Happy #teasertuesday! First of all, thank you so much to everyone who has picked up and read Episodes 1 & 2! If you’ve had a chance to begin reading your copy, I hope you’re enjoying the fun ride so far. Today I wanted to feature a teaser from Episode 3. No easy feat, since most of the big stuff happens in 3, but I’ll do my best to tease without revealing too much 😉 Happy reading, writing and creating, friends!
Episode 3 Teaser
“Emotion is a human sickness,” Father had often told her. Their bloodline was so powerful because they kept themselves apart from the lesser bloodlines, unlike the other houses. Sometimes, Anu ina Eanna punishes herself by remembering her father’s harsh lectures and her mother’s reprimands. Sometimes she invents their words, to keep their true voices alive in her memory.
Distant, keening sirens welcome Eanna home. The far-off music of bullets in the light of dawn accompany her steps. The battle is far from Gisnu borders.
He may not be home yet. I may have enough time.
Eanna does her best to keep to the air this time. No more tunnels or dungeons for her, not in case redum, or worse, are prowling the underworld of the compound.
Tears freeze on her cheeks as she runs, leaps, and easily soars over the fence. This time, she keeps the spark and her fury alive long enough to keep to the air. The snow stings her eyes as she looks over the buildings far below, until she reaches their manor.
“Falling is just like flying, little one. Smother the flame, and the shadows will catch you,” Emim’s voice whispers to her.
Clouds gather on the horizon. Soon they will coat the land and hide the sun. For now, they give enough cover for her as she seizes an icy breath and lets herself fall. It is like floating, a slow caress of air on her skin. It reminds her of another violent night, of the screams of her family, begging for her to free them while she runs away.
I’m so sorry Emim…
No one notices her approach to the sleeping manor. She sinks to her knees with a choked sob and digs her fingers into the drift, savoring the cold. Wil’s kiss and his words ease her grief.
“I don’t know why I was the one meant to find you, or why I care, but I know if you go, they’ll drain the life from you until you’re as cold as they are.”
She tries to pull indifference back on, like a familiar cloak. It’s the only thing that will protect her from the watch of her people. Once she climbs onto her balcony, she needs to put aside feeling and warmth. She must forget that she’d risked everything to save the life of a cursed. Belatedly, she scoops up snow and rubs her skin and hair in it. Hopefully, it will be enough to erase his scent. Only after she’s confident she can fool her lesser, Irnini, does she climb to her feet and jump. Her hands catch the familiar trellis, and her feet climb gaps in the brick.
She finds her balcony door cracked open. The ready glow of a warm fire might have comforted her any other night, except for the hunched-over silhouette guarding it. For a moment, she wonders if her maid is waiting after all. As she closes the balcony door behind her with a soft click, she prepares her speech.
“We should have never come to the Americas with the blood-letting lesser…”
Etlu peeks at her over his shoulder. His words slur. “Now look at you, look what they’ve done to us.” He lifts a decanter filled with amber liquid and pours more down his throat. In his other hand is a cigarette, burned down to the stub.
Etlu smokes when he’s upset, he paces when he’s nervous, but in their centuries together, she has no recollection of him drinking to excess. He has always been on his guard with her, always watching for a constant threat both real and imagined.
So her voice is gentle as she approaches. “What have you got, there?”
Her guardian sits upon the rug before the stone hearth, his long limbs stretched out, decanter cradled against his chest. He lifts one shoulder but doesn’t look up. “Just a little something I picked up in that caravan in Constantinople.”
Eanna flexes her hands, gathers her courage, and then kneels onto the rug beside him. “Etlu, we never visited Constantinople.”
“I’ll have you know, my life didn’t begin when I met you, Anu. I did many things before our first meeting.” Etlu rests his head between his propped knee and outstretched arm.
Eanna carefully extracts his cigarette and tosses the ashes in the fire, then hides the remaining pack behind her. Only then does she notice this isn’t the first bottle he has gone through tonight.
“‘Kima parsi labiruti,’ they said. ‘Keep her safe, at risk of your own life and all life.’ Do you know what it is like, to come home and find you missing? Do you know, Anu… no, the lady says, ‘She is Eanna to you, fool!’” A bit of liquid sloshes over the rim of the flute. Etlu curses and leans over to rub his finger at the damp spot in the rug.
Eanna’s heart beats hard in her chest. Something about the way Etlu desperately tries to clean up that one spot makes her grasp his long fingers in her fist. With her other hand, she removes his bottle.
His long black hair falls over his eyes, but it cannot hide the fear in his silver gaze. A faint day’s worth of facial hair is reminiscent to a century of endless wars. She reaches to graze her fingertips over his jaw and the cleft in his chin.
“Promise me, Anu,” he stumbles over her name. She gasps as he takes her by the waist and leans into her, laying her back against the rug. “Promise me,” he whispers, and her eyelashes flutter at the feel of his hard body against hers. His hand cradles the back of her head. “Promise, you’ll come back to me. No matter what happens, you’ll always come back.”
His words cause a very different kind of chill to lace her spine, too full of foreboding. “You know I will,” she says, then thinks of the club and her actions after. She steals a steadying breath. “Etlu, please tell me what is wrong?”
He flinches. “Too late to change anything. You acted and they saw and now they know.”
“Know what?” She hates the sound of her desperation, but it’s there. “What else can they do to us than has not already been done?”
She thinks of centuries spent traveling from house to house, of intrigues and abuse at the hands of their supposed protectors. She thinks of Lady Tiamatu’s punishments and Etlu’s refusal to let her see. She owes these people nothing.
His fingers trail over her lips and down the column of her throat, to play with the edge of her wet collar. His brow turns down, and he is suddenly more sober than she thought. “Where did you go? I did not ask before, but I am asking now.”
A lie is on the tip of her tongue, until his fingers brush her racing pulse. “I woke up alone, with no explanation. I was upset with you for last night.”
Etlu seems to crumple at her words, crawling away, back onto his seat before the hearth, his head buried in his hands. The words he gives her aren’t full of anger then, but remorse. “I never wanted you to see me—what I must become—when I fight them.”
Eanna scoots beside him and slips her hands around his arm. “I always knew. I know who you are, just as you know me.”
We are both monsters.
“How can you?” A short laugh escapes him, and he peeks at her from the corner of his eye. “Forgive me if I’ve been cruel to you, Anu. I…I tried to prepare you for him, I suppose. As your star year approached, I was afraid of letting them see…” He catches his words on a gasp, a sob so silent she would have missed it, were she not listening.
Her heart surges with warmth and love, to hear the words she has longed and dreamed of. Eanna crawls between his legs and captures his face between her hands. “Forget these people, forget the cursed. Let us visit the ruins of the lost houses, see things no one has seen in an age,” she pleas. The truth is there, behind her words, the hope she betrayed to Wil earlier. She thinks she can trust him—she has to. She has to believe this is real, and she needs Etlu to make it happen.
“Run away?” The last time he didn’t bother to listen to her, treating her idea as a childish fancy. Now, she sees the yearning in his silver eyes.
“Yes,” she insists, as she leans in and presses her lips to his. “Run away with me. Don’t think about it. Come away now while everyone is distracted. By the time they realize, we’ll cross into the next territory.” She’s smiling now, she can’t help it. She’s drunk on the taste of aged spirits on his lips and giddy with love for him.
His lips brush hers as he replies, “Malku arrives tomorrow night. The lady is putting aside the cursed threat, insisting all proceed as planned with your coronation.” His voice catches at the last, and darkness swirls within his irises.
Eanna pushes off his chest and watches with dawning horror, as his features harden. “No, no, Etlu. Don’t do this to me now, never again!”
“It is your duty to remind them, that even with the cursed at our borders, you will protect them as their sarratum.”
“Stop talking to me like I’m already his toy! His father is old, not dead. Why are you letting them win?” She doesn’t know she’s shouting at him, that she’s hitting his chest, until he catches her wrists.
“Oh, but I’m not Anu to you, isn’t that right? You want me to be your sarratum, you want that bastard you call family to touch me like you touched me last night…” Her words are cut off by his bruising kiss.
A flare of shadows expands from his skin, filling the room and obscuring the firelight. Eanna sighs and allows her inner spark to flare and grow. Blue flames dance across her skin and touch his lips, pouring down his throat only to turn into smoke.
Etlu lifts her into his arms with a moan. “Tell me to stop. Tell me you do not want this.”
Eanna smiles. “I will always want you.” She presses his palm between her breasts. “You are my heart.”
Episode 3 will release this Friday: