk of the tree, realizing that the hold her leg had on the branch was tenuous, at best. She gauged the distance to the ground again, calculating it now to be only six or seven feet. Far enough to still do some damage, especially if she landed headfirst.
“Shit,” she said again, much louder.
“You are definitely between a rock and a hard place,” Hunter said in her quiet, level voice.
Twisting her neck, Lily saw Hunter standing on the porch steps, regarding her with unbelievable calm. She held a paper grocery bag with both arms, and her long, dark braid was laying crossways on her shoulder. If not dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, she might have been a stereotypical Indian maiden from the eighteen hundreds. As Lily pondered this new upside-down view, their daughter, Aili, who they called Birdie, approached the tree, her huge neon blue eyes stretched even wider than usual.
“Mummy?” she queried. “Why are you hanging in the tree?”
Lily groaned. “Will you two please help me get down from here?”
Hunter sighed a beleaguered sigh and placed the bag of groceries onto the porch floor. “You know, Lil, we live on a ranch and have a handful of people who would have been glad to do this—whatever it is—for you.”
She walked to Lily and raised her strong, gym-toned arms, but her hands barely reached Lily’s short blond hair. Birdie moved under Lily and extended her arms to either side.
“You’re gonna have to drop, Lil,” Hunter said. “We’ll catch you.”
“You can get the ladder. It’s behind the tree.”
“Oh, okay,” Hunter said, backing away. “Hold on, don’t fall.”
Lily studied her daughter as Hunter stepped away. “Was school okay today, hon?”
Birdie shrugged, squinting into the sunlight behind her mother. “I can’t go anymore, and I’ll miss him. He was a lot of fun. He says he’s taken me as far as he can.”
She was standing beneath Lily, arms extended still, as though she would catch her mom if she fell. The platinum-haired preteen had never looked cuter or more Nordic. Aili, a Finnish name given by the Collective seemed apt, physically. It also meant blessed and the girl surely was.
Hunter came around the tree, stepladder in hand. “You used this?” she accused. “Seriously?”
“It was high enough,” Lily said defensively. “I’ve always climbed trees. Just get it over here.”
Hunter opened the ladder and placed it securely beneath her wife, muttering in a low tone. Lily was glad she couldn’t hear the details of her exasperated rant. Mounting the ladder, Hunter grasped Lily’s shoulders and pushed upward, enabling Lily to grasp the branch being held crooked in her now numb leg. She swung both legs down, levering the stiff, damaged one out and away from the trunk. Hunter wrapped her arms about Lily, supporting her on the stepladder, and Lily let go of the branch and fell against the solid heft of her. She kissed Hunter on the nose. “Welcome home.”
Hunter shook her head, a bewildered but tolerant smile on her lips as she helped Lily down the ladder. Birdie fetched her mother’s cane from where it leaned against the trunk of the tree and handed it to her.
“Thank you, sweetie,” Lily said as she patted her good leg, trying to get the blood flowing again.
Hunter put the handle of the stepladder over her shoulder. “Aren’t you supposed to be inside entering data into the computer?” she asked as she and Lily moved haltingly toward the house.
“I finished it. What’s this about Birdie and school? Did he finally give up?”
Hunter nodded as she lifted the grocery bag from the porch. “Yep. He says that this is as far as he can go. Our Birdie has surpassed his Mensa-level IQ. He says every time we pay him, he feels guilty, that he’s merely helping her find stuff on the Internet at this point.”
“Shoot.” Lily slowed her lurching walk up the porch steps to take a deep breath. “We knew it was coming.” She glanced at the girl mounting the steps silently next to them. “Now what do we do?”
“Birdie, whatcha want to do, kiddo?” Hunter asked.
Birdie glanced up. “Don’t know, Hunny. I’m only a kid. Not much I can do.”
Hunter frowned at the porch steps. “True. Kinda sucks, huh?”
Birdie sighed. “Yeah, kinda sucks.”
As soon as they entered the house, Birdie dropped her purple backpack by the door and raced into the family room. Moments later, the sound of television static engulfed them.
“About time you got home,” Sage said as she approached them along the long central hallway. She peered into the noisy family room as she passed. “That girl,” she muttered, shaking her graying head. Her merry eyes belied her annoyance. She took the grocery bag from Hunter and silently carried it into the kitchen at the back of the house.
Hunter leaned the ladder against the hallway wainscoting, turned to Lily, and then pulled her into her arms. “Stay out of trees, okay?” she whispered. “You scare me.”
Lily smiled at her and ran her palms along the sleek sides of Hunter’s dark, center-parted hair. “I’m sorry. I’ll try.”
They kissed briefly and moved to the family room doorway, arms wrapped around one another’s waists. Birdie was kneeling before the large-screen TV, both palms lifted high and pressed against the screen. Her head was down, her chin on her chest, as she listened.
“I guess we continue to homeschool on our own. Thank goodness she’s an honorary member of Sage’s pueblo so it’s all legit.”
“Yeah, and it’s easier to hide the hyper-age thing, of course. But seriously, we can’t be of much help to her,” Hunter murmured in a worried tone. “What can we teach her that she hasn’t already learned?”
“More life skills, maybe? And I think we should sign her up for every advanced course we can find on the web.”
“You’re assuming she hasn’t been there already? We don’t monitor specifics, Lil. She’s on the computer a lot.”
Lily lifted her gaze to her daughter. “I know. She is so much more, knows so much more than we ever will.”
Hunter cleared her throat. “Does it ever, like, scare you a little? I mean, look at her. She’s communicating through a TV, for Pete’s sake!”
A chuckle bubbled up in Lily. She tried to squelch it, but it escaped her lips in a short spasmic snicker. Hunter arched one eyebrow but caught the merriment fever, giggling helplessly into her own palm. They touched foreheads, and both shook their heads as the laughter abated.
Lily sighed, then raised her voice to address her daughter. “Everything okay?” she asked. “Is Flynn talking to you?”
Birdie nodded briefly, eyes fixed on the TV. “And the others.”
Lily shrugged at Hunter, and they turned away, holding hands as they strolled toward the kitchen to help with supper. A call from Birdie arrested them, and they hurried back to the family room archway. She was staring at them with wide blue eyes, the freckles on her nose a bas-relief against the translucent paleness of her face. Her hands were clasped in her lap as she knelt on the worn rug.
“Mummy? Hunny? Something very weird is happening to me.”
She kept calling to me, sporadically at first, then somewhat regularly. In the beginning, it was faint, hovering at the edges of the Collective. But I could tell the call was directed toward me, even though it was confusing to be singled out that way in the midst of the vast Collective energy field.
Then Flynn told me about her, that she was like me, a hybrid child, part Collective and part human. And that there were others. Only a few, true, but I was pleased. Am pleased. It will be amazing to talk to someone going through the same things I am.
Not that my life is bad or even difficult. Mummy and Hunny are amazing parents, and they should be called saints, the way they have patiently dealt with raising a child like me. I’m mostly normal and fit well into this human realm, I’m simply too smart, with the limitless knowledge of the Collective buzzing in my head every minute of every day.
I study photos of myself as a baby, then as a toddler. I don’t look too different from others that age, though my hair and eyes are lighter than most. Luckily, Mummy is a blonde—so it’s expected. What wasn’t expected is that I would age normally until about age two and then jump ahead approximately ten years overnight.
I immediately realized it wasn’t a progeria thing, as Hunny first surmised, the Hutchinson-Gilford Syndrome that leads to premature aging but within the same body size. It’s more like my younger, smaller body couldn’t contain the powerful, substantial energy of my Collective half. I remember my two-year-old self and how limited I was in speech and in strength. I could barely communicate with the Collective by glass back then, but when I became twelve-ish, that shifted. I understood better. Communicated better, even through the pixels of flat-screen televisions. I could also suss out the facts and language of our history, as well as the powerful means of our universal order.
Oh, the confusion it caused in those who knew me. Pure humans couldn’t understand how my molecules could shift in such a way. To age me ten years as though it were a normal occurrence. It terrified them and it took every bit of influence I could manifest to calm their fears and charm them back into liking me.