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Sneak Preview of Chapters 2 and 3: Serafina and the Splintered Heart

The cover of Serafina and the Splintered Heart. The cover art is by illustrator and artist Alexander Jansson and the design is by Disney-Hyperion’s Maria Elias.

The highly anticipated third title in the #1 New York Times Best Selling Serafina Book Series by Asheville author Robert Beatty, Serafina and the Splintered Heart is set for nationwide release on Tuesday, July 4. This month, exclusive to The Laurel, we publish Chapters 2-3 of Serafina and the Splintered Heart. Chapter 1 was published in the May issue.

The Disney-Hyperion mystery-thriller series follows the adventures of a brave and unusual 12-year-old, Serafina, who lives secretly in the basement of the grand Biltmore Estate, amid the splendor of the Gilded Age and the rugged beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A mix of history, mystery and magic, the series is a runaway hit with readers of all ages.

A Serafina and the Splintered Heart Launch Party will be held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, July 2, at Barnes and Noble–Asheville Mall. Join Beatty and his family as they celebrate the release of the new book. Activities include costumed book characters, animals from Serafina’s world, a tea party, waltz lessons, games and activities, book signing, photos and a reading of the opening chapters of Book 3. The event is free.

A Book Signing and Author Event will be held from 2–6 p.m. Saturday, July 8, at Barnes and Noble–Biltmore Park. This event will feature costumed book characters, author Q&A, book signing, photos and free food and drink.

For more on author Robert Beatty and the Serafina Book Series, visit robert-beatty.com.

Serafina and the Splintered Heart ~ By Robert Beatty

CHAPTER 2

Serafina lay in the cold black space of the coffin buried underground. Her mind flooded with terror. I need to get out of here, she kept thinking. I need to breathe. I’m not dead!

But she could not see. She could not move. She could not hear anything other than the sound of her own ragged breathing. How much air would she have down here? She felt a tight constriction in her lungs. Her chest gripped her. She wanted her pa! She wanted her mother to come and dig her out. Someone had to save her! She frantically pressed her hands against the coffin lid above her head and pushed with all her strength, but she couldn’t lift it. The sound of her screeching voice hurt her ears in this terrible, closed-in, black place.

Then she thought about what her pa would say if he was here. “Get your wits about ya, girl. Figure out what ya need to do and get on with doin’ it.”

She sucked in another long breath, and then steadied herself and tried to think it through. She couldn’t see with her eyes, but she traced her fingers along the skirt and sleeves of her dress. They were badly torn. It seemed like if she had died and there had been a funeral, then they would have put her in a nice dress. Whoever had buried her had been in a hurry. Had they thought she was dead? Or did they want her to suffer the most horrible of deaths?

At that moment, she heard the faint, muffled sound of movement above her. Her heart filled with hope.

Footsteps!

“Help!” she screamed as loud as she possibly could. “Help me! Please help me!”

She screamed and screamed. She pounded the wood above her head. She flailed her legs. But the sound of the footsteps drifted away, then disappeared and left a silence so complete that she wasn’t sure she’d heard the sound at all.

Had it been the person who buried her? Had he heaved the last shovel of dirt onto her grave and left her here? Or was it a passerby who had no idea she was here? She slammed her fists against the boards and screamed, “Please! I need your help! I’m down here!”

But it was no use.

She was alone.

She felt a dark wave of hopelessness pour through her soul.

She could not escape.

She could not survive this . . .

No, she thought, gritting her teeth. I’m not gonna let myself die down here. I’m not gonna give up. I’m going to stay bold! I’m going to find a way out . . .

She slid herself down toward the end of the coffin and kicked. The coffin’s rough boards felt thin and crudely made, not like a proper solid casket, but like a ramshackle box nailed together from discarded apple crates. But the earth behind the rickety wood braced the boards so firmly that it was impossible for her to break them.

Then she had an idea.

“Six feet under.” was what her had pa her years ago when she asked him what they did with dead people.

“’Round here they bury folk six feet under,” he’d said.

She squirmed inside dark, cramped space, her body up like a little in a lady’s shoe box, and positioned herself so that she could put her hands on the top center of the coffin’s lid. She figured that six feet of dirt must weigh an awful lot. And her pa had taught her that the center of a board was its weakest point.

Remembering something else he’d taught her, she knocked on the board above her and listened. Tap-tap-tap. Then she moved down a few inches and knocked again. Tap-tap- tap. She kept knocking until she found a place with a slightly deeper, more hollow sound where the dirt was packed a little less firmly behind it. “That’s the spot.”

But now what? Even if she managed to crack the board, the dirt above would come crashing down on her. Her mouth and nose would fill with dirt and she’d suffocate. “That’s not gonna work . . .”

Suddenly an idea sprang into her mind. She buttoned her dress tight up to her neck and then pulled the lower part of the dress up over her head, inside out, so that the fabric covered her face, especially her mouth and nose. It was cramped in the coffin and difficult to move, but she managed to get the dress bundled around her head and then wriggled her arms out of the sleeves so that her hands were free.

If she was lucky, the fabric over her face would give her the seconds she needed.

Knowing that her hands alone enough to break the boards, she rolled onto her stomach and positioned her shoulder at the top center of the coffin.

Bracing herself, she pushed upward with her arms and legs of her whole body. There wasn’t enough space inside the coffin to get herself all the way up onto her hands and knees. But she bent herself into a coil and the best she could, her shoulder against the coffin’s lid over and over again. She knew that one strong blow wasn’t going to do it. And slow pressure wasn’t, She needed a good, hard, forceful rhythm going. Bang, bang, bang. She could feel the long boards of the coffin’s lid flexing. “That’s it, that’s what we need,” she said. Bang, bang, bang she slammed. “Come on!” she growled.

Then she heard the center board cracking beneath the weight of the earth above. “Come on!” She kept pushing. Bang, bang, bang. The board began to split. Then she felt something cold hit her bare shoulders. She should have been filled with joy that her plan was actually working, but her mind filled with fear. The lid had cracked! The coffin was caving in! Cold, clammy, heavy dirt dumped all over her, pushing her down to the coffin floor. If she hadn’t tied her dress over her head, her mouth and nose would have filled with dirt at that very moment and she would have been dead.

Working blind, with nothing but her grasping hands to guide her, she grabbed great handfuls of the incoming dirt and chucked them into the corners of the coffin, packing the dirt away as fast as it poured down through the hole, but it just kept coming, coming, coming. The terrible weight of the dirt surrounded her legs and shoulders and head. It was getting more and more difficult to move. She sucked in breaths through the fabric of her dress as fast and hard as she could. Her chest heaved in panic. She couldn’t get enough air!

Finally, when there was no more space in the coffin to push the dirt, she tried to make her escape. She jammed her head straight up through the hole, pushed with her legs, and started digging toward the surface. But the dirt came down so fast, and pushed in so hard, she never had a chance. Even as she dug, the dirt began to suffocate her. Its crushing weight pushed against her chest, driving one last scream from her lungs.

Serafina in a scene from the filming of the Serafina and the Splintered Heart book trailer. The author’s daughter, Genevieve, plays Serafina in the book trailer, which was filmed in early May at multiple locations in Asheville, including Cedar Crest Inn (pictured), historic Fernihurst at A-B Tech, and the ballroom at Battery Park Apartments. Photo by Destinee Blau Photography

CHAPTER 3

Loose earth poured down around her head and shoulders, collapsing onto her faster than she could dig it away. She felt the pressing weight of it all around her, closing in on her, trapping her legs, but she kept clawing, kicking, squirming her way blindly up through the darkness, desperately trying to pull gasps of air through the fabric covering her face. She felt the material pushing deeper and deeper into her mouth as the dirt pressed in, gagging her, shutting off the flow of air to her aching lungs.

Then she heard a fast scratching sound above her, like the frenzied digging of an animal. She hoped that Gidean, Braeden’s dog, was trying to rescue her, but a terrible, low growling sound told her it wasn’t her canine friend. Whatever kind of creature it was, the beast’s claws tore at the earth, ripping it away with terrific power. Was it a bear digging up its supper? It didn’t matter. She had to keep climbing. She had to breathe!

Sharp claws raked across her upstretched hands. Serafina shrieked in pain, but she grabbed hold of the beast’s paw. Gotcha! She held on for dear life. The force of the paw yanked her body up through the ground.

The snarling beast jerked its paw again, trying to free itself of her, yanking and pulling, but Serafina held on tight.

When her head finally broke the surface of the ground, she sucked in a mighty gasp of air, flooding her lungs with new life. Air! She finally had air!

She lost her grip on the beast’s paw and it pulled away, but she clambered out of the dirt until her shoulders and arms were free.

Hope filled her heart. She’d made it! She’d escaped! But as she reached up and pulled the fabric from her head, she heard a loud roaring snarl, and the claws came down at her again, raking across her scalp just as she tried to duck away. Clutching wildly at the earth with her hands, she quickly scrambled out of the grave and got up onto her hands and knees to defend herself.

She had crawled out of the ground into a moonlit graveyard, overgrown by a dense forest of trees and vines. A large stone angel, with her wings raised up around her, stood on a pedestal in the center of the small clearing. Serafina had no idea how she’d gotten here, but she knew this place. It was the angel’s glade. But before she could take it all in, she heard something behind her and spun around.

A black panther was coming straight toward her, crouched low for the lunge, its ears pinned back, its face quivering with fierceness as it opened its mouth and hissed with its long fangs bared and gleaming, ready to bite.

See the Serafina and the Splintered Heart official book trailer. 

 

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