Month9Books Friday Reveal: Summer of the Oak Moon by Laura Templeton (Chapter Reveal!)

Welcome to the chapter reveal for   Summer of the Oak Moon by Laura Templeton I hope you enjoy and make sure to enter the giveaway at...

Welcome to the chapter reveal for 
 Summer of the Oak Moon by Laura Templeton
I hope you enjoy and make sure to enter the giveaway at the bottom of the post!


Summer of the Oak Moon

Author: Laura Templeton
Pages: 300
Published by: Month9Books
Publishing on: May 5th 2015
Rejected by the exclusive women’s college she has her heart set on, Tess Seibert dreads the hot, aimless summer ahead. But when a chance encounter with a snake introduces her to Jacob Lane, a black college student home on his summer break, a relationship blooms that challenges the prejudices of her small, north Florida town.  When Jacob confesses that Tess’s uncle is trying to steal his family’s land, Tess comes face to face with the hatred that simmers just below the surface of the bay and marshes she’s loved since birth. With the help of her mentor Lulu, an herbal healer, Tess pieces together clues to the mysterious disappearance of Jacob’s father twenty-two years earlier and uncovers family secrets that shatter her connection to the land she loves. Tess and Jacob’s bond puts them both in peril, and discontent eventually erupts into violence. Tess is forced to make a decision. Can she right old wrongs and salvage their love? Or will prejudice and hatred kill any chance she and Jacob might have had?


Chapter 1
Port Saint Clare, Florida

Two days after graduation, I saw the panther.

Drifting down a shallow creek, I’d cut the motor on

my boat and trailed my hand in the water, worrying about my

lack of a plan for the rest of my life. Being a girl, local custom

didn’t demand too much of me, but Mother had her own ideas

about what I should strive for. And those ideas, adhered to with

the same fervor as Brother Franklin’s sermons, meant going

away to college and leaving this backwater town for a vague,

but much-touted, “something better.” It was my life, though,

and I’d refused to leave, choosing instead to spend the summer

wandering the seemingly endless saltwater marshes and tidal

creeks that spread away from our house like a gift unfurling in

the hot sunlight.

I spotted the panther crouched on a rock, facing away from

me and stalking something in the grass. Growing up on the

Apalachee Bay, I’d seen a lot of wildlife. More than once, I’d

watched a black bear walk down the wooded coastline. But

panthers were secretive and scarce, and I’d never seen one.

The cat was smaller than I expected, and the slight

quivering of its hindquarter reminded me of Oliver, my gray

tabby, when he stalked butterflies in the garden. I must have

made some small sound because it turned to look at me and

all resemblance to Oliver vanished. As I stared into its wild,

unblinking eyes for a few seconds before the panther leapt

away, something broke and swirled inside of me, like when

Lulu cracked a fresh egg into a bowl of water and read the

white patterns she saw there.

If I’d seen my future in that brief encounter with the panther,

I don’t know if I would’ve had the courage to live it. Port

Saint Clare was my home, but the summer I turned eighteen I

realized that what I knew of it was deceptive as gentle waves

rippling the surface of the bay, hiding the dangerous undertow

that moves below.

Violence and hatred existed in my world. That summer, I

ran headlong into them.


A little after noon a few days later, I slammed the screen

door and yelled back through it at Mother. “I swear I hate

you!” I stomped off the porch, wiping a tear that hung like an

accusation on my chin. How could she fail to see that I was

just as upset as she was about the unplanned turn of events?

As if constantly reminding me that I had no place to go come

August would get me any closer to college.

I shoved aside tendrils of wisteria as I walked through

the arbor that covered the path to the dock behind my house.

Breathing in the sweet scent of its summer blooms, I closed

my eyes to the hot sun on my upturned face. I wished its heat

could burn away the ugly words I already regretted.

I carried a large Mason jar filled with rose petals and

lavender blossoms I’d picked from the garden that morning.

Sitting carefully on the hot planks of the dock, I pulled my

canoe toward me with my legs and then set the jar in a holder

I’d made from an old tackle box. My backpack held the

essentials—water, bug repellent, and my pistol. I tossed the

bag in the canoe and climbed in after it, lugging with me the

doubt I’d carried around like a suitcase ever since I’d received

the rejection letter from Mother’s alma mater.

The paddle made soft splashing sounds as I moved it from

one side of the boat to the other, and the water dripping off it

cooled my bare legs. The weather had stayed nice long enough

for our outdoor graduation ceremony and then turned hot

and muggy right afterward. Now the heat clung like a sweatdrenched

shirt and wouldn’t let up until October, about the

time the monarch butterflies stopped over in the marshes on

their way to Mexico.

I used my trolling motor to maneuver the canoe down the

clear, fresh water of Sugar Creek toward the Saint Clare River

a short distance away. About a mile downstream, the river

spread out into saltmarsh before it reached the shallow water

of the Apalachee Bay.

A lighthouse stood in the estuary, and I used the whitewashed

brick tower to navigate a labyrinth of narrow creeks, each of

which looked pretty much like the next. I can’t really say how

many times I’ve gotten lost in the marshes. Physically lost,

that is. I don’t think I’ve ever felt really lost there. The marshes

are in my blood like the grandmothers I never knew—they

rock me, ground me, and teach me that many things existed

before I was born.

The sun was high, and in the distance, south toward Dog

Island, I saw oyster boats—white flags pinned to the gray

water. I hugged the marshy shoreline and then turned down a

series of side creeks. As the water grew shallow, I killed the

motor and paddled. Around a bend, a big bull alligator sunned

on a partially submerged tree, his knobbed back the color of

the rotting tree bark and his nose hidden in cattails. He was

there more often than not, and neither of us was alarmed. He

didn’t move as I paddled within a few feet of him.

Right after I passed the gator, I glanced down a side creek

and saw a black man fishing from a skiff. It was rare to see

anyone out fishing on a weekday, and I looked to see if it was

someone I knew. He saw me and raised his hand in greeting.

He was a good distance away, but close enough that I knew he

was a guy I’d seen in town a few times. I wondered why he

was fishing on a Thursday afternoon when most people were

working. I waved back, but seeing him there made me uneasy.

In Emmettsville, about fifty miles away, a black man had

recently attacked and killed a white girl who was out hiking, a

terrible crime that Mother was fond of calling to my attention

whenever I left in my canoe. That she’d forgotten today was

a sign of how angry she was. The incident had sparked riots

in Emmettsville and a flurry of heated op eds in the Port Saint

Clare newspaper. Race, it seemed, was still a hot button issue.

I always preferred to be alone on my “expeditions,” as

Daddy called them. I never even took my best friend Karen

with me, though she and I had done pretty much everything

together since third grade.

“Tess, I swear you’re the reincarnation of Sacagawea,”

Daddy liked to say.

I always rolled my eyes, but secretly I liked the image. Me,

wild and savage in my canoe, leading Lewis and Clark through

the wilderness I knew like the lines in the palm of my hand.

I was twelve when I started roaming the woods, most of

which belonged to the wildlife refuge. At first, Daddy forbade

me to go. But no punishment he and Mother thought up could

keep me from the bay.

On my fourteenth birthday, just after we’d finished my

cake, Daddy handed me a package wrapped in brown kraft

paper with no ribbon. When I pulled back the paper to reveal a

gun, Mother gasped so hard I thought she’d swallowed a gnat.

Her face was as red as I’d ever seen it. I knew Daddy would

catch heck later.

“It’s a Smith & Wesson .38 Special. It’s got a four-inch

barrel, so you can actually hit something with it.” Daddy

smiled at me.

“Damn!” Karen said without thinking. I kicked her under

the table.

I smelled a hint of oil as I lifted the pistol out of the box,

admiring its knurled wood grip.

“Walnut,” Daddy explained before I could ask.

I hugged Daddy then. I knew he was turning me loose. He

knew it too, and looked like he might cry, which scared me a


Daddy spent hours teaching me to shoot the pistol. I was

a good shot, which surprised me, and I almost always hit the

cardboard torso he nailed to a tree out in the woods. That

seemed to satisfy him. But in the four years I’d owned the

gun, I’d never used it for anything other than target practice. I

supposed that was a good thing, though it also pointed to the

fact that my life had been pretty uneventful.

After seeing the man fishing, I set the paddle aside and

reached into my backpack, checking to make sure the gun was

loaded. It never occurred to me to question why I was doing it.

I just figured—better safe than sorry.

I paddled alongside a large rock that jutted out into the

creek at a shallow spot and secured the canoe with a rope that

I long ago had tied to a nearby tree. Then, I climbed the bank

and carried the jar of petals a short distance down a dirt path.

The undergrowth beside the trail was thick with palmettos,

pine trees, and oaks veiled with Spanish moss. Wild lantana

ran rampant, its yellow blooms attracting scores of bees.

The path ended at a clear pond that reflected the sunlight

in brilliant turquoise. A freshwater spring bubbled up through

vents in the sandy bottom. The grassy shoreline held few

trees, though some cypresses grew along one side, their wide,

wet knees sending root tentacles into the clear water. As I

approached, a pair of wild ducks half ran, half flew, to the

far side, their wings flapping like someone shaking out wet


I filled the jar of petals with water from the spring, screwed

on the lid, and set it on a partly submerged rock. I would leave

it there overnight to steep in the light of the full moon. Lulu

taught me that. “The full moon gives them power,” she said.

I removed my shoes and sat in my favorite spot, my back

against a large rock. My feet touched the edge of the pond,

cooling my whole body. After emptying my canvas backpack

on the ground beside me, I crushed it into a pillow and put it

behind my head. The heat rising from the rock lulled me to


Some time later, I jerked as if something urgent had

wakened me. At a movement to my right, I turned to see a

water moccasin coiled inches from my leg. Its thick, black

body, easily as big around as my arm, glistened in the sunlight.

The snake lay close enough that I could make out individual

scales, little tiles of shiny, violet-black granite.

Instantly, I froze. Moving only my eyes, I glanced at the

pistol, which lay a short distance away. I weighed my options.

I was afraid to make a grab for the gun. If I didn’t move, the

snake might just go away.

For what must have been several minutes, I sat so still I felt

my heart pulsing in the pads of my fingers where they rested

on the hot rock beside me. Water lapped at the edges of the

pond, its gentle sloshing sounds a sharp contrast to the terror

that gripped me. But still I waited, as sweat trickled down my

forehead and stung my eyes.

Then, suddenly, a bird or a squirrel rummaged through

the underbrush. Sensing the movement, the snake tensed and

opened its jaws wide. I saw its fangs and the cotton-white

lining of its mouth and lunged sideways for the gun. At the

same time, I rolled my lower body to the left and drew my legs

up under me, away from the snake.

But I wasn’t quick enough. Just as I grabbed the gun, the

snake hit my leg hard. The needle-like fangs pierced my skin

like bee stings, only much worse. I gasped in pain but rolled

quickly back to the right so I could aim the pistol straight on. It

would be just like target practice, I thought. I pointed the gun

and fired as the snake raised its head to strike again.

But my first and second shots missed. Fear and nerves

affected my aim. I screamed out of sheer frustration, the sound

seeming to come from someone else. The snake stretched out

almost the length of its body and struck a second time, biting

my shin just below the knee. Again the sharp pain tore through

my leg. I got a third shot off and finally hit the snake, throwing

it backward.

I stood as quickly as I could, wobbling as I tried to put

weight on the bitten leg, and fired two more shots into the

snake just to make sure it was dead. I felt a little woozy as I

watched its body twitch and jump with each shot. I didn’t like

the idea of killing something—not even a venomous snake

that had just bitten me. Twice.

I sat on the rock and examined the two puncture wounds

that oozed blood. Already they were beginning to swell. Pain

seared through my leg when I tried to stand, and a wave of

nausea hit me, forcing me to sit down quickly. I decided to

wait a bit for the pain to let up.

But while I drank from the thermos of water I’d brought,

the seriousness of the situation dawned on me. The pain wasn’t

going to get any better. A snake bite typically wasn’t as big a

deal as people made of it. But I’d been bitten twice, and the tenminute

paddle out to the deeper water of the bay was the worst

thing I could do. The exertion would set my heart pumping

and spread the venom more quickly through my body.

As my leg stung out away from the impact points, up along

the veins, I mentally prepared myself to get moving toward

home before the pain got any worse. I sat up and splashed

some cold water from the spring on my face.

As I struggled to stand, I heard a boat approaching.

Remembering the guy I’d seen fishing, I began to shake,

though whether in fear or because of the bites, I wasn’t sure.

The sound of the outboard motor came closer then stopped.

He’d seen my canoe. Nausea caused me to clasp my hand to

my mouth and double over.

“Hello?” he called out as he ran down the path toward me.

By the time he reached the clearing, I was on my feet with

the gun pointed right at him. I had only one shot left, which

he probably knew as well as I did. My aim had to be good this

time. But the nausea and the pain in my leg made it difficult to

hold the gun steady.

“Stop right there!” I meant to sound authoritative. Instead,

my voice wavered, and I knew I sounded pathetic.

“Whoa!” He stopped with his palms facing me as if he

could hold off a bullet with them. “Hey, I’m just trying to help

here. You can put that thing down.”

He has big hands. The thought flashed through my mind

and left me wondering about my mental condition.

“Not until you leave.” I swayed a little with the effort it

took to remain standing. I needed help, I knew. But Mother’s

warnings sounded in my head. I didn’t intend to be the next

victim found in the woods.

His gaze moved from the dead snake to my injured leg.

“You’ve been bitten. Cottonmouth, huh?” He could have been

commenting on the weather.

I nodded and chewed my bottom lip to curb the nausea. His

voice was warm like the rock I’d been sitting on. And he was

younger than I’d realized, probably just a few years older than

I was. Flushed and dizzy, I let the gun droop until it pointed

more toward his legs than his chest. He noticed, but he didn’t

step forward to take it from me.

“It’s okay.” He sounded exasperated. “Put that thing away.

You screamed, and I heard gunshots. I came to help.” He

watched me closely. I didn’t put the gun down, though by now

it was pointed at his feet.

“I’m Jacob Hampton.” He walked deliberately toward me.

At the time, that struck me as incredibly brave, but thinking

back on it I doubt I was much of a threat. He seemed blurry

around the edges, like waves of heat were rising off his brown

skin. He stopped right in front of me and, before I could react,

offered me his hand. It was clean with trimmed nails—not

bitten, like mine.

“Tess Seibert …” my voice trailed off to a whisper. I

dropped the gun and fainted in a decidedly un-Sacagawean



Laura Templeton

Laura Templeton lives near Athens, Georgia, with her husband, son, and a menagerie of animals. When she’s not writing, she enjoys gardening, learning to figure skate, and taking long walks on the quiet country roads near her home. Something Yellow is her debut novel, and her creative nonfiction has appeared in various publications.

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