Teaser Tuesday: Cursed Gods (Stay)

And finally, better late than never, welcome to another #teasertuesday! Featuring my fantasy romance novel, Stay. Keep an eye out for more fun to come, including the big official cover reveal for this new re-release! Stay was a stand-alone, but is now the first in the Cursed Gods series. So prepare yourselves for wonderfully confused gods and the mortals that bedazzle them. Meanwhile, enjoy this sneak peek!

Today’s episode was brought to you by the those tortured artists, and how they tug at our heartstrings.

Stay (Cursed Gods #1)

Cain drove a battered old motorcycle, the sort that spoke of journeys taken and better years gone by. After settling me in behind him, we flew. I had never ridden in a car, train, or boat unless absolutely necessary. Never before had the wind stung my cheeks with the cold bite of sleet.

Chains kept his tires from skidding over the ice, and the same power I had noticed in his every movement manifested here. Pressed against him with my arms around his waist, I could no longer feel the cold.

Home for this human was a flat among dozens in a rundown old neighborhood. Allowing my senses to stretch farther, I could easily feel the pain and heartache in most. Happiness and love were nearly nonexistent.
He parked and locked his bike next to a row of others, lifting me easily to stand ankle deep in snow. His arm sheltered me up the walk, to the first of many steps to his home. I gasped when my legs buckled and threatened to give out, bracing my hand on the gritty rail. Without another word, Cain swept me up in his arms and carried me the rest of the way.

Human life was a messy, noisy din around us, but I had learned long ago to drown most of it out.

Cain glanced down at me briefly before plugging his keys into the lock. “Sorry my place ain’t much to look at.”

A single dim glow came from a nearby glass case. After flipping on the lights, he turned and shut the door with one hand, bracing me to him with the other. I wrapped my arms about his neck and rested my forehead
on his chest. For one stolen moment, I imagined I was human again, my curse broken. But the compulsion of my new mission fell like a brass weight about my neck. Behind my closed lids, I could still see Lissa’s emerald eyes as she stole a final glance at Cain. I remembered his longing for her.

“Sorry ’bout the mess,” he said as his chest vibrated beneath my face. “Wasn’t expecting company.”

Turning my head back to the apartment, I watched him sweep aside a stack of papers before he set me to rest on an old couch. His home was small and sparse. An antique table sat in front of the couch, covered with more papers, books, and empty cans. Metal weights were piled in one corner of his living room. Past this was something I had not thought to see again. The stereo was long and tall, and the turntable open and ready for a fresh record.

When I turned to search for the kitchen, my eyes met a pair of long, jean-clad legs and traveled up their length to his belt and tucked-in black shirt. Cain popped his knuckles repeatedly into his palm, watching me watch him. Again I could feel his nervousness through the link that connected him and Lissa to me.

Keeping my head bowed low, I noticed he had already pulled off his leather jacket and scarf.

Cain tugged the cap roughly off his short-cropped inky black hair and began wringing it in his hands. “So…” he began, clearing his throat as he attempted a smile. “I was thinking I could pull out the couch for you tonight. It’s already got sheets on it, can’t promise how fresh though.” Shifting on his feet again, he peered into the depths of my cloak and waited for an answer.

“Yes,” I replied. I could hear my accent despite the rasp of my throat when I spoke. It summoned distant memories of a language and people long dead, of boats and fish and the sweet salty sea.

Cain nodded to himself and glanced at the howling storm careening outside his window. “Looks like it’s gonna be real bad this time. They say we haven’t had a winter like this in years.”

“I know.”

“Well,” he said after an awkward pause, “don’t worry. I already stocked up on supplies, so we should be good if it decides to hold out. Do you, ah, wanna borrow one of my sweaters?” He gestured to the silvery-blue skirts peeking from beneath my gray cloak.

“Thank you,” I replied, though I was not sure it was a wise decision, since I already felt so off balance.

With a thoughtful smile on his lips, Cain nodded and disappeared through another door. From the flats around us, babies screamed, couples fought and screamed threats, and others held silent in fear of the coming storm.

I removed my cloak and carefully folded it until it easily slid into the pocket of my tunic. Gooseflesh rose on my arms as the chilled air rested on my skin. Cain had been right; it was cold, but not like the city beyond his window.

“Here you—” Cain’s confidence faded to a whisper, “go…”

I turned at the sound of his voice, my waist-length curls shifting in spite of the many intricate braids I had woven them into. Our eyes met and seemed to come together in a force as swift as the tide. Cain’s jaw clenched then released as he drew in a desperate breath, as though he’d only just come up for air again.

I closed the space between us. “Thank you.”

Our fingers brushed as he handed over the heavy wool. I watched his pupil overcome the iris, only to once more be consumed by rich indigo.

“Added some sweats and socks, since our building’s boiler is crap,” he offered. “Sorry I can’t offer you more, but this should keep you warm, at least.” Shoving his hands in his pockets, he glared at the floor. “You can change in my bathroom. It’s through that door and on the right.”

I listened to the pounding of his heart as I passed.

Cain’s bedroom was dark but much more like a home than the rest of his flat. The bed took up most of the space.

I smiled to myself. Anything smaller, and he’d have to curl into a ball.

The bathroom light was already on. I looked at the razor and scattered dark hairs in the sink. Beside a sweet-smelling tube sat a toothbrush still in its package.

I lifted my eyes and found my reflection. Rare it was that I even glimpsed my face. So often I lived in that in-between place of shadows and light. I frowned at the creature before me and realized I could not remember the last time I had met this woman in the mirror.

Silver threads wove through curling golden hair and hung over an ancient tunic. In my human life, those wheat tresses had been the envy of every girl in the village, a rarity that made me stand apart. His symbol still covered the clasp that held my dress together. My features were sharp and angular yet surprisingly soft. Clan markings decorated the sides of my neck, signs of
an age gone by. My skin was sun-kissed, the same deep olive of my people. Until the need to protect or destroy overcame me, it would remain untouched by color and light. For now, the gift rested within my eyes, glowing with flecks of every shade, the eyes of a cursed god.

Grimacing, I turned away from my reflection, fisted the silver clasp, and held my breath as I removed it.

I cannot say what Cain felt when I emerged from his room, but the full weight of his emotions hit me like a breaking wave on the rocks. The neck of his sweater was so big on my narrow frame, it fell over my shoulder. I hadn’t bothered with the too-large pants in favor of rolling the socks up my calves. The sweater’s edge brushed my hips, and I clutched hold of the wool with my fists as I met his unsettled gaze.

Light emanated from the kitchen space behind Cain and obscured his features with shadows. Again came the crack and pop of his knuckles in his palm.

“Is this acceptable?” I whispered.

“Oh yeah—I mean, yeah.” Cain rubbed a hand over his face and turned his head toward the crackle of his stereo. “I hope the pullout is okay with you,” he said, gesturing to the expanded couch behind me.

I gasped as I turned and bent to run my hands over the sheets, then glanced over my shoulder to ask, “How did you perform this magic?”

Cain shifted on his feet in what I was learning to be a nervous gesture, and I wondered if he meant to join me. Something held him back, however.

Laughter clung to his voice as he replied, “Never thought of it as magic, really. But good to know you’re easily pleased…”

He froze, regret seeping through our connection, and rubbed a hand over his short-cropped hair.

I smiled as I sank down on the magical bed and watched him, transfixed in spite of myself. Never had silence disturbed me before this, yet nothing compared to the heaviness in the air or the tension stewing in my limbs. I was fascinated by the rapid beat of his heart within his sculpted chest, a syncopated beat for my ears alone.

Cain swayed slightly forward and then released a bated breath. “Well. I’ll let you get settled in then. Just—let me know if you need anything, okay?”  When he stepped fully into the light, I could see that the scar on his cheek extended down further into his chin and past his neck. “Okay…” he assured himself and forced a troubled smile before he softly said, “goodnight.”

to be continued…

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