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An alternate-ending novella to the Ground Sweet as Sugar story, the unforgettable coming-of-age saga of one girl’s fight for her freedom, her country, and her heart…
1801: James Blair wakes, in pain and adrift, on the Caribbean Sea with no memory of how he got there. No memory, he soon discovers, of the last eight years of his life. All he wants is to retreat to what he knows, but forces around him demand he confront a tangled life he can't seem to bear.
Resolved to leave James for good, Charlotte Dillon flees the West Indies for a new life. But the most powerful woman in France and a mysterious man who seems to know her secrets disturb her quiet life in the vine rows of Montmartre. And little does she know that the one man who still moves her is the one man who's still coming for her.
Sweeping from a careless Caribbean to a restless France, Into the Complete Unknown is Book III in the epic Ground Sweet as Sugar saga of power, punishment, and undying love.
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“It’s hopeless?” Charlotte asks.
The older man traces a reverential hand up a tan shoot amidst gray-brown bark. “Neglected, some say cursed. Still, the sap is rising.” A tender smile spreads on his face. “Some things refuse to die, no matter what we do. No, Madam Beaumont. Nothing is hopeless.”
Then Monsieur Gérard gets down on his hands and knees and grips a trunk. “We go back to the beginning when the vine held its promise. Then we choose our cane.”
“Cane?” Charlotte squats, now more intrigued.
“See these arms?” the old man says, indicating bark that spreads off from the trunk. “These were once tender shoots that bore fruit. Now they are the arms that lead to more shoots. We call them cane.”
For the first time in many weeks, Charlotte feels an ache in her heart for James, and tears well in her eyes. Monsieur Gérard regards her curiously, and she quickly knuckles them away.
“We need to choose our shoots to create new cane,” he continues. “Then we tie them to the horizon and wait for bud break.”
“Tie them to the horizon?”
“So the new shoots can reach for the sun.”
Monsieur Gérard stands and surveys the fields, and Charlotte does, too. Finally, he says, “’Twill be some hard work to ready these vines for bud break.”
“I have done hard work, monsieur. I’m not afraid.” And she isn’t. Strangely, Charlotte is keen for it. To have something she can prove to James, that she can raise their son to be a planter. Perhaps more important, she would prove it to herself.
“Then I’ll be back at sunrise,” Lazare says.
And, indeed, he is. The next morning, when Charlotte crests a ridge to the vine rows, she stops. There Monsieur Gérard is already bent to a vine, pruning and shaping and tying. Down the next row stands a boy of thirteen. Wiry and determined, he regards his tangled vine like a cherished puzzle he would solve, then clumsily he does his own pruning and shaping and tying.
“Monsieur!” Charlotte calls out.
The old man and the boy look up, then Lazare waves her over to the end vine of another row. “Do you remember what I told you?” he asks.
“Go back to the beginning,” she says, grasping the trunk, “and find its promise.”