Updated: Jul 17, 2020
Welcome back to Aorea!
NaNoWriMo was a bust, mostly due to my continued status as a #SadGradStudent. However, with the transition to December, I finally have the time--and the energy--to jump back into working on Hidden (Circle, book 2). So in honor of that, here's a sneak preview from what I have been working on. If you are a patron over on my Patreon site, you've already had access to not only this snippet, but the entire first chapter of Hidden. If you aren't a patron, well, all you'll have access to for the foreseeable future are the brief snippets I'll be posting on here.
I've also decided to throw together a few book trailers, which are apparently a thing, so watch for those on my YouTube in the coming months as I gear up for Hidden's actual release. We're still on schedule for the end of 2020, so by this time next year you should be able to have the paperback in your hands or the e-book on your kindle. The other good news I have for you is that if you happen to be a book retailer, you can now order copies of the paperback Destined from IngramSpark!
Anyway, here's the excerpt I wanted to share with you today. I can't remember if I already posted this, so if you've already read it, sorry. If you haven't, enjoy!
It was the silence that woke her.
He always brought the silence with him when he visited, as if it clung to his person like a spider to its web. He did not come to her every night, but as soon as the sun dipped below the horizon, she could tell the nights that he would. She had known long before she laid down to sleep that he would arrive with the midnight and enfold her in blessed silence.
She moved the blankets back and braced herself on her elbows. Squinting, she could just make out a shifting shadow in the corner of the cramped room. She knew the answer already, yet like a ritual she asked, “Who’s there?” The shadow moved closer, bringing with it the scent of cloves, myrrh, and a sickly sweetness. It was the scent of flowers left too long in the vase, of lilies at the edge of a grave. She inhaled the familiar, bittersweet perfume, saying, “It’s you.”
“Of course,” the shadow whispered. “I have returned to you as I promised I would.” He moved to sit on the edge of her bed in a rustle of cloaks.
She sat up further, moving towards him. “Returned from where?” she asked with the softest of sighs. “You never tell me where it is you go when you leave. I want to know. I have a right to know.” She reached out an arm to him; her fingers fell just short of the distance.
“Dear heart, I never leave you, not truly. It’s just that I cannot risk being seen by anyone else,” he whispered, taking her hand and stroking the callused skin of her palm with his thumb. “Not yet, at least.”
“Then where are you during the day?” she persisted.
“Where I have to be,” he murmured.
“Where I want to be.”
She closed her eyes, mulling over his response and enjoying the sensation of the cooling touch against her skin. “Come closer,” she pleaded. “You’re still too far away.”
He slid along the covers, the thick quilt giving way as he moved toward the head of the bed. He came to rest beside her, back against the headboard. When he finally spoke again, his voice was the barest breath mere inches from her ear: “Anything you wish, my love.” He pressed his lips against her neck, a cool, light brush on her skin.
“I wish to see you in sunlight,” she replied, the request nearly inaudible. “I wish to walk down the street holding your hand. To know who you are.” Although she could not see the details of his face through the gloom, she imagined his brow wrinkling in frustration. The frustration passed, and by the time he replied, his voice was as calm and controlled as ever.
“All you need to know is that I remain yours. Here, I’ve brought you a gift,” he offered as he reached into his cloak. He handed her a scrap of velvet fastened shut with ribbon. “Open it,” he commanded.
“What is it?” she asked, untying the slick knots. Her fingers, normally deft, hesitated and tripped in the dark. Eventually she succeeded in loosening the knot and withdrew the contents. She caressed the object, feeling its shape rather than seeing it, yet her fingers recognized it at once. “A ring,” she announced. “I’m sure it’s beautiful. I can’t wait to see it tomorrow morning!”
“It holds but a fraction of your own beauty. Wear it always, and I will always be with you,” he explained. He took the ring from her palm and slid it gently into place along her middle finger. “If you are ever in danger, day or night, I will know, and I will come for you.”
She felt a pull, the faintest spark, where the ring pressed against her knuckle. Peering down at her glimmering hand, she asked, “What is this stone? It’s so dark I can see it even against the shadows. It feels odd, almost as if it’s heavier than it should be.”
He paused, brushing her hair over her shoulder, and said, “It’s a special stone, one native to my birthplace.”
“My family will wonder where I acquired such a ring.”
“Tell them anything you like,” he whispered, planting another kiss on her exposed neck.
“The truth, perhaps.”
She turned to face him. “The truth?” she scoffed. “That three years ago I found a wounded angel who stole away my heart? That he gives me jewels but never shows his face?” She laughed, a hollow echo, and shook her head. “No, you know why I cannot tell them the truth. My family would not understand.”
The glint of his grin flashed, all too fleeting, in the shadows. “Then tell them nothing.”
“I will think of something, my angel.”
“I never said I was an angel.”
“And you never said that you were not.” She placed her hands on either side of his face, drawing it to her as she lay back against the pillows. “And I know what you really are, deep inside.”
In the morning, when the rays of sunlight broke through her window to wake her, she was unsurprised to find herself alone. She pushed back the quilt and stood slowly, turning her face toward the bright glass. She closed her eyes, lost in memory. She nearly forgot to breathe.
As she opened her eyes again, she whispered, “No demon can love.”
The ring on her hand glittered in the sunlight, gold framing a stone hewn from the emptiness between stars.