Welcome to this weekend's sneak peek! Last week, Sarya had a bad day at the office; this week, the physician, Master Baroda, has decided she's just suffering from overwork and needs to rest, and Adan uses all his manly wiles to try to convince Sarya to spend a few days in the infirmary:
“You can’t go on like this. Just a day or two, all right?”
“Don’t order me around, Muari.”
In answer, he took her face in his hands and kissed her again. It was a good thing Sarya was already sitting down because her legs turned to water at the touch of his mouth on hers. The kiss was warm and insistent, and she felt her lips parting beneath his though she tried to will them not to, and she couldn’t decide if she was mad that he hadn’t asked first or glad that he hadn’t asked because if he had she would have said no –
He pulled away, leaving her gasping for breath and stupidly wishing the kiss hadn’t ended. The physician was gazing off to the side, an amused expression on his face. Sarya reminded herself that Adan was an arrogant, overbearing ass and that she didn’t want him kissing her. “That might work on other women, but it won’t work on me, Muari.”
He gave her a smug smile. “Good luck, Baroda.”
“I will mostly likely need it,” Master Baroda said.
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Welcome to another sneak peek into Sarya's Song. Here, Sarya hits a rough spot in her search for the mysterious music she's been hearing:
Flames burst out of the book and engulfed her. She screamed in terror and in pain at the searing heat, and beat at her face, her hair, her arms, trying to put the fire out. But it blazed even more fiercely, burning, blistering, turning her hair and clothes and skin to ash –
“Sarya!” Adan’s voice cut through her screaming and the roar of the flames. A pair of strong arms caught her up and carried her through the wall of fire and upstairs, where he set her down on a bench. He crouched in front of her. “What in the Hells of Torment happened in there?”
Once she was free of the flames, Sarya’s screams had died away, but she was still shaking badly. She looked at her hands, her dress, her half-undone braid hanging over her shoulder, expecting to see them burned away. They were completely untouched, with no sign of burning at all. She glanced towards the stairwell; smoke should have been pouring up from the basement, but there was none. “There was a fire –”
“No, there wasn’t,” Adan said.
“There was. The book – fire came out of the book when I opened it – I could feel it burning me –” Her teeth started chattering in spite of the day’s heat.
“There was no fire, Sarya. Everything’s all right.”
For this weekend's sneak peek, a look into Sarya's Song. Here, Sarya first sees the chained man:
She awoke with a start and found herself – somewhere else. She was still kneeling on a stone floor, but it wasn’t as cold as the floor of the Shrine. The air on her bare arms and feet also felt warmer. Looking around, she realized that she was in a small room about the size of a dormitory room – or a prison cell. The room was dimly lit, and shadows veiled the walls and corners. The cramps in her legs and the sting on her back where the lash had broken her skin seemed very distant.
A sense of presence, of someone waiting and watching, brought her to full alertness. She didn’t feel afraid, though. Instead, a desire filled her to know who was there and what they wanted. Her mind and body strained in eager anticipation as she waited…
“Sarya dyr-Rusac,” a deep, quiet voice said from a dark corner of the room.
Sarya caught her breath at the sound of the voice. It resonated deep within her heart and soul, in places that she had shut away long ago, and stirred feelings that she had tried for years to pretend she didn’t have.
She looked in the direction the voice had come from. The shadows in the corner lifted to reveal a man sitting on the floor. He had long black hair, a pale face that was achingly beautiful yet entirely masculine in its lines, and a lean, firmly muscled body. A complex pattern of curving black lines cascaded over his right shoulder and right breast, and Sarya felt a sudden wild urge to trace her fingers along those lines, to feel the skin of his chest beneath her fingertips.
The light in his corner brightened a bit to reveal the color of his eyes, deep sapphire blue. He appeared to be tall, but his wrists and ankles were bound with short chains attached to an iron ring on the floor, which prevented him from standing up. He met Sarya’s eyes with a gaze that reached as deeply into her as his voice had. He looked at her as though he saw her standing naked before him, with all her thoughts and secrets and yearnings revealed, and desired her.
Welcome to this week's weekend sneak peek! Here's another peek into Urdaisunia: After being sent on an errand by her village to the Royal Palace, Rashali was taken to a guest room and left to cool her heels for three days. Finally, she's summoned to meet with Prince Eruz, to find out why he's been keeping here there:
“I’m sure you’ve been wondering why I’ve kept you here.”
Rashali’s heart pounded; finally she would learn what her fate was to be. During the last two days, she had wanted only to find out, just to get it over with, but all at once she wished she could go on wondering a little longer. Delaying the knowledge wouldn’t change her fate, though; the only thing she could do was face it. “I assume that if you meant to imprison me or put me to death, I wouldn’t be in that room. Therefore it seems more likely that you mean to make me a slave or a concubine, though it would seem strange for a slave to be given such a room.”
“A concubine, then. Is that what I should do with you?”
Her face burned, and she found herself shaking; whether more from anger or fear, she couldn’t tell. “I’d rather die than be made a harlot.”
“Would you really?”
She didn’t want to die, but there was no other possible answer when being given such a choice. Her heart pounded harder, and she swallowed as she tried to gather her courage to say yes.
Time for another weekend sneak peek. Here, in Chosen of Azara, Lucie finally meets the man of her dreams, and finds out he isn't exactly what she expected:
“Azara gave me her life, so that I would not die before my vow was fulfilled. I figure I’m close to four hundred years old.” He smiled again, a faint shadow of a grin that was quickly gone. “I’ve lost track of a few years here and there.”
Everything he was saying was pure nonsense. It had to be. Her fantasies of what it would be like to meet him crumbled away, leaving a hollow disappointment behind. Either he was playing a stupid, cruel joke on her—and there was nothing in his manner to suggest this, only absolute sincerity—or he was only a madman, a wandering beggar lost in dreams and tales of long ago and, for some reason, obsessed with her pendant.
If he was indeed mad, she realized, he might be dangerous if she refused to give him what he wanted. With a pang at giving up the gift her mother had given her, she unclasped the slender chain with the crystal vial from around her neck and held it out for him. “Here. If all you want is my pendant, you can have it. You don’t have to make up these stories to get me to give it to you. Just take it and leave.”
He took her hand in his, laid the crystal pendant on her palm, and gently closed her fingers around it. He held her closed hand for a moment—why did she have to like the feel of him holding her hand so much?—then released it. “That won’t work,” he said. “The power in that token can only be used by a daughter of Juzeva’s blood. I need you to come back to Savaru with me and use that power to restore Savaru to life.”
The outrageous request left her stunned—she wasn’t sure she could have possibly heard him correctly. “Excuse me?” she finally managed to say. “You want me to go away with you?”
For this weekend's sneak peek, here's the opening of Sarya's Song (still not the final version, but getting closer!):
On a small rise on the gently rolling prairie, Sarya sat with her battered lute in her arms, picking out the new melody that she could hear in the wind. The breeze was sharp with coming winter, and the grass was dry and brown. With the cold weather coming on, it was time to head south again. She hadn't done as well in the northeastern prairies as she had hoped; the region's rich farming and herding had suffered from the last several years of increasingly long and harsh winters, and though it wasn't as poverty-stricken as the bleak and destitute Burnt Hills, where she had grown up, there was still little paying work for a traveling minstrel.
She turned her mind away from the grim mining town of her childhood and the poor prospects ahead of her, back to the haunting music that teased at her mind. She had always been able to hear music no one else could hear, but it wasn't until she had come to the Skola at Sucevita when she was fourteen that she had learned that these melodies, called tropes, were part of the natural world, and, when sung as chants, they could be used to control the world and all things in it.
The last several years, she had begun to hear music that couldn't be found in any of the collections of the known naturally-occurring tropes. Over time, she had come to realize that the new tropes she was hearing seemed to herald disasters like none ever before known: long, dry, scorching summers and harsh, bitterly cold winters unaffected by any of the the weather-control chants; great shakings of the earth; exchanges of bloodthirsty hostilities between nations that until then had always been peaceful. When none of the natural tropes succeeded in controlling these catastrophes, new chants had been Composed, to no avail.
And then there was the last wedding ritual Sarya had Arranged. A chant intended to protect against tragedy had not only failed utterly, it seemed to have brought about the very calamity it was supposed to prevent.
Sarya could only conclude that the chants were failing, or else there were new forces at work in the world that were beyond their influence. But both were impossible. The music that controlled the world, both naturally-occurring and Composed, was a gift from Eshalarian the Creator himself, which He had given to mankind before moving on to new worlds and new creations. As a gift from the God, this music was perfect and eternal and couldn't fail. And unless Eshalarian had returned His attention to this world, no new forces could come into existence. Surely, if the kind and generous Creator did return to His work here, He wouldn't do so by bringing death and destruction.
A gust of icy wind rushed across the prairie, blowing strands of wheat-gold hair into Sarya's eyes. She lifted her hand to push the hair away from her face. As she did so, the wind rippled across the lute strings, bringing forth the melody she had been hearing in the wind in its fullness. Her breath caught at the beauty of the music even as it chilled her heart with fear.
Here's another sneak peek inside The Lost Book of Anggird: Perarre and Professor Rossony have had a serious disagreement over a book he found that he isn't supposed to have, and Perarre has to make a difficult decision about their relationship:
PERARRE LAY AWAKE in the dark bedroom. Roric was sound asleep, his body warm and still against hers. She shifted away from him a bit; he didn’t move.
Where his words hadn’t convinced her to open the book, his lovemaking almost had, though she was sure he hadn’t meant it that way. She was sure he had only meant to mend the rift between them, to comfort her after upsetting her so badly, to assure her of his love even though he couldn’t agree with her. But when she was with him she couldn’t think straight. She couldn’t think at all; she found it impossible to refuse him anything he wanted.
He wasn’t going to listen to her. And maybe he was right. Maybe opening that book was the only way to find answers. She didn’t know. What she did know was that there was something terrible inside that book, whether it was whatever had frightened the Triumvirate so much or what it said about what really happened between them and the Benefactor, and that opening it would lead to disaster one way or another. If Roric wouldn’t listen to her, there was only one thing left for her to do.
Carefully, hardly even daring to breathe, she slid out of bed and dressed as quickly as she could. She looked at Roric for just a moment. The memory of the night he had opened up to her, exposing all of his pain and shame to her, tugged at her heart. He had trusted her with the secrets he had hid from everyone else, trusted her not to turn away from him and his terrible past. She felt like she was betraying him in the worst possible way, but she was afraid that if she stayed, he would wear her down and persuade her to open the book against her better judgment and all her instincts.
She didn’t dare kiss him, lest she wake him up or change her mind about what she had to do. Without looking back again, she opened the door and slipped out of the room, feeling as though she had ripped out her heart and left it behind in that bed.
In her room in the Assistants’ Hall, she packed her clothes, her letters from Laydra and Samale, and as many books as would fit into the single valise she had brought to the University nine years ago. She should have known the affair with Professor Rossony was a mistake. She should have known it would end badly. What in the world had made her think that sleeping with her employer was a good idea? That was the problem; she hadn’t been thinking at all. She bit her lips to stop herself from crying as she jammed her belongings into the bag, but tears still ran down her face. Angrily, she pushed them away. When would she ever learn to stop and think things through before jumping into trouble?
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One last post for Love & Magic Week! Here's a sneak peek, with some romance and magic, into Bad Hunting, Book 2 of Daughter of the Wildings (first draft) (this is in the aftermath of a harrowing battle, and something has happened that's going to make things even worse for Lainie and Silas):
“I’m sorry,” she wept. “You got yourself stuck with me, and now you’re in trouble--”
“It’s all my fault. You had to--”
“Lainie, look at me.”
Sniffling, tears running, she looked across the shallow cave at Silas. Blue light danced in his left hand. “I’m a mage, Lainie. I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do.”
“I could have sent for someone to come and take you back to Granadaia if I didn’t want to deal with you myself. I didn’t have to try to think of another way. I didn’t have to hang around Bitterbush Springs after we were done with Carden, trying to think of what to do with you and worrying about if you would be okay. And do you really think that your Pa could have forced me to do anything I didn’t want to do?”
“I...” She looked at the mage light in his hand. Sometimes she forgot exactly what and who he was--what and who she was dealing with. Even after a couple of months together, even knowing what she was capable of, the thought still frightened her. “No, I don’t think he could have.”
“I’m in this with you because I want to be. I wouldn’t have turned you over to the schools in Granadaia, to be chewed up and spit out or turned into something you’re not. And I wouldn’t have dishonored you in your father’s eyes--at least not any more than I already had--by taking you away with me unmarried.”
“Is that the only reason why you married me?” she asked, feeling very small and not sure she wanted to hear the answer. He might not have been forced to marry her against his will, but she also didn’t want it to only be out of a sense of obligation.
“Why do you think those other things mattered so much to me? I love you.”
He had said it many times before, but she had never been quite sure whether or not to let herself believe him. “Why?”
He gave a brief laugh. “Too many questions, darlin’. I’m starting to run out of answers. Why do I love you? Because... Because. I can’t not love you, that’s why.”
Love & Magic Week continues! Here's a magic lesson with Roric and Perarre from The Lost Book of Anggird:
“All right, then. I’m ready,” Perarre said. “Let’s get this over with.”
He positioned himself behind her and took her hands in his. She was tense and trembling. “Breathe deeply and slowly,” he said, shaking her hands to loosen them up along with his own. “The most important thing is to not fight it. Be aware of it, the heat, the colors, the nature of fire, but don’t let it have power over you. Do you understand what I mean?”
“Yes,” she said uncertainly.
“Remember what I told you,” he said. He kept up a soothing murmur, reminding her of the things he had told her, trying to encourage both of them as he moved their hands towards the fire. Each time he felt the slightest hesitation or tension in her arms, he stopped and helped her relax again. “Would I be doing this with you if I thought you would get hurt?” he asked.
She looked up at him. “Oh, Roric, I’m sorry. This has to be even harder for you than it is for me.”
“It’s not as hard as it looks.” He hoped he sounded at least somewhat convincing. “Just let the warmth — not so hot as to burn, just warm — just let it flow around you… It helps a great deal if you close your eyes.”
She closed her eyes. Roric tried to make himself keep his own eyes open, but finally he couldn’t watch any longer. Keeping up his encouraging words, he slowly extended their arms, bringing their hands closer to the fire and then into the dancing energy and distant warmth of the flames themselves.
Love & Magic Week continues with a peek at a magical moment from Chosen of Azara:
After this, Sevry ignored everything else he saw, all his attention focused on watching for the girl to reappear. The next time he saw her, she looked like she was fifteen or sixteen years old. She was in the same place as before, crouching next to some plants by the path. She looked around at him, then stood, her hand going to the sparkling pendant she wore. She opened her mouth as though about to say something, then cocked her head, as though hearing someone calling her from a distance. As she turned to hurry away, she waved at him.
Again he sought for her, and again he saw her, standing on the hillside path, holding a wide, shallow basket with both hands, and facing him, almost as though she had expected to see him. She was fully grown now, perhaps twenty years old. Sevry noticed the neckline of her pale green dress first; he couldn’t help it, any man would have. The dress was cut low, exposing a generous amount of fair, full, lightly freckled bosom. Then, for the first time, Sevry saw the object that dangled from a fine silver chain around her neck, resting just above the cleft between her breasts: a small crystal vial, crafted in a style that had been lost when Savaru was destroyed.
Savarunan crystal. And, Sevry now realized, despite the red hair, green eyes, and softly rounded features, the young woman had a fine-boned Savarunan face. She could only be the granddaughter or great-granddaughter of Juzeva and the red-haired Madrinan prince.
Sevry stepped towards the young woman, and into nothingness.
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