Happy #teasertuesday! I wanted to again extend a huge thanks to everyone who helped share the release of AB: Episode 1 the other week. I hope those of you who picked up your copy have been enjoyed the intrigue and danger Eanna and the gang face. I plan on releasing Episode 2 in a few more days, and wanted to share a teaser from the upcoming serial. It’s been fun writing a novel in episodic format, and I can’t say enough how lost I’d have been without the amazing Crystal Quill or Victoria DeLuis, who edited the funk out of this season. But enough lollygagging, you came here for some story, right? Happy reading, writing and creating, friends!
Episode 2 Teaser
Isabol & Wil
Ten miles beyond their basecamp, and at least another five to avoid the redum, Isabol finally catches wind of her brother’s trail. She hasn’t dared shift yet. She can’t afford to lose the advantage of the knives and pistols she brought along, just in case.
The faint static of a radio cuts through the frozen air, and Isabol crouches behind a tree. She closes her eyes and listens, waits for footsteps to follow. Chosen are deadly as sin and twice as hard to kill as her fallen cousins. But they aren’t gods.
Not anymore, she thinks with a feral grin.
Breath escapes her in wreaths of heat upon the winter air as she breaks into a run.
Footsteps follow her, but at a distance. The redum doesn’t know where she is, and she’s following a path by moonlight now.
And not any path you can see.
Thank Crafter none of the chosen can see in the dark, not like she can.
By the time they fire a silver shot in the air, she’s beyond range. Isabol should know better than most. Her clan never understood her affinity for human weapons.
Not like the humans didn’t take full advantage of them the last time they chased us out of town.
She snarls, then another, calmer voice that sounds suspiciously like her brother’s enters her thoughts.
Focus on the mission.
Isabol loses all physical traces of her brother’s trail, but she follows his essence on the air. The link Grandmother Nephthys made between them at Isabol’s birth comes in handy now. She ran all day to escape Gabriel’s little hounds, to avoid the redum on his trail. But she didn’t really believe Volney’s words, couldn’t allow herself to believe Wil was alive. Until she’d found his blood in the snow and had caught a familiar scent of female chosen. The female from the bar.
She’s never smelled anything quite like this chosen. She’s never met a chosen with purple eyes, either. Wil was right, when they followed his whim to the bar the other night. He was like a moth to a flame. They’d almost got gotten away with it. Hell, the princess might have come willingly, the way she’d been was hanging all over Isabol’s brother.
Something was off about the chosen princess, though, even more so after her father’s murderer showed up. The same something that has ached ever since the princess struck her. The burn wound had healed, but Isabol feels it smart again as she follows her brother’s trail.
Closer now. Focus, Izzie.
Ten miles from the place her brother was shot, Isabol forces her gait to slow. She allows more of the change to course through her blood. When she closes her eyes, she sees Wil’s face clearly, lined with the weight of the war. His firm mouth is slightly mocking her naïveté. His eyes are like tarnished emeralds, flecked with the amber of the beast and something more.
“Wilhelm is different,” Nephthys once told her. “He is bound for a greater destiny, just as you are bound to him.”
When Isabol was born, she had been marked to serve as his first sword and shield. “It is an unusual bond,” Nephthys had said, “akin to the bond between mates, yet stronger because of your shared blood.” And no matter how far Isabol runs from the compulsion of the mark, she always returns to the pack, to the brother who has given up everything to protect her.
She feels his pulse in her chest now, just below the scar on her shoulder. She sees his lips twist into a familiar grin in her mind’s eye, and as the wind blows over the hillcrest above, she catches his scent too late.
“Gotcha!” Twin arms snake around her stomach and lift her into the air.
“Put me down!” Isabol snarls and kicks in vain. She’s laughing. She can’t remember the last time she laughed like this.
“Iz!” Wil’s voice is like music to her ears.
I will not cry.
But she’s in his arms, and they’re both laughing because they’re alive.
I’m sorry I gave up hope.
“I thought I’d lost you after things lit up like the Fourth of July,” Wil says, a chuckle following his words. “I could have killed Corwin myself for ruining the surprise, not to mention putting you in danger.”
She should tell him Corwin’s dead. But she smiles and hits him instead.
Joy and relief fill her heart as she throws her arms around his neck. “Don’t ever hide yourself from me like that, stupid wolf.”
Isabol squeezes him with all her might. He smells like the forest and smoke and home. The only place she still feels truly safe. His wince causes her to loosen her grip and drop to her feet. She pushes a worn-out flannel shirt aside and gasps at the scars on his chest. The skin is silver where he’s been hit.
“How… this is silver. And what’s that, a knife wound?” Her gaze flickers to his face. A strange look passes over him like a shadow, a look Isabol has never seen before. Just like that, her joy is forgotten. Her voice falls flat. “You should be dead.”
Is this why I couldn’t feel him anymore?
Wilhelm keeps one hand on her shoulder while rubbing his other hand over his beard. “Hell, I don’t know how to explain this to you, Izzie. I hardly believe it, myself.”
She fists her hands and places them on her hips. “Well, it had better be a good story, because I came all the way from base looking for you.”
This causes his lips to twitch and some of the light to return to his knowing gaze. It eases her guilt.
I should have looked for him first, instead of running the opposite direction. I should have never dragged him into my mess.
When he finally speaks again, his words are low and slow. “She somehow found me, somehow. She didn’t recognize me. Redum had already done a good job pumping me full of silver bullets. She came to finish the job. I don’t remember how she got us out of there. All I remember was this feeling…like I was flying.”
Isabol snorts and turns in a slow circle to survey the area. The forest is silent, besides the elk bedded-down thirty yards away and the raccoon sneaking past them to its den, three feet to her right.
Wil laughs. “I know it sounds crazy. I don’t know why she saved me, but she did…something… to take away the silver.”
Isabol wrinkles her nose. She doesn’t like the chosen princess or the creeping fondness in her brother’s tone. “They make the bullets. Of course she had antigen, Willy.”
Wil grasps her shoulder again, forcing her to meet his eye. “She healed me, Iz. Not with medicine, but with some kind of magic. Like something out of one of Gran’s stories…”
“Okay, you’ve clearly been hallucinating. We need to get you out of here.” Wil doesn’t smile at her attempt at humor. And despite her efforts, her mind races, and gooseflesh rises on her arms at his words.
Some kind of magic…
Isabol shakes off the sensation. “I assume your girlfriend’s not with you. Otherwise, I’d be toast, right?”
Once his eyes tighten, she knows he won’t answer. Instead, he scans the forest around them in a calculating way she’s used to. The familiarity soothes her spooked nerves…a little.
“You reek of Gabriel. Where is the little goblin?”
Isabol grins at this. Wilhelm has never withheld his dislike of her shade ex. “Probably halfway to daddy by now. Chosen hacked into the base system after our screw-up. Gabriel ordered me to come along. Seems to think he owns us, the dumbass.”
Wilhelm grimaces. “Doesn’t he? Shades think they own the world, same as the chosen.” Yet the bitterness dies with his words, almost as though he doesn’t quite believe himself.
She takes the opportunity to hand him the smaller pack she has hidden inside her own. “Here. We need to get out of Dodge, fast. redum Redum were on my trail earlier. They’ll no doubt be swarming these woods soon.”
Wilhelm tightly clutches the bag as he turns to the hillcrest behind him.
What are you hiding?
Isabol has spent her life watching her brother in moments like these, the air buzzing with whatever decision he is about to make for the good of the clan, for their pack. She suddenly wishes she was strong enough to pull him from his inner demons and bring them home. Has it really been ten years since he left home to find her?
“I can’t go back with you, Izzie…not yet.”
“Why?” Somehow, she knew this would be his answer. She’s never been good at controlling her temper. “For that princess? She won’t choose you, Wil. You’re nothing to her, don’t you get it? Whatever fascination she has for you won’t last. Unless you’ve done the job and have her tied up somewhere? If that’s the case, let’s grab her and leave.” She punches a safe place on his shoulder. “What aren’t you telling me?”
The war-hardened centuries he’d lived before her birth hang over his shoulders like a cloak. Wil rarely shows people his true age. It always comes through in his eyes. Now, it’s in the warm hand he uses to squeeze hers. He’s always been larger than life, always looking after her as she looks after him. With a sinking feeling, Isabol knows he’s making a mistake.
Don’t you dare choose a path I can’t follow.
“I need you to go home. I need you to tell them what we found here.”
She jabs him again. “Tell them yourself. Wil, this is your quest, not mine.”
He shakes his head and tucks her short hair behind her ear. “There’s something I have to do first. Sorry, I can’t tell you, Izzie. I need you to trust me.”
Isabol wants to plant her fist in his stab wound, where she knows it will make him double over. Can’t he see he’s breaking her right now? She knew she’d made a mistake before, in following Gabriel. Without Wil, what else does she have?
Instead of punching him, she surprises herself by burying her cheek against his flannel. “How could you do this to me after I spent the last two days thinking you were dead? I’m your shield, Wil. I can’t go back without you. What am I supposed to tell Gran?”
He rests his chin on her head. “I’ll only be a few days behind you, Iz. Don’t worry. Tell Nephthys…” He pauses, and she listens to the steady sound of his heart. A gentle wave of snow dusts the earth around them. “Tell Nephthys I’ve found the key.”
“You better hope you’re right about this,” Isabol grumbles.
“Don’t worry about me, little sister.” Her brother kisses the top of her head. Then he pulls away, a brilliant smile filling her with something foolish, like hope. “All the pieces are coming together, Iz. I can feel it. I wish I could make you believe. For now, trust me when I say this is the first time I’ve really believed all the stories Gran pushed into our heads. And if I am right, if she is the key, we just found a way to win this war.”
to be continued…