Excerpt from Chapter 6 “The Long Goodbye”
The crypt’s opened door was illuminated by the soft glow of light emanating from globes inside. Dyla stood stock-still, tall and statuesque in her majestic grace, beside the stone coffin in the middle of the mausoleum’s main room. Her long alabaster neck was framed in sharp contrast by her raven hair. Her eyes were pools of sorrow that never left the casket holding the body of her father.
The Telkur family’s mausoleum sat atop the highest point on the hill, affording a magnificent view of the bay below. It was hauntingly beautiful at night. The skies were ominous with the promise of an approaching storm hanging in the air. Few stars shone through the patchwork of clouds, but glimpses of the twin moons, half-caste in a ghostly hue, could be seen as the winds blew off the sea.
Her father rested in perpetual wake alongside the other royalty of Telkur’s past. Duke Levon Telkur had been a kind and generous man who was loved by all. He left this world all too soon, murdered like a thief in the night.
Dyla put her hand on the cold stone. The stonecutters had done a magnificent job on the sarcophagus, expertly capturing the regal face of the former Duke, but the likeness only served to remind her of everything she had lost.
How do I say goodbye?
A single tear trailed down her cheek. She stared at the likeness of the man who had always been there for her, her champion. The man who had guided her, supported her, and comforted her whenever she felt frightened.
How do I say goodbye with this unbearable weight crushing my heart?
Her father had been gone for three years, but Dyla continued to visit him regularly whenever she was home. Even with the passage of time, his death was a void that could not be filled. A void she felt to the deepest depths of her soul.
How do I say goodbye when all I want to do is scream?
Her heart still lurched when she caught a half glimpse of a familiar silhouette in a crowd. She hoped against hope in that brief instant that it was her beloved father, until the moment passed and reality came crashing back down upon her.
Her father was gone. Dyla laid her cheek on her father’s chest hugging his likeness to her breast.
Darius stood in the doorway waiting, watching his twin, not wanting to disturb her solitude. He knew she was aware of him. Not many people could sneak up on an empath as strong as she, but he gave her the space she needed to commune with their father.
Excerpt from Chapter 29 “The Gathering Storm”
The prisoners were in Tarek’s back office, each tied to a sturdy chair. Tarek had one of his guards in the office with him and two more outside in case things got too messy.
Darius wondered what Tarek was up to. Tarek said he had sent the ransom note, but Darius remembered Tarek’s remark about a demonstration. He tested the bonds that held him to the chair, but they were good and tight. There was no way he was going to break them. He could only sit and watch what was to happen next.
“Do what you must,” Cristaline replied. “Just hurry up so we don’t have to listen to you prattle on.”
Tarek’s neck turned red at her rebuke. He never liked the royals for they had what he didn’t, but this one was a real prize. He actually began to look forward to what was next.
“As you command, My Lady Countess.”
Tarek got up with knife in hand and walked towards Cristaline. She looked at the knife and her eyes widened in fear.
“What are you going to do?” Cristaline cried. “Stay away from me. You’re making a mistake.”
“Oh, there’s no mistake. Daddy needs proof that we’re serious and that’s what he going to get.”
“Wait,” Darius shouted, “Let’s talk about this. I’ll pay any ransom you demand.”
“Shut up, boy. It’s too late for that. The Duke of Beckson needs a little token of my resolve and I think that little finger on his daughter’s right hand should do the trick.”
Cristaline leaned back in fright as Tarek approached, but Tarek’s guard held her chair fast.
“STOP, I command you.”
Darius’ command made Tarek pause in mid step. He was becoming more agitated by the moment.
Damn these two are pathetic whiners, Tarek thought.
“What? What could you possibly say that would prevent me from taking her finger?”
“I am ordering you as the Duke of Telkur not to touch that woman. Lay one hand on her and I will hunt you until the end of your days. There will be no place far enough to run or hide to escape my wrath. When I find you I will leave you rotting in a dark cell with no hands and feet, wallowing in your own self-pity, knowing you could have escaped this fate, until you die a miserable old man. I promise you this on my crown as the ruling Duke of Telkur.”
“Well, that doesn’t leave me much incentive to keep you alive, now does it?”
Cristaline looked at Darius with newfound feelings of admiration. His promise was akin to a death sentence and they both knew it.
“Then, you’ll have the murder of a Duke on your bloody hands.”
Tarek lowered his head in thought for a moment.
This is getting way out of control.
Tarek shook his head and took another step towards Cristaline.
“Wait. Take my finger instead,” Darius said.
Tarek stopped and threw up his hands in exasperation.
“I said take my finger instead,” Darius repeated. “You seem hell bent on disfiguring a royal, so I am telling you to take mine.”
“What?” Cristaline cried. “No, Darius, don’t.”
“I’m inclined to agree with her,” Tarek replied. “Why would I cut off your finger? As a reminder that you’ll chase me ‘til the end of my days?”
“I won’t chase you if you take mine and not hers,” Darius replied.
“I’m supposed to believe that?” Tarek asked, “after all you just threatened me with?’
“I give you my word that if you take my finger and leave the Countess untouched, that I will bear you no ill will for this deed. Besides, my finger will prove to the Duke of Beckson that you have us both. He knows that I came searching for his daughter.”
“I have your word, in front of these witnesses?”
“You need no witness to trust my word.”
“Then, so be it. As you command, it’s your finger that’s comin’ off, not hers.”
“No, I’ll not have this,” screamed Cristaline. “Leave him alone. There’s no need to take anyone’s finger. Open a communication portal and let me talk to my father. That will prove you have me.”
“Sorry, Countess, there’s just too much chance that they would be able to trace it back to me. Enough talk. Gag her. I’m tired of listening to her.”
Brandy had been hoping if she stayed quiet that Tarek would not pay much attention to her. She was a skilled mistress with knots and ropes having become an expert over the years with ‘particular’ clients and had managed to loosen the knots of her bonds. She knew she would only get one shot and she needed to time her attack perfectly. As the guard finished gagging Cristaline, Brandy watched Tarek grab Darius’s left hand.
“This shouldn’t be too hard for a tough guy like you,” Tarek said as he laid the knife on Darius’s little finger. “Let’s see what you’re really made of.”