I’m so incredibly excited and honored to be a part of the unveiling of the title and release date to the much anticipated sequel to Sempre by J.M. Darhower, which has been referred to for months and months by the author as The Unnamed Sequel. Well guys, it is unnamed no longer! To help reveal we have a very special guest from the series, Dr. Vincenzo DeMarco!
The black Mazda RX-8 sped along the worn gravel road, twisting and turning as it penetrated deeper into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Haven clutched onto the passenger seat as the car haphazardly weaved through the dense forest.
“Are we lost?” she asked hesitantly as she stared at her boyfriend. Carmine was slouched in the driver’s seat, fiddling with the radio. Sunglasses shielded his eyes from her, so she couldn’t tell if he was paying any attention to the road.
Haven glanced out the windshield, squinting from the early morning sunshine. Things looked the same in every direction-nothing but endless trees surrounding them. How could he know? “Are you sure?”
Stubborn. “Where are we going?”
Shaking her head, Haven surveyed the area. At first it appeared to be nothing unusual, a small gap in the trees with a cabin set a few yards away, until she spotted the faded white sign in the distance. Landell Christmas Tree Farm, it said in green hand-painted letters.
Although it felt as if time had stopped for the two of them, the calendar told a different story. It was the 23rd of December already, a month since they’d returned to the small North Carolina town of Durante in an attempt to get back to their lives… in an attempt to regain a bit of normalcy and piece together their relationship. It had been a struggle, dealing with the fallout of her kidnapping, but they took it day-by-day.
Together, the two of them set out through the tree farm.
“How about this one?” she asked after a while, stopping in front of a tree a few inches taller than her. “Do you like it?”
Carmine hardly even looked. “It’s too bare.”
Haven’s brow furrowed, unsure as to what he was talking about. The branches appeared full to her. “So finicky.”
“Whatever,” he muttered. “Do you see any others?”
“Uh…” She glanced around, randomly motioning toward another tree a few feet away. “What about that one?”
Carmine scanned it. “Perfect.”
Letting go of her hand, Carmine studied the tree, deciding how to go about taking it down. Haven watched him for a moment and burst into laughter when he took his first swing. It barely even sliced the thick bark.
Carmine groaned. “What’s so funny?”
“This is going to take you all day,” she said. “We should’ve just picked one that was already chopped down.”
“That’s cheating,” he said. “Just because it’s the easy way doesn’t mean it’s the best way. Sometimes it’s better to put in the work.”
He whacked the trunk repeatedly, the blade eventually cutting through the wood. Despite the cold temperatures, by the time the tree tilted, Carmine was huffing and drenched with sweat. It gathered along his forehead, running down the side of his face and dripping from his chiseled jaw. Haven watched him struggle in silence, a familiar pang of guilt deep down inside of her gut as she was reminded of what he’d done.
This boy-this stubborn, selfless, stupid boy-had given himself to the Mafia. He’d handed control of his future over to the men they hated most in exchange for her life. For her safety. And he’d done it so easily, so quickly, like there wasn’t even a choice at all… like making this sacrifice for her came just as naturally as breathing.
The act had left him fractured, and Haven was still trying to come to grips with the fact that it may be a long time before he was whole again. She was grateful to be alive, picking out a Christmas tree with the boy she loved, but she was also angry. Not at him-not anymore. That anger had been unfounded. She was mad at herself now, and at the universe, because no matter what she did, she couldn’t help Carmine.
Once again in her life, Haven felt powerless.
So she stood by silently, continuing to watch, terrified of looking him in the eyes one day and seeing regret. Frightened that someday, he’d turn to her, and she’d see her worst fear playing out in his face: that she hadn’t been worth it.
And now, we wait.