This week’s Teaser Tuesday for Breaker includes another giveaway!
A note: I’ve tried to keep teasers as spoiler-free as possible, but some things may inevitably slip through. If you absolutely don’t want to know anything before heading into the book, your best bet is to avoid these teasers. You can simply scroll down to enter the giveaway below.
Aubrey unceremoniously dumped a laptop on to the table. “I can’t believe it crashed on me.”
Ian rubbed her shoulders. “You can replace it after the ceremony.”
“I should just get the new model.“
“It’s buggy. You’re going to be irritated —“
“Todd got his hands on a prototype and I had the chance to try it out.” A stubborn tilt of her chin. “It’s good.”
Ian pushed a lock of dark hair out of his eyes and settled onto the sofa with a soft smile. “Aub, the system is fundamentally flawed. Hardware needs time to catch up to the theoretical. Function trumps all. Design is not everything.”
She shot him a look of mock horror. “Sacrilege. Take that back.”
“I can’t decide if you guys are adorable or if too much computing has fried your brains,” I said.
She flopped down next to Ian. “This coming from someone who walks around with knives on their body —“
“More than enough.” Brilliant emerald eyes danced. “Besides, you’re not the only badass ondine walking around Haverleau.”
She extended her sleeveless prosthetic hand. Slim, metal fingers glinted in the light. “Shake my hand.”
I tilted my head. “Isn’t that joke from second grade?”
“You’re thinking of pull my finger,” Ian said dryly.
“Yeah, but it’s pretty much the same thing —“
“Just shake the hand,” Aub said, exasperated.
I glanced at Ian. He shrugged.
I placed my palm in hers, the steel cool and hard against my skin. She slightly lifted her elbow.
A soft whirring sound vibrated through the metal followed by a soft click. I yelped and yanked my hand back.
Three lethal blades emerged from her wrist. They’d cleverly been concealed within the forearm bars of the prosthesis.
“Ian and I came up with the design,” she said gleefully.
Rotating her elbow in a certain way sprung a latch that activated the mechanism releasing the blades. The angles changed depending on the way she moved.
It didn’t matter which direction the opponent came from. With a simple gesture, she’d have access to a deadly weapon.
It was clever. Intricate. Brilliant.
It was exactly the idea I’d been waiting for.
“Can you make more?”
“Weapons.” I leaned forward. “Can you come up with other designs?”
“I guess,” Ian said slowly. “But don’t you already have kouper —“
Aub caught on. “You want to build weapons for the ondine training program. An arsenal.”
“The Armicant agreed to infuse them with Essence. But we’ll need to provide them.”
Ondines didn’t have the speed and training to get up close to an Aquidae with a blade. But there were other lethal weapons they could employ: guns, crossbows, throwing knives.
The memory of the Shadow’s blood tentacles, the crushing power of his magic flashed before me.
We needed everything we could get.
This week’s giveaway is:
- Signed paperbacks of all the books in the Ondine Quartet series so far: Whirl, Billow, Crest, and Ondine Quartet Companion Works.
- A Billow quote mug + signed swag
- $10 Amazon giftcard
Giveaway is open international and ends January 19. Winner will be notified by e-mail and will have 48 hours to respond before forfeiting the prize. I am not responsible for lost or damaged mail.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
This was originally sent out in my newsletter back in October as an exclusive extra. All newsletter subscribers receive these bonus scenes three months before they are released anywhere else.
If you don’t want to miss out on any more exclusive extras, sign up for my newsletter!
**Previous Ondine Quartet bonus scenes can be found here.**
This bonus scene is narrated from Julian LeVeq’s point of view.
This scene takes place within the Billow timeline. At the beginning of the book, Julian leaves Haverleau on a secret chevalier mission to infiltrate a nix group later discovered to be Ian’s allies.
These nixes have remained a mysterious yet influential entity throughout the series. Not only did they take in Ian after the loss of his family, but they’ve also watched and helped elementals from afar in the hopes of shifting the long-held view of nixes as Aquidae sympathizers.
This first meeting between chevalier and nix illustrates an interesting counterpoint.
Julian and Holden come from entirely separate worlds, yet there is a stark symmetry between them. Both are loners and survivors in equal measure. Both see the world as grey, a place littered with bendable rules and lines meant to be crossed or erased. Both are masters of concealment. They use information as currency, obtaining it in whatever way possible – one through his physical/magical advantages, the other through cunning intelligence.
This scene inevitably contains a few minor spoilers from WHIRL and BILLOW. Curious to find out more about these nixes? Readers will officially meet Holden and the other nix characters featured here in BREAKER. 🙂
THICK AS THIEVES
The flat voice blasted out of the speaker mounted on the corner of the iron door.
“Take off your clothes.”
A familiar proposition.
But I’d expected to hear it from the girl standing in front of me, preferably while lying on a cozy rug in front of a warm fireplace.
Definitely not from a staticky male voice while standing in ankle-deep snow.
“Oh for…” Tara shook her head. “He’s the guy I told you about.”
She glared at the camera lens winking beside the megaphone. “He’s with me, Holden.”
A burst of feedback followed by an exasperated sigh. “Ain’t I told you not to use my name?”
“You told me not to use your name in public. We’re inside the perimeter and outside the damn door. Now open up. It’s freezing.”
I raised my arms and angled myself toward the lens, giving the camera a clear view of my Origin-free neck.
“What’s your name?”
“Sean McKinley,” I replied.
A few more moments of silence while Holden ran the bogus alias through the system. Gabe had set me up with an identity tied to a known nix family and a thorough backstory that should hold up under scrutiny.
My muscles tensed.
Someone who survived this long on the outskirts of elemental society was far from stupid. Haverleau better not have screwed up on this.
Static crackled over the connection. “How do I know you ain’t wired?”
“What does it matter? That jamming signal you’ve been sending out from a mile back would’ve blocked any device.”
“And before you start blaming me, no. I didn’t tell him anything.” Tara crossed her arms. “He noticed what we did to the electrical configuration.”
Only because my Virtue had already sensed the subtle change in vibrations when we entered the woods.
But it didn’t matter how I knew; all that mattered was I did.
It was simply another element of the illusion, the magic encasing me like a second skin to a skin that already fit poorly. The slight rasp of vulnerability in my voice, the mop of curly blonde hair, the wide, brown eyes, and the scrawny physique of someone subsisting only on ramen and convenience store food were this mission’s costume of choice.
All of it served one purpose.
Convince whoever was behind that camera that I was one of them, a nix seeking protection within a group.
Seconds ticked by. No static. Just a weighted silence underscored by the faint rustling of winter wind.
The sudden clang of unlocking bolts shattered the icy night. Metal ground against metal as the iron door slowly slid open.
Tucked in the woods of northern Wisconsin, the abandoned farm was cleverly located off a highway near Mill’s Ferry, a medium-sized town remarkable by virtue of its utter blandness.
The nixes had converted one of the farm’s storage facilities into their main home base.
Tara strode down the narrow corridor, the sharp click of her boots echoing off the walls. The faint scent of sweat and dust lingered in the air. Faded turquoise and red paint peeled off the walls, exposing steel bars rusted to a ruddy orange-brown. Moonlight spilled through cracked glass windows lined with wire mesh and splashed against the grime-darkened floor in grids.
Ahead, a halogen light turned on and the sudden, blinding white swallowed the world.
“You’re such an ass,” Tara muttered.
“No one asked your opinion.”
The same voice that had blasted through the speakers outside, but more subdued.
My eyes slowly adjusted. We were in the main section of the building, a large and unpartitioned rectangular room. Empty boxes, blankets, pillows, and assorted duffle bags and clothes cluttered each corner. To my right, two lumpy sofas of indistinguishable colors and a scratched up coffee table formed a makeshift seating area.
Three nixes, all male, waited for us.
The eyes always gave it away. And the gaze of the nix leaning agains the wall to my left was too sharp, too alert, against his mask of careful boredom.
He was the one in charge.
Using the lights had given him a few seconds to size me up first. Clever way to gain advantage.
A bank of monitors took up the entire back wall. Television news footage, video surveillance, and strings of code flashed across the screens.
A lanky teenager, dressed in a ratty t-shirt and faded jeans, hunched over a keyboard before the glowing monitors. Several cans of soda littered the table beside him and a long, unkempt tangle of black hair covered his face.
Tara gestured to him. “That’s Will.” Without turning my way, Will waved. “And that’s Grady.”
A skinny boy with shorn brown hair watched me. A nasty scar stretched from his right ear, across his neck, to his left shoulder.
He looked no older than twelve and when he spoke, his voice cracked slightly. “You want tea?”
He smiled, wide enough to display his missing tooth in the back.
Once he left, the last nix stepped forward.
“And that’s —“
I extended a hand. He ignored it.
The leader of this band of misfits was far younger than I’d expected. He was close to my age, if not younger. Gauntness shadowed his face and the tightness around his eyes created a look of perpetual hunger.
The shit he’d seen was etched into the flat planes and sharp angles of his face. He was a survivor.
Holden studied me a moment longer then walked over to the sofa. I accepted the silent invitation and settled on the one across him.
“Tara says you need a place to stay.”
I nodded. “Two Aquidae came into town a few days ago.”
“What’s your specialty?”
“Financial markets.” The lie easily rolled off my tongue.
“If you so good at playing the markets, why do you need our help?“
“Made a few mistakes. Trusted a few wrong sources so I’m staying off the grid for a bit.”
My gaze flickered toward Will and the monitors. On one of the screens, a series of documents opened in quick succession and the familiar letterhead jumped out at me.
Shit. They were accessing classified Haverleau files.
Holden’s voice grew quiet. “You seem real interested in our work.”
I shrugged and lazily redirected my attention back to him. “That’s the kind of equipment I need to handle trades.”
Grady brought me a mug of hot tea. Welcome warmth seeped under my skin. “Thanks, kid.”
The way his eyes lit up made me wonder if he didn’t hear that word so often. It was a feeling I understood.
Tara’s gaze caught mine and embarrassment suddenly swept over me. I placed the tea on the table and the warmth quickly faded from my hands.
The first hint of grudging respect stirred as I realized Holden hadn’t once taken his attention off me. He knew what he was doing.
“Any family?” he asked.
I shook my head. “Killed six years ago.”
His eyes narrowed slightly. “How you been surviving?”
“In and out of foster care. Took odd jobs —“
“What kinda jobs?”
I raised my brow. “Whatever I could get.”
“You ever been caught?”
“I assume you saw my file. You know I have no record.”
“Been questioned in a few white collar crimes, though.”
Thank you, Gabe.
“Cops had no proof.” I spread my hands. “So there was no crime.”
“And now you’re here.”
“Always knew it was time to move on to the next town whenever Aquidae showed up. Ended up in Mills Ferry two weeks ago.”
“Met him at the copy store in front of Ann’s burger joint,” Tara added. “He gave me the intel on our new visitors.”
Holden tilted his head. “Expect me to believe that of all the towns in this country, you just happened to show up in ours?”
“Actually, I’ve learned to not expect anything. The path to hell is paved with expectations.”
Tara’s mouth quirked into a smile. Cute girl.
Holden’s eyes narrowed. Guess he didn’t have much of a sense of humor. “How do we know those visitors ain’t looking for you? Maybe you brought ‘em here yourself.”
“You don’t know.” I paused. “But if I were working with Aquidae, why would I tell you about their arrival? I’d just lead them here and let them have their way with you. Instead, I gave you a free head’s up.”
“He needs a place to stay, Holden.” Tara’s gaze flickered to me, interest darkening her hazel eyes.
I smiled and a light flush crept up her neck.
“She’s right.” Grady piped up. His hands reflexively clenched and unclenched in his lap. “If two more Aquidae entered Mill’s Ferry, we can’t leave him out there. It’s not safe.”
Holden was in a tight spot. If he let me go, he risked the possibility I’d provide information on the group and their whereabouts to Aquidae in exchange for immunity.
If he let me stay, I risked becoming a hinderance to the group rather than a help.
“You want to hang with us?” He leaned in. “Fine. But I see you.”
“Hope so. I’m sitting in front of you.”
He didn’t find that funny. “You’re hiding something.”
I shot a pointed look at the equipment behind him. “And you’re not?”
He raised his hands. “Look, I ain’t got a problem with it. We all do what we gotta do to survive. Just sayin’ I don’t trust you.”
“What happened to honor among thieves?”
“It don’t exist.” He gestured toward one of the flashing monitors. “A thief sees through the flimsy illusion of security, the masks people wear to make them feel safe. One thief can’t fool another. There ain’t no honor in seeing the lies.”
Will suddenly swiveled on his chair to face us. “We’ve lost contact with Ian in Lyondale.”
“Who’s Ian?” I asked carefully.
“Our friend.” Excitement shot Grady’s voice up a pitch. “He’s chasing after an Aquidae and he’s real close to the sondaleur in Haverleau —“
“Shut up,” Holden snapped.
Grady flinched slightly but shot him a defiant look. “He don’t know who Ian is. Or the sondaleur.”
I shrugged, mentally thanked the kid for giving me a way out. “She’s a myth anyways.”
Just hearing that damned title brought every detail of her face to my mind. The curve of her cheek, the eyes flashing like green fire.
The longing that accompanied her image inevitably rose and I focused on suppressing it.
I’d have to find out more about this Ian.
At least Holden seemed to believe me. For now.
“If you gonna stay, then you gonna have to help out. We’re running low on currency.”
“What do you need?”
“Stock exchange in New York is opening in four hours and we got a few tips.” A hint of challenge colored his tone. “You in?”
Adrenaline hummed under my skin, easing away the icy boredom.
**Don’t forget to enter this week’s Breaker teaser giveaway! It ends January 12 and is open international. Enter here >>
This week’s Teaser Tuesday for Breaker includes a giveaway!
A note: I’ve tried to keep teasers as spoiler-free as possible, but some things may inevitably slip through. If you absolutely don’t want to know anything before heading into the book, your best bet is to avoid these teasers. You can simply scroll down to enter the giveaway below.
I tugged at the zipper and cursed under my breath.
Whoever designed this dress obviously delighted in torturing female bodies.
Frustrated, I dropped my arms and stared. The mirror reflected someone I wouldn’t have recognized a year ago.
A young woman, dressed in an elegant gown of forest green and gold, with bands of glittering jewels draped around her neck and wrists.
Who are you?
I touched the glass and traced the tip of the wave crest tattoo curving over my shoulder.
A soft sound came from behind me.
I turned, the air catching in my lungs.
Tristan leaned against the open doorway, arms relaxed by his sides, eyes warm and liquid in the bedroom’s muted light.
After an incident with an asshole during my freshman year, I hadn’t allowed anyone to get close.
Temporary amusement was good; anything more was not.
Initial attraction never lasted long.
In the shadows of a club, with blood pumping in sync to music and adrenaline burning bright, a guy would appear hot as hell, an indulgence to amp the excitement up another notch or two.
But as soon as we stepped out into the silent, garish light of reality, I’d realize he wasn’t much at all.
It was almost as if the mind was only capable of being surprised by it once.
But with Tristan it never did.
There were still moments, multiple times throughout the day, when I’d catch sight of him and feel a sweet shiver like the tip of a knife grazing my skin.
I’d improved my senses, but seeing him remained a constant surprise.
It had nothing to do with stealthy selkie skills.
It was him.
This week’s giveaway is:
- One signed paperback of any book in the Ondine Quartet series (including Breaker). If you choose Breaker, I can only ship it out after its publication date.
- One tote bag + signed swag
Giveaway is open international and ends January 12. Winner will be notified by e-mail and will have 48 hours to respond before forfeiting the prize. I am not responsible for lost or damaged mail.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Here’s your Tuesday teaser for Breaker!
A brief note:
I’ve tried to keep teasers as spoiler-free as possible, but there may inevitably be a few things that slip through. If you absolutely don’t want to know anything before heading into the book, it would probably be best for you to NOT read these excerpts.
Okay- other info:
Fueled by an endless reservoir of hate and rage, the Shadow possessed a colossal power. He could annihilate us with a snap of his fingers.
My blade, skills, and magic were woefully ineffective. They worked against physical beings.
But the Shadow was blood and energy, an immortal who used mortal form out of convenience, not necessity.
The numbers hang high where red towers over sea. Can you find me now?
His strange words reverberated inside me again, a challenge I didn’t know how to address.
“I don’t know where to begin —”
“I’m leaving for Fontesceau tomorrow.”
Located on an island off the southwest coast of Florida, Fontesceau was a popular community and favorite vacation spot for many elementals.
I’d assumed Nexa would be here for my confirmation ceremony. I shook aside the slight hurt. “Why?”
“Restless Passions Convention,” she said impatiently. “In Miami. Since it’s the show’s final season, the entire cast will be there to greet fans. I’m getting everything signed.”
I blinked. She pulled a pack of cigarettes out of her pocket.
“And also because of the last clairvoyant,” she added as an afterthought.
“Brigette Genevieve.” Her lighter flared. “Distant relation.”
The name didn’t ring a bell. I waited.
Nexa took a drag off her cigarette.
I sighed. “And she’s the last clairvoyant because…”
“She is the only ondine we know of who now possesses that Virtue.”
Clairvoyants had a turbulent history in our world. When controlled, their Virtue was remarkable – a magic powerful enough to peer through time and space.
Uncontrolled, it could devastate the person possessing it.
There could only be one reason for Nexa’s sudden interest in that Virtue.
“You think she’ll see how we can end this.”
Empath sometimes allowed me glimpses into fluctuations affecting my future. But I wasn’t a Clairvoyant, the visions were spotty at best, and my dreams had recently remained silent.
If Brigette had a prophetic vision, it could guide us to the end of this war.
“Perhaps.” Nexa exhaled. A ring of smoke curled around her. “Like any Virtue, prophecies are simply a tool. True power always lies in the one who wields it.”
Maybe. But it was still the best tool we had.
An unnerving thought occurred to me. “What if she doesn’t have the vision soon?”
My mother was the only ondine who’d harnessed her Clairvoyance to work for her and not the other way around.
Clairvoyants couldn’t control when their visions occurred.
Brigette could see something tomorrow or twenty years from now.
The possibility of this war continuing for that long sent a chill down my spine.
“One step at a time, dear,” Nexa murmured.
The ocean rumbled, a rhythm of discontent in the dark.
This was originally supposed to go out to newsletter subscribers, but I’ve decided to release this as a special holiday treat for my readers.
A huge spoiler warning: This scene is from Crest (Book 3) of the Ondine Quartet.
Okay. You’ve been warned. 🙂
All of you have been amazing and I appreciate my readers so very much. You rock, I love you guys, and I wish all of you a wonderful holiday season with family, friends, and everyone you hold dear.
Happy Holidays – ENJOY!
It hadn’t worked.
I finally allowed myself to slow my pace, muscles relaxing as I slipped out of the tunnels into the shallow pools of the cave. Water slid around me, its cool caress a futile balm.
The hard swim hadn’t eased the restlessness hounding me. Nothing did.
It was as if the conference’s tension had spilled over the palace walls, saturating everything with the greedy stain of petty politics and cunning personal agendas.
The first time Eric showed me these caverns, we were children envisioning ourselves as intrepid explorers boldly laying claim to uncharted territory.
He had a particular talent for finding the untouched areas of our kingdom, the spots Father and the palace couldn’t reach.
Back then, I believed Eric fashioned our adventures for me, his way of giving me something I could call my own.
But I now wondered if he’d also needed space far from the looming shadow of his inheritance.
Ahead, a disturbance rippled the waters.
It was the particular strum of her movement and breath. Even before the edges of her familiar aura pierced the waters, it swept against my pelt, familiar and intimate as a physical touch.
She was everywhere.
Her scent, her pulse, her magic, her laughter had become inescapable. She was in the vastness of the endless sky and the color of the blazing sunset, in the murmur of the woods and the touch of the ocean.
In my dreams, under my skin.
Restless awareness beat against my ribs. I shifted, the flash of magic providing a moment to brace myself.
It didn’t matter. The same jumbled mess of terrible yearning and cold fear punched through me at the sight of her.
She stood, luminous and defiant, under the trickle of milky afternoon sunlight.
Rain dripped through the ceiling fissures in a mournful rhythm. Her white shirt, wet and heavy, clung to every delicate line and curve.
“What are you doing here?”
“Looking for you.”
Her voice was stormy, electric. It danced along my skin, a demand and temptation, dragging my gaze down.
The shirt had turned translucent. Desire, painful and fierce, tore through me.
“You’re soaked.” It came out harsher than I intended.
“Water’s not cold.”
She crossed her arms, posture fragile and self-conscious against the craggy silhouette of the cave. Light spilled across her face and I suddenly remembered, in exquisite detail, how her mouth had felt beneath mine.
My body instantly hardened.
She studied me with suspicious eyes. “You haven’t been telling me things. I want to know what’s going on.”
I moved past her.
“Were you preparing something for tonight?”
Agitated energy churned in my blood. I needed to leave before I said something I’d regret.
“Were you out for a swim? What were you doing?”
“You should rest up for the strike.”
I felt a twinge of regret but kept moving forward. This wasn’t the time or place to deal with —
“If you have something to say to me, say it.”
Her anger flexed against my skin, coaxing my own sharp hum of anger.
“Damn it, talk to me!”
I whipped around, backing her up against the rocky wall.
Heat radiated off her body, trapped in the space between us. I inhaled her indignant anger.
Her fire stoked my own.
“For almost a year, you’ve deflected, ignored, or walked away from me every time I wanted to discuss something that cut too close. You shut me out whenever you wanted to avoid something. And now you want to talk?”
Her eyes blazed. “That’s different! You’re obviously pissed off at me and I deserve to know why.”
The words spilled out, fast and rough, before I could stop them.“Why didn’t you tell me my father was the one who put you in the infirmary?”
She startled and the telltale action infuriated me.
She’d lied. She’d deliberately kept information from me while demanding I tell her everything.
“Your father is a warrior. He wanted to see if I was one, too.” She tilted her chin. “It was his way of testing me.”
“I’m the sondaleur and the future Governor. He needed to see what I would do. It’s the language he knows.”
I didn’t know who was more infuriating. My father or her.
In stubbornness, though, it was an absolute dead tie.
“So what did it accomplish?”
“He knows I won’t back down and I’m willing to take the hit. It’ll make things easier.”
Her voice shifted. She was evading.
“That still doesn’t explain why you didn’t tell me.”
“You and I both have a lot of shit on our plates right now —“
“He knocked you out!”
“I can handle your father!”
Anger surged. She kept putting herself in danger, then deliberately ignoring any of my attempts to remedy it.
Either she didn’t care if she got hurt or was simply refusing my help out of misguided pride.
Both options were unacceptable and I couldn’t do a fucking thing about it.
“Someone in my kingdom tried to hurt you. A traitor is killing ondines and is obsessed with you. Political instability means you’re walking around with a target on your back. Then I find out, from a third party no less, that my own father injured you. Do you know how hard it’s been to not go after him?”
“Which is why I didn’t tell you.”
“You kept it to yourself even though it concerned my family? My father?”
Something flashed deep in her eyes. “I was trying to protect you! I didn’t want you to deal with his crap right now.”
Her gaze dropped.
Realization dawned. “You don’t trust me.”
She jerked her head up. “This has nothing to do with —“
“You trust me to fight alongside you. You trust me to stand beside you in meetings and Council sessions. But you don’t trust me enough to tell me when something’s bothering you.”
It didn’t matter how much I shared with her. She wouldn’t let me in.
There was always a part of herself she kept removed, locked up so tight I sometimes wondered if she even remembered it existed.
Her expression hardened. “And what about you? Why didn’t you tell me the Manhattan Lieutenant turned your brother? Or about Sian? Or that you think the traitor was responsible for what happened to Eric?”
Of course she knew. Just as she’d known how to find her way to these caves.
I wouldn’t be surprised if she found out everything about my life.
Yet, she’d somehow managed to completely shut me out of hers.
“I told you about the Lieutenant after the strike because I didn’t want you to worry during the mission. What happened between Sian and I took place so long ago it’d be the equivalent of expecting you to tell me something that happened ten years ago. You asked and I told you everything. And I didn’t tell you about the traitor because I didn’t want you to feel additional pressure in finding him.”
She crossed her arms. “Were you ever going to tell me?”
“Yes, once we got closer to catching him. If you want to know something, ask and I’ll tell you. But the problem is you don’t ask. You don’t want to know.”
“Oh, really?” Her mouth tightened. “Then tell me why you left for six months.”
Because I’m a fool.
“Because my kingdom needed me.”
Her laugh was hoarse, sarcastic.“Couldn’t bother to call?”
“You needed time alone. You needed to recover, focus on entering the elites, and assimilate to your new life in Haverleau. Calling you would’ve been a distraction you couldn’t afford.”
“Everything to make me a better soldier right?” Her mouth twisted. “The ultimate weapon.”
I wanted to snarl. “Quit using the war as an excuse. When you left for New York, you didn’t bother to say good-bye or call, either. But you didn’t have to. Because we don’t have that kind of relationship.”
Something shone in her eyes, brief and bright. Hurt?
Before I could catch it, she blinked and it disappeared, hidden behind her usual wall of steely anger.
“You know what? You’re right. Let’s just stay out of each other’s business from now on.”
I wasn’t letting what happened in Manhattan repeat itself. The Lieutenant had taken Eric and had been mere seconds away from taking her, too.
“No? You’ve been shutting me out since New York. You want distance, fine. Then you don’t get to order me around, Your Highness —“
“You make me afraid.”
Her eyes widened.
“The Lieutenant could’ve snapped your neck.”
My gut clenched. He’d touched her. His hands were about to break her as if she were nothing when she was everything.
“I’ve never known the kind of fear I felt in that moment. And I dealt with it the only way I know how. I…I thought if you came here you’d be safer.”
It wasn’t the first time I’d been wrong. Not only did the threat remain, but bringing her here had only brought her deeper inside me, to a place where she now remained inextricably intertwined with my past, present, and future.
She straightened. “I’m more than capable of defending myself.”
“I have to watch you head into danger again.”
“I do the same for you.”
“I worry you’ll do something rash to protect others.”
“You’d do the same.”
I held her gaze. “I’m terrified of losing you just when I’ve found you.”
This time I saw it clearly. The fear that flashed through her eyes.
But again, she ran from it, choosing to show me something else.
“Is that what this is about? About tonight? You think I can’t do it?”
“Stop deflecting. Do you trust me?”
I wished I believed her.
“Do you believe I worry about you? That I don’t like seeing you hurt?
A pause. “Yes.”
“So why won’t you tell me when something is bothering—“
“Because it hurts! When I spend time with you or share something with you, it’s just a reminder of what I can’t have, okay?”
I forced the words out. “Do you want me to never speak to you again?”
“No, I just…I don’t…Tell me what you want!”
Those words were dangerous and she knew it.
I took in the line of her cheekbone, the curve of her lips. Awareness colored her skin, the faint flush spreading to the irresistible curve of her bared shoulder.
How many times had I dreamed of touching her there?
Slowly, cautiously, my fingers grazed that small patch of skin.
A soft sound escaped her lips.
It was silkier, smoother, more incredible than I had ever imagined.
“I want you to be safe.” Mesmerized, I tracked the perfect slope of her shoulder.
Her breathing quickened.
“I want you to receive what you need.”
Over the delicate ridge of her collarbone.
“I want you to be whoever you want to be.”
Over the tattoo that first fascinated me on a moonlight night in a San Aurelio alley.
The feel of her was almost unbearable.
“I want you. I just want you.”
Heat swirled, fogging my brain.
I forced my hand to let go and my body felt as if it would break from the effort to hold back.
I dropped my head and took a shaky breath.
Her scent flooded me. Jasmine and roses.
Sharp arousal lingered along her skin, in the curve of her spine, and the angle of her jutting hips.
I gritted my teeth. “You need to go now.”
Her breasts firmed, tightening and lifting against my chest. Her pulse fluttered wildly at her throat.
Desire, hers and mine, rubbed my senses raw.
My hands curled into fists. “Kendra. Leave.”
A last plea.
She stared at me. “No.”
Nothing existed but sensation and instinct.
Hunger. Desperation. Need.
My mouth slanted over hers, hard and unrelenting.
I lost myself in the pleasure of her lips, in the heat of her tongue and a maddening tangle of emotions. Tenderness, passion, anger, fear, want.
I couldn’t get enough. Would never get enough.
She bucked and arched, all legs and arms, wild energy whipping about, a raging inferno revolting against this war, this life.
The same desperate mutiny raged within me.
My arms locked around her, containing all that power long enough to bring her to the embankment.
She lay against the slope of ebony rocks, lips parted, hair spread beneath her. Darkened eyes smoldered beneath half-closed lids heavy with sensuality.
Need clawed my insides, a voracious beast terrifying in its enormity. I struggled to temper it.
I didn’t want to hurt her.
Strong fingers twisted in my hair, fierce and insistent.
I groaned, my hands catching her hips, lifting her tight against me.
“So beautiful.” A whisper against her throat, the acknowledgment of a rarity that defied blood and death.
She removed the last layers between us and more words – nonsensical, frenzied – tumbled forward, borne from reverence and wonderment at what lay bare to my touch.
And with every moan, gasp, and deliciously sweet cry, she pushed me deeper into a sea of frantic desperation.
Because I knew.
My hands and mouth may explore every curve and dip and hollow, but there would always be a part of her I could never touch.
Even as we found temporary relief from the restless demons haunting us, she would belong to the duty binding her to everyone else.
But what I could have was her pleasure.
I could give her a memory that would be seared into her skin, imprinted on every part of her just as she had long been on me.
That pleasure belonged to me and I savored it, demanded it, and drowned in it with every stroke and thrust until we arched and shuddered, both revealed and shattered in the mirrored aftermath of our uprising.
I’m absolutely thrilled to reveal the prologue for Breaker, the final installment of the Ondine Quartet!
Before I do, another reminder: Breaker will release on January 28, 2015.
Here’s all the information:
Okay, here’s the opening of the final book in the series….enjoy!
Between clouds and sea, there was a strip of sky promising freedom.
It hung, separate and infinite, commanding a subtle power even the sun must acquiesce to.
Every sunset crossed through on its daily trek to the ocean’s cooling embrace.
And every sunrise stretched pink fingers across its inky expanse to graze the fading ivory moonlight and reach the clouds.
I often pictured myself floating, suspended and untouchable, in that ribbon of sky, a neutral zone where neither water, sun, nor moon could trespass without permission.
A place where you could choose to soar up to the bed of clouds or dive down into the ocean’s depths.
It was spring, our first in Texas. Mom had been on a roll, whipping us through several towns in Louisiana as if something nipped at our heels. Our move to the small, coastal town nestled along the gulf was our second in four months.
Her increasing paranoia also manifested in other ways. Physical training, martial arts and weapons instruction had uniformly intensified. Magical education involved controlling my Virtue, wielding it over humans and manipulating them into providing me with the information she wanted.
It was a year designed to teach me survival.
But what I remembered most about that time was my bicycle.
It was an ugly contraption, the color a vomit-green, with peeling paint, rust-stained handles, and barely functional brakes.
Mom rescued it from a dumpster and brought it home one night, explaining it was a good way of improving my cardio, stamina, and balance. She mentioned other things, too, boring reminders about responsibility and maturity, protective gear and sturdy footwear.
My mind was too busy spinning with possibilities to hear it.
That bike was my first car.
Every day, I rode to school. I tore out of our tiny home, fleeing her disapproval and anger, and sailed off into the bright morning sun.
Every day, I raced out of class, leaped onto it, and escaped into the humid afternoon.
I had one hour to myself. She thought I spent that time finishing my homework at school and I convinced myself my daily detour wasn’t bad because it was a form of training.
It was the first real lie I told her and the first I told myself.
I sped through narrow back alleys and roads, taking shortcuts through backyards and store lots until I finally reached the beach.
The old promenade was a small, rickety wooden extension jutting from the parking lot over a modest sand dune. It ended abruptly, with a four foot drop to the beach below.
I pedaled harder. The bike accelerated, bumping over asphalt onto uneven boards. The clatter of wheels against wood trembled in the afternoon heat.
The edge drew near. I pumped my legs harder.
My breathing quickened. I focused on my target.
Three. Two. One.
The ground dropped away, leaving nothing but the soft cushion of air. Heady exhilaration engulfed my eight-year-old self.
Just over a second later, the bike landed on the sand with a thud and I shifted my weight to stay upright.
A breath, a moment to savor what had happened, and then I walked back up the sand dune, across the parking lot, turned around, and did it again.
Each time, I aimed for the same spot, that smooth stroke of azure sky just above the horizon.
And when the wooden boards disappeared, bicycle wheels churning through space, the knowledge of what I was doing made the thrill that much more potent.
During that one, fleeting second, nothing existed but the wind rushing through my hair, the sharp scent of ocean flooding my nose and blood, and the triumphant glee of defying gravity.
Nothing held or bound me. Like that pristine strip of sky, I was untouchable.
Those seconds on my bike defined my spring, a quiet mutiny against the iron discipline of training and the growing instability at home.
That desire to rebel escalated as I grew older. But back then, my revolt was more innocent and I easily found satisfaction on a dilapidated bike.
Until the day I stopped.
The weather had begun its slow transformation to summer. The air turned drier, grittier, but wasn’t yet hot enough to stifle spring’s mildness.
I’d just finished another jump and landed hard. The bike jolted beneath me.
“Careful. You might get hurt.”
The stranger’s sleek blonde hair, floral print sun dress, and kind face presented a vision of maternal concern. Her lips curved as if she had a perpetual secret she wasn’t telling.
I shrugged. “No, I won’t.”
It wasn’t a lie. My reflexes weren’t like humans.
“Are you here alone?”
Learned wariness itched under my skin. Empath stretched inside her, but sensed nothing wrong. Just a concerned mother.
“Mom’s at the store down the block,” I lied smoothly.
She watched me for a few seconds as if deciding whether or not to believe me. The sun dipped behind the clouds. Something hard and cold flashed in her pale eyes, a smudge on her perfect veneer.
Mom had that distant, slightly mean look all the time.
In the coming years, I would see it in many others – women, men, ondines, demillirs, selkies.
In my own reflection.
It was the look of someone who’d seen bad days, knew the taste of darkness and what it meant to endure.
The sun reappeared. Light melted away the hardness and her face returned to its luminous glow. This mother was too much in control to let that smudge show for long.
“What’s your name?”
She nodded approvingly. “Well, Kendra, would you like to join us until your mom’s done?” She gestured down the beach. A girl, no older than four years old, knelt in the sand, working on a castle with the same intensity I’d ridden my bike.
“I’m sure my daughter would like to make a new friend.”
I shook my head. She didn’t understand. “I’m not allowed to play.”
“Isn’t that what you’re doing right now? Playing?”
“No,” I retorted. I wasn’t sure why I was so angry at her. She was just trying to help. “I’m training.”
She tilted her head and gave a curious smile. “What do you mean —“
“I have to go.”
I took off, the motion of the pedals resisting then smoothing beneath my feet.
But I only pretended to leave. Just as I’d pretended someone was waiting for me around the corner.
Once I was certain she’d returned to her child, I dropped the bike in the high grass lining the shore and raced back. I hid behind one of the thick pillars supporting the promenade and watched.
They played in the sand for awhile, gracefully dancing across the golden grains. Then they moved into the lavender water, the sun dipping low behind them. The mother lifted her child high, their faces bright with laughter, the girl’s toes skimming the silky water’s surface. Her giggles and delighted squeals filled the air.
An ache yawned in my chest and swallowed me whole.
My bike no longer appeared like a chariot, a glorious tool in my quest for spring freedom.
It looked like a discarded hunk of metal no one wanted.
I didn’t ride home that day.
The sun beat down on my head and with each step, I recalled the look on that mother’s face.
Empath had already shown me that the masks people wore bore no relation to what lay within.
But what I’d witnessed hadn’t required my magic. The truth had been evident in their perfect laughter and warm embraces.
Emotion that pure and strong, with no twisted warping, left me restless and uncertain.
It was the same discomfort I felt years later watching Gabe and Marcella, or Aubrey and Ian.
Love that huge, that beautiful, made me feel small, insignificant. Ugly.
I’d once had that before Dad died, back when things were very different. But as those memories faded, a new truth emerged, a realization tied to the hours of relentless training and the inevitability of the countless more moves to come.
I may never have that again.
That second in the air, the second I grabbed on to with such fierce desperation, wasn’t really anything at all. A silly, unimportant diversion.
The stranger had been right. I was just playing.
So I walked home, dragging my feet across the dusty Texan road, my blood tied to the ceaseless rhythm of the ocean, my life fixed to the finite expanse of the land.
And all the while, deep within the hidden crevice of my heart, I continued yearning for that strip of sky between clouds and sea.