COTW: Burden of Proof, Chapter 6

Chapter Six

August 7
5:00 AM

An insistent, annoying buzz filled Chelsea’s head, dragging her from the arms of oblivion and into the dim early morning light. Bleary-eyed, she slapped her alarm clock off and groaned as she sat up, swinging her long legs over the edge of the bed. Damn Justin Blakely, anyway! He’d pushed Marlene’s arraignment through the courts faster than she anticipated.

Little as she liked the idea of Marlene being locked up, she couldn’t stop the growing fear that behind bars was the only safe place for her client, right now. She counted on the extra time to prove her case, but unless she came up with a compelling eleventh-hour argument for a continuance, Marlene would be arraigned, today. Oh, well, maybe it was for the best, she told herself with a heavy sigh. No use putting off the inevitable; whether arraigned or indicted, Marlene didn’t have a prayer of avoiding trial, and the older woman couldn’t handle much more jail time, anyway.

Rising with a sigh, Chelsea stumbled into the bathroom and a hot shower, in hopes of reviving herself enough to make it through the day. Five minutes later, as she lathered her hair with her favorite apple-scented shampoo, Chelsea frowned. This case could fall apart without one woman’s testimony. She had to find Linda Travis!

Rinsing off, she stepped from the shower and dried off, wrapping her hair in the towel when she finished. Standing before the clearing mirror, she studied herself critically. More than once, Sally declared it a waste Chelsea didn’t date, with the way she looked. She had a naturally slim figure even her poor eating habits hadn’t managed to ruin, yet. Sure, there were dark smudges beneath her eyes, thanks to a restless night and too little sleep in recent days, and her skin was pale from stress. But those could be covered up with cosmetics.

Her body, however, was only just beginning to show the ravages of stress. She was still willowy, with full, but not disproportionately large breasts and curvy but slim hips. Letting her hands slide down over her creamy, freckle-dotted flesh, she wondered dreamily what Justin would think. Would he appreciate the silkiness of her skin, or its sun-sensitive pallor? The thought of his hands on her caused her nipples to pucker and her insides to tremble. Then, as her foggy thoughts cleared, she gasped in horror. Why should she care what Blakely would think? He was never going to get close enough.

 Never.

Chelsea frowned darkly at herself. There was no way she would ever let another Blakely hurt her. Even if Justin’s kisses did make her blood hot and her knees weak…

 Stop it, she commanded her libido as she yanked on her robe and strode back into the bedroom, grabbing up the phone. Forget coffee, this morning — she was too wired, now. Besides, she needed to check in with Sally before court.

The phone rang twice before a sleepy voice answered, “Hello?”

“Sal, it’s me. Did you find any leads on Linda Travis, yet?”

“Good morning to you, too,” Sally muttered wryly. “Do you have any idea what time it is?”

“It’s five-thirty AM.”

“God, Chels, I love you dearly, but I swear I’m gonna kill you.”

“Sorry. I’m due in court by eight-thirty. Now, did you find out anything?”

Sally sighed, and yawned. “No. I called in a few favors from an old friend to get him to watch her place, but there’s been no suspicious activity, so far. The store’s been closed, and no one unusual has been in or out of the building since you were there. I got Deke to fingerprint the place, too. Chels,” her voice grew grim. “The only prints he’s lifted so far belong to Linda and your client, Marlene Cavarella.”

Excitement zinged through Chelsea. Finally, a break! “So Marlene was there? That’s great news, Sal!”

“Not if Linda’s been kidnapped, it’s not,” Sally said. “The D.A.’s office will be all over that one, and your girl might end up facing kidnapping and breaking and entering charges on top of the murder rap.”

Chelsea’s high deflated. “Damn; you’re right. Linda’s the only one who can credibly give Marlene a rock-solid alibi. Any leads on where she might have gone?”

“I think the question should be why, not where.” Sally’s tone implied how little she, too, liked this loose end. “I’ve already checked, Chels, and Linda Travis is in this up to her neck. The first suspicious thing I flagged was in her connection to your client. She was friends with Marlene in high school, when Linda was dating Dominic. The girls had a falling out over him, according to my sources, and didn’t speak from their senior prom until about two years ago, when Marlene apparently renewed contact with Linda. Sis,” her tone turned grim. “All this makes it look like Marlene had a motive to want Linda Travis out of the way.”

Chelsea’s gut clenched, and nausea swirled in her stomach. Her case was shredding around her. “Well, keep at it, Sal. We need to find Linda, regardless of where that leads.”

“I agree,” Sally said. “Take care of yourself, Chels.”

“You, too. Tell Mom I said hi,” Chelsea said, before hanging up. As she returned the phone to its cradle, she drew a shuddering breath, and gathered her strength for the day ahead. She still had to face Justin Blakely and pretend she didn’t remember the scorching kiss they’d shared.

It was a lost cause to try ignoring her hormones, Chelsea decided an hour later as she watched Justin stride confidently into the courtroom in a dark brown suit that outlined his trim, muscular shape and intensified the piercing green of his eyes. As his gaze raked over her, those eyes flared with hunger, and Chelsea’s heart sped up, even as her palms went damp and her mouth turned to cotton. Nervously, she wet her lips, and watched his eyes darken further as they fixed on her tongue’s motion.

“Counselor,” he said, nodding, and the husky timbre of his voice made Chelsea’s knees weak. Good God, what was wrong with her? Chelsea snapped back into her cool courtroom demeanor, reminding herself this man she was mooning over was a Blakely — a corrupt, disgusting specimen somewhere below human on the evolutionary scale. Nodding crisply in his direction, she turned away as Marlene was led into the courtroom, determined to ignore Justin Blakely’s presence across the aisle if it killed her.

By the time the bailiff instructed them to rise for the judge’s entry, Chelsea’s tension had reached boiling point. Somehow, through the thrumming in her blood, she belatedly registered the judge’s identity.

 Willard Jennings.

Chelsea blanched, even as she locked her knees against a defeated collapse. Jennings? She’d drawn Jennings, of all people?

 I’m doomed, she thought, feeling the building pressure of unwelcome tears behind her eyes. God, was she going to break down here, in court? That would be a great start to her case — prove Jennings and his assumption women weren’t cut out for litigation right. Stiffening herself, she pushed aside her building despair over her crumbling case, and her rotten luck and forced herself to concentrate on her client’s innocence. She would find a way to prove it, somehow.

*****

Justin, watching Chelsea out of the corner of his eye, saw her face pale, and the shakiness of her stance, before she snapped bolt upright. He imagined she’d locked her knees, and concern slashed through him. Was she going to pass out? She looked even more haggard — if that was possible — than her hollow-faced client did. God, Jennings would eat her alive, and he could see she’d reached the same conclusion. Even as he watched, her eyes hardened to ice-blue chips, and her features set resolutely, like a soldier preparing for battle. Admiration stirred in Justin, and he barely suppressed the urge to smile. He couldn’t afford to go soft over Chelsea Hanover. He needed to keep his wits about him, for justice’s sake.

Judge Jennings, a formidable-looking man with the jowls of a bull dog and the cold glare of a Gestapo agent, glanced over the docket he was handed, harrumphed quietly in clear disgust, and raised that implacable black glare to fix on Marlene Cavarella.

“You are Mrs. Marlene Cavarella?”

“Yes.” Marlene’s whisper barely carried in the cavernous courtroom, and her head bowed meekly.

“Mrs. Cavarella, I hold here an indictment claiming that you did, on June third, willfully and with disregard to the value of human life, murder your husband, Dominic Cavarella. Do you understand this charge as it has been read to you?”

“Yes.” Her murmured answer wavered, and she trembled as if holding back tears. Jennings frowned, clearly disgusted by the display.

“How do you plead?”

Chelsea’s eyes raised level with the judge’s and in a firm, clear voice she said, “The defense enters a plea of not guilty, Your Honor.”

Jennings’ beefy face contorted in disdain. “Very well. Let the record reflect that the defendant is pleading not guilty to the charges.”

“We further request bail to be set, Your Honor,” Chelsea continued, undaunted. “Mrs. Cavarella is under considerable mental and emotional duress, and to keep her incarcerated under these circumstances constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.”

“Your Honor, it could be argued just as easily that stabbing a man sixty-four times with a butcher’s knife, in hopes of killing him, is also cruel and unusual punishment,” Justin said blandly. “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania requests the denial of bail on the grounds that a person capable of such a gruesome execution is both capable and likely to commit another equally brutal offence.”

Chelsea’s eyes flashed rage as she shot him a scathing glance. “A woman of my client’s size is hardly capable, physically, of committing the murder of which she’s been accused, let alone a second like it–“

“Ms. Hanover,” Jennings leaned forward, his expression disapproving. “This is an arraignment. Kindly reserve your opening statements for the trial.” As Chelsea snapped her mouth shut, her cheeks flushing with rage and humiliation, Jennings continued. “As to the matter of bail, I’m not inclined to view size as a determining factor in the commission of a crime. In regards to your request for bail, I find sufficient grounds to believe your client is an opportunist. Her type will take a man for everything, including his life. As I’m not inclined to offer her the chance to prove me right, I’m denying bail. Mrs. Cavarella will be remanded to the custody of the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution for the duration of this trial.”

Justin’s hackles rose, even as Chelsea straightened, rage flashing through her eyes. While it wasn’t uncommon for a judge to deny bail in a capital offence such as murder, he’d never seen a defendant’s sex used so openly against her, before. Justin let his own glare bore into Jennings, hating the arrogant, biased politician as he never had before. It would be a miracle if any of them got through this trial alive.

 

Like what you’ve read so far? Consider donating to my fund in benefit of RAINN and The Rape Foundation. 50% of all proceeds will be divided between the charities and donated directly. 50% of the proceeds will go into a special fund to help with publication costs to get this book printed and more widely circulated, to further help these causes.

BECOME A PATRON – DONATE HERE

©2006 BURDEN OF PROOF BY ESTHER MITCHELL
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
ANY UNLAWFUL REPRODUCTION, DUPLICATION OR PRESENTATION OF THIS MATERIAL WITHOUT THE EXPRESS, WRITTEN CONSENT OF THE AUTHOR IS SUBJECT TO PROSECUTION UNDER INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS LAWS.

Burden of Proof Final

A Writer’s Value: Breaking Down the Math

There’s been a lot of discussion, lately, about the value of a writer’s work. I have to say, it’s not just about authors, though I will be approaching this mostly from a writer’s perspective. But I have to say it: Artisans in general have been devalued, because people say “I can do that” without a clue what goes into the art.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people, right in front of me, say “Oh, I can make that myself” when looking at my jewelry.

You know what? Maybe you can. But you won’t. And it’s likely in most cases you won’t take the time or lay out the money to learn how to do it.

Writing involves learning, and the layout of money, on the faith that someone will find your work worthwhile enough to pay for. Most people have no idea what writing requires. I’m here to tell you.

It requires having the idea.

It requires research (months of it… sometimes years).

It requires focus.

It requires hours and hours of dedicated time, away from family and friends, with focus entirely on the work being done.

It requires a desire to create something larger than yourself — characters that people are going to care about more than they will ever care about you, stories that can convince readers to suspend reality.

My average book takes anywhere from four months to three years to write, depending on how deep the research goes. Can you honestly say that isn’t worth $6 for the final product?

If you calculate out the hours spent, versus my royalties on a $6 book (that’s roughly $2 I get per book sold), that means I have to sell at least 4 books just to make 1 hour’s pay, at minimum wage($8/hr). When you factor in that I spend, on average, 2,500 hours on each book, and calculate that out at minimum wage, it breaks down like this:

2,500 hrs x $8/hr = $20,000
(to break even just on time spent, at minimum wage)
+
200 pgs (average) x 4 printings (average) = 800 pages /500 pg per ream = 1.55 reams of paper x 3.64/ream = $5.47 paper cost (average)
+
0.67 cartridge ink (average) x 4 color (1,200 pages per cartridge) = Use of 2 2/3 cartridges (average) x $20/cartridge = $53.40 ink cost (average)
+
Notebooks, copies, pens, etc items usually come to about $50 per book, on average.

So, on average, that totals out to:
$20,000 + $5.47 + $53.40 + $50 = $20,108.87 on average for a book, and that’s just in production cost on my end (the writing), and assuming a publisher will pick up publication costs.

Now, remembering I will only be making (on average) $2 per book sold, just to break even, I’m going to have to sell 10,055 copies just to break even on writing one book… and that doesn’t include any advertising costs or other post-production expenses I’m expected to eat as an author.

You want to know what my average yearly income from writing is? About $30 (if I’m lucky).

Considering how much I have to fight torrent sites, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn I’m probably losing 10 times that amount to people stealing my work because they feel entitled to read it for free.

So… It takes a certain amount of dedication and drive to write a whole book (never mind a series or three), and the sacrifices. And everyone who devalues authors with “Oh, I could write a book if I wanted to” and “It’s not like it’s hard work” or “Well, authors make so much money, they can afford to lose the sale if I get it for free off a torrent site” are so full of crap, it’s coming out of their eyeballs.

Could you write a book?
Yeah, maybe you could. But you probably won’t. Because the minute most people realize how difficult and thankless it actually is, they give up. If you aren’t writing now, you probably don’t have the dedication and drive to do it for a career.

Is it hard work?
You bet your ass it is.

It’s grueling.

It’s time-consuming.

It’s hours and days and months of aggravation, missing out on things because your muse has you glued to a notebook or computer screen, writing away.

It’s heart-breaking at times, and exhilarating at others.

It’s 72 hours straight without sleep because you’re terrified if you stop, you’ll lose that brilliant idea that’s currently consuming you.

It’s ripping out your heart and soul and offering it up so some critic who’s having a bad day can make themselves feel better by stomping all over it, and then pasting on a smile and saying “Well, I learn from the bad reviews”… And days of bouncing off the walls with joy, and no one to share it with, when someone deems your hard work the best thing they ever read.

It’s a damned roller coaster of “I don’t know what to feel, right now” when you’re stuck between watching a love affair come together, and watching a life fall apart, right there on the page, and not being quite sure how either came to be, because they damned well weren’t in your outline, plot cards, or rough draft.

Can we afford to lose even one sale?
Not a snowball’s chance in Hell. We’ve bled for each and every sale, long before that book hits the shelves for sale. Writers are fragile creatures, and we base our self-worth on how worthwhile you, as the reader, consider us. Telling us “I want to read your book, but you’re not worth a measly $6 to read” tells us you think we, as a writer, are worthless… Many a good author has given up, discouraged, because they feel worthless in the eyes of their readers, because readers make the mistake of thinking every writer is the #1 Best Seller book, and making millions of dollars.

But you know how a book gets to that exalted position? People buy it.

So, unless you’re willing to buy, don’t call yourself a fan.

Books 01

“Dangerous Request” – Excerpt from BLOOD DEBT (Project Prometheus)

BloodDebtCoverArt

When Doctor Michael Banks asked his brother to find him a specialist to help combat the biological weapon wiping out entire villages in the Amazon jungles, he expected a dedicated, licensed doctor with enough lab time to make Albert Schweitzer green with envy, and warrior enough to handle himself in the Amazon.  So he was stunned and disappointed to find himself face-to-face with a petite spitfire of a woman with no degree, desert features, and china blue eyes.  To beat the poison, Michael will need everything at his disposal, and the Persian spitfire at his side has the key to his most valuable weapon — if he can keep her far away from his darkest secret.

 

“Dangerous Request” –Excerpt from Blood Debt (Project Prometheus, Book 4) :

Michael, his head bent in concentration over the most recent batch of blood tests, jerked upright as a scream tore through the camp. As his brain registered the sound came from the nearby blood-supply tent, where Shahdi was working, icy panic lanced through him.

He lunged for the lab’s entrance, and dashed out into the bright light of day, with barely an acknowledgement of moving as he tore into the canvas of the collapsed tent next door.

“Shahdi!”

“Michael,” her faint voice, even muffled by the heavy canvas, sent an electric charge of relief through his veins. Shoving aside canvas as he went, Michael waded through the collapsed tent, until he uncovered a sight that made his blood run cold.

Shahdi lay pinned beneath a large chunk of the main support pole, with the heavy beam wedged sideways across her body from left shoulder to right hip. That thing had to be crushing her!

Scrambling to her side, Michael grasped the pole, muscles straining as he lifted the beam away. It wasn’t as heavy as it was awkward to lift, but it was still heavy enough to do damage when dropped from nearly fifteen feet above. Discarding the pole, he dropped to the ground at Shahdi’s side even as she tried to sit up.

“Don’t move!”

She gave him an odd look — probably questioning the sharp fear in his voice — but subsided with nothing more than a sigh and a wince. Michael ran his hands quickly over her body, checking for cracked or broken bones and warmer than normal spots that would indicate internal bleeding. Relief poured through him when he found nothing.

“This is not how I planned to have your hands on me.” The humorous lilt of Shahdi’s voice snapped his gaze to her face, and he scowled as his fear boiled over into anger.

“You could have been killed, and you’re cracking jokes?”

She rolled her eyes as she slowly sat up, his hands steadying her in spite of her apparent strength.

“You must learn to not fret so, Michael,” she murmured. “The point is that I was not harmed. Therefore, a little humor puts the situation into its proper place.”

“You’re going to have nasty bruises by tomorrow–”

“But they will heal with time.”

“You’ll be stiff and hurting–”

“But I am alive.”

He eyed her testily, his nerves drawn to breaking point. Damn it, she was hurt; couldn’t she see how much the idea scared him? “You have an answer for everything, don’t you?”

“No.” Her good humor fled, and her somber blue gaze met his. “I do not know how to make you love me.”

Blood Debt – Available from Desert Breeze Publishing on May 11,2016

An Author’s Life

~Esther Mitchell, 2016~

Yes, I’m an author.
I fall a little in love with my heroes.
I want to grow up to be my heroines.
I recoil in horror at my villains.
I laugh out loud at my comic relief,
and my heart breaks for every heartbreak my characters feel.

Yes, I’m an author.
I have a thousand friends,
who all understand me just as I understand them.
We know each other’s secrets,
We laugh, cry, and live together,
all within the same small space.

Yes, I’m an author.
You can call me crazy,
You can call me strange,
You can shake your head and walk away.
It’s not going to change anything.
Because there are a thousand people in my world,
all waiting for me to smile, to wave,
to ask, “What have you been up to, today?”

color graph

“The Seer’s Curse” – Excerpt from SHADOW WALKER (Project Prometheus)

ShadowWalkerCoverArt

Their mission is to search out and bring down those who trade in terrorism, fear, and human suffering by whatever means necessary.  To do this, they must be willing to give up their freedom, and even their lives. They are a mercenary unit with a mission, and a motivation that has nothing to do with what they get paid, and everything to do with the innocent lives they save. Meet the men and women of…

Project Prometheus

Trevor Watkins is the miracle of the hour; the survivor of an unassisted coma.  But he awakes in a strange place, with no memory but one – the smiling face of a woman with jade-green eyes he has a dreadful feeling he’s supposed to hate.  Trapped in a living nightmare from which he believes there is no escape, he finds himself face-to-face with a betrayal he can’t help but forgive, and a secret he can’t hide from.  Now, the jade-eyed beauty from his past can set him free, if he’s willing to let her step into a world that could take her away from him forever.

“The Seer’s Curse” -Excerpt from SHADOW WALKER (Project Prometheus, Book 3) —

Smoke curled up from the city below, and the distant sounds of death and battle filled Ausar’s ears.  His nostrils flared with the scent of burnt flesh and fresh blood, and rage coiled in his gut to know that Onuris’ minions were the genesis of this slaughter.  As the Crophines‘ Seer, his was the responsibility to guide Ali-Antos towards a bright future.  Why had he not foreseen this?  Why did he receive no warning, no way by which to prepare the people of Ali-Antos for battle?  It was as if the Great Gods mocked him, reminding him that, while he was immortal within the confines of Aermornosa, he was still fallibly human.  Now, the people he was sworn to guide and protect were helpless lambs at the altar of Onuris’ lust for blood and power.

A low, lupine growl rumbled through his chest, and his pupils drank in the light as the wildness within gripped him.  If not for his position, he would be down there, in the thick of battle.  The Gods gifted him with an ability that could turn the tide of the struggle in the city below.  But the weight of the Medicine pouch slung across his chest reminded him that he was bound by other covenants.  He must defend his charge, regardless of the cost.  Which meant he must leave this place.  When the Sodalitas Arachaena arrived at Aermornosa’s gates, they must find nothing of use.

“We must go.”

He turned toward the voice, to meet the dark gaze of the Musir to his left.   Sargon.  The Warrior among them.  Quickly, his gaze flashed over the rest.  Lugh, Mykalos, Csilla.  These were the only family he knew, and he would defend them with his life’s blood.

“It is time, Shadow Walker,” Sargon nodded toward the hidden tunnel that led to the docks only the Elder Musir knew existed.  There, boats would carry them to the far reaches of the Earth, to hide their charges.  They would never see each other again.  And the darkness that filled Ausar had only one bright spot of light.  He had seen the future, in his mirror.  One day, the Gods would bring the five sacred artifacts back to Aermornosa, and return the balance.  Peace settled over him.  That knowledge was comfort enough.

Get ready for the next Chapter of Project Prometheus

SHADOW WALKER

Available 12/21/2015

Discover Project Prometheus today!  Join the struggle between light and darkness with IN HER NAME

“Christmas Shadows”: Excerpt from SHADOW WALKER (Project Prometheus)

ShadowWalkerCoverArtWhen I first realized Trevor and Jaye’s story was going to play out over the holiday season, I was leery of what I call “the Rockwell Effect.” That is, I was very much afraid I’d end up with some postcard-perfect family scene that was a total contradiction to the emotionally volatile situation these two characters were in.

But, as usual with my characters, Trevor and Jaye came through for me.  Even little Jordan added that special, bittersweet moment of the hope of Christmas magic and the uncertainty of a child whose world is far from decided. And the scene that followed left me holding my breath in awe of this character (Trevor) I watched come to life from the first time he appeared on the page, in IN HER NAME.

“Christmas Shadows”: Excerpted from Project Prometheus: SHADOW WALKER —

Left alone in the empty family room, still surrounded by the scents and sights of the home he should have had all along, Trevor stared sightlessly at the dancing lights of Jaye’s Christmas tree until the image blurred before his eyes.  He’d thought he could put things right, that if he cared enough, and paid enough, he could wipe out the debt he had, and start over.  Have a real chance.

But the frightened little voice now echoing in his ears, and the worried frown that didn’t belong on a nine-year-old’s face, haunted him.  Jordan’s love was immediate and unconditional.  But the boy’s trust was another matter, and in that Trevor saw himself again, a twelve-year-old boy faced with his father’s absence, and his mother’s distance as she lost herself in a bottle.  Had he ever really forgiven either of them?

The answer was a resounding No.  He’d pitied his mother, but he still couldn’t forgive her for choosing alcohol over her children.  Even after his own bout with that demon, he couldn’t let go of the pain.  And Jerome’s chronic selfishness – bitterness and rage stirred in Trevor’s chest.  The man abandoned them.  Disappeared.  And now Trevor managed to prove himself as unreliable as either parent.

The disgust he felt for himself shook Trevor to the core.  He’d hurt Jaye and Jordan in ways he couldn’t erase.  There was no clean slate, and he was a fool to think there could ever be one.  He would spend the rest of his life earning Jordan’s trust, and probably still fail in the end.  But Jaye – Jaye’s fears, he could set right.  She was afraid he blamed her for Somalia.  She thought she wasn’t worthy of him.  The mere thought caught in his throat.  As if he was such a great catch.

With a resigned sigh, Trevor levered himself up from the sofa and turned off the Christmas lights, plunging the room into near-darkness.  How appropriate.  He lived in shadow, chained far away from the light.  But if he was very lucky, tonight he might just win a reprieve.

Get ready for the next Chapter of Project Prometheus

Shadow Walker

Available 12/21/2015

“In Darkness” – Excerpt from CHILD OF FALLEN WATERS (Legends of Tirum)

A friend’s quest for identity sends Telyn and her party into a land long draped in secrecy and legend. The truth they find staggers them all, because when the next Chosen is revealed, her identity will leave Telyn questioning her own fate, and the choices she’s made. And when Telyn’s life is upended by a disaster she never saw coming, she finds herself up against the most important question of her life: Is her pride and fear worth the cost, if that cost is everything she loves?

Nacaris gave half his life, and all his heart, to a woman he’s afraid he might never convince to become his wife. As the Chosen and their companions follow the trail of a friend’s desire to learn his past, Nacaris finds himself in a position he never imagined, with a decision to make that could change his life forever. Can he accept his destiny as Fire’s companion, even if it means sacrificing the only thing he’s ever asked from her?

“In Darkness” — Excerpt from CHILD OF FALLEN WATERS (Legends of Tirum, Book 6)

Telyn and Nacaris moved through the darkness, him taking cue from the motion of her shadowy form, aware she could see as clear as day even with just the muted light of the twin moons, this close to Moon Dark.

They moved silently, so attuned to one another Nacaris could barely recall what it was like to either approach or attack a fortification without Telyn at his side. She glanced his way, and her glowing lavender eyes conveyed the same certainty. Nothing ever solidified their relationship more than times of danger, when they relied on each other for safety and stability.

“There.” Telyn’s whispered acknowledgement, as much as the tilt of her head toward the fortress, sent his attention to their target, where a flickering light glowed in the Western tower room. “Sala says the boy’s definitely in that room.”

“And the Pearl?”

A moment of silence, during which Telyn stood frozen, stretched between them, before she shook her head. “Sala says Artu will be able to tell us. The Sea Witch has been trying to force him to use it.”

Nacaris stopped, recalling Sele and Brunnari’s fake Phoenix Book. His gut clenched. He nearly lost Telyn forever that day. Watching her fly into the wall and collapse, unbreathing, never left him in all the Summers since. Blessed Sheli, were they walking into another trap?

“How could he?” Nacaris rasped. “I thought only Water’s Chosen could use the Pearl.”

“Properly, aye.” Telyn’s grim tone was far from reassuring. “But as with all the Aerai Majin‘s artifacts, they can be misused easily enough, whether with the best or worst of intentions.”

Those words told him she was remembering the same events he was. He always wondered what must have gone through her mind in the instant she was catapulted into that wall, and where she went that allowed her to kill a man even as she lay dying on the floor. Telyn was very closemouthed about the details of what happened, and he knew they pained her even all this time later, so he never asked. When she was ready, she would tell him.

Now, as they stood facing a very familiar threat, he had to know one thing. “That… Whatever you did in Brunnari’s tower. Can you do it again, if you need to? Come back, I mean.”

She refused to look his way, and Nacaris’ gut clenched in fear. Then, in a grim, quiet voice, she admitted, “I don’t know.”

His brow furrowed. “Maybe you should go back.”

Her gaze did come his way, then, full of confusion. “Why? I’m just as capable as you, and I’m less vulnerable to physical attack–“

“And we have a daughter who needs her mother.” He wasn’t sure he could convince her how much risk she was putting herself at. But one thing he did know, she would never risk Sheylan’s safety or welfare.

She paused for a moment, then shook her head. “This is important, Nacaris. Sheylan is in good hands, and I need to see this through. I just have this feeling…”

If there was one thing he learned very quickly to trust, it was Telyn’s intuition. She was Chosen, and the fiery heart of their world spoke to her in words even she didn’t always understand.

“All right. Any brilliant ideas how we get into that tower?”

Telyn wasn’t listening, her attention focused on something else, before she started moving toward the far end of the fortress wall. “I have an idea. Follow me.”

A wry smile tugged at his lips as he jogged to catch up with her quick stride. She didn’t have to ask him to follow her. Didn’t she know yet that he’d follow her anywhere?

Get your copy of CHILD OF FALLEN WATERS today!

Follow the quest from the beginning, starting with DAUGHTER OF ASHES!