Worth Your While
(Estimated) Second or Third Quarter, 2017
"Thanks for picking me up." I shut the door on Gina's small import and flipped the sun visor mirror open to check my hair.
I'd been walking for three days before I decided to call her after leaving Will and New Orleans behind. Gina was shocked to hear my voice. I'd had to explain my absence for three months, thanks to Will the asshole wizard, who'd used me to kill a bunch of Shakkor Agdah.
He thought I was dead, too, at first. That's what happened all the other times he'd used a fire demon to kill those fuckers.
"All those fire demons—used as a sacrifice," I grumbled as Gina pulled out of the Wal-Mart parking lot in Gulfport, Mississippi.
"Cliff told me," Gina confessed. "After he sent Rob packing."
"Yeah. I heard the Sprites knew." My words were flat. I'd cared for Rob. Thought of him as a friend. Yet he'd stood aside and let Will haul me to my death.
"Have you talked to Parke?"
"Do you see a cell phone here?" I patted the shift I'd awakened in three days earlier. "I was in a fucking crypt in New Orleans. No access to electricity there—or phones or shoes."
"I'll get you home in about four hours; you can clean up and call Parke from there," Gina sighed while turning onto the highway.
"Yeah." Frankly, I wanted to go to fire demon and burn the house down, I was still so mad at Will, Rob and every other fucking Sprite in existence. Plus, I looked like a homeless person, with a dirty shift, no shoes and my hair matted from lying on a crypt shelf that held rotting bones before Will dumped me there.
"He's so proud of himself, for putting me back together."
"Will?" Gina turned swiftly toward me, her eyes wide with shock.
"Yeah. Then he informed me that the others he'd done this to died. All of them. All these centuries, and everybody's waged war on the fire demon population. Who knows if there are any left?"
"Except you," Gina said, her voice soft.
"Yeah. Now I need a fucking therapist to deal with my fucking life."
"Will you be glad to see Cliff, at least?"
"Yeah. You, too. Sorry I'm so grumpy, but you see how things turned out. I should be dead. I'm not."
"I'm glad you're not. Somebody else is Prince of Alabama, though. Parke and the others said it was important to put somebody in that slot, in case Shakkor Agdah shows up again."
"I don't care about that," I blew out a sigh. "I wasn't really comfortable in that position anyway."
"Everybody says you did a great job."
"Because I was dead." My laugh was humorless.
Worth Your While excerpt copyright © 2016, Connie Suttle
Rose and Thorn
(Estimated) Late April, 2017
"Yes, that's it," Caral said. Kage was learning how to shield faster than Garkus, and Garkus looked as if he might explode with frustration over it.
Levi had to turn away more than once to hide a smile.
Rain had fallen the night before, so the ground wasn't dusty as Caral and I taught the King's assassins how to shield, while Levi and Misten watched and offered advice.
"Your shield should recognize your blasts, so you can fire through it, while still protecting yourself," Levi told Garkus. "Go ahead, fire a weak blast—just enough to get past the perimeter of your shield."
Levi and I knew Garkus' shield was weak. It made me wish for Sherra's presence. I'd probably had that same wish at least three times every day since her death.
We'd lost so much on that terrible day.
"That's fine, but you need to build a stronger shield," Misten strode toward Garkus. "Imagine it is made from the hardest material you can think of. Don't worry, it will still be invisible," she said.
"Do you think Garkus' personal views on women are holding him back?" Levi whispered beside me as Misten worked with Garkus to improve his shield. "He always said shielding was an escort's work."
I considered Levi's words—he could be right. Garkus hadn't taken his defeat at Sherra's hands very well. Rumors said that Garkus voiced them aloud to Thorn afterward, trying to shame the Prince regarding his concern for her.
Only after she died while destroying the enemy's army did Garkus concede that Sherra's talents were formidable.
I could only imagine how things would have gone had Garkus taken on the enemy single-handed.
Az-ca's total obliteration came to mind.
"I hope the rest of our training doesn't go this slowly," Levi mumbled. I had to turn away to hide a smile this time.
Rose and Thorn excerpt copyright © 2017, Connie Suttle