And nothing takes more courage than allowing total strangers to read the stories you've worked so hard to create. Kudos to those of you who've generously allowed me to post these wonderful teasers twice a week.
Tarin bounded around before them, walking backward to stay ahead. “You said your Death Bringer had no part of Aramyr. His allegiance was to you alone.” His voice rose, cracking with the flood of emotion flushing his ruddy face like fire. “You swore—“
“I trust him with my life.”
“And with ours! Yet all we know is that he was the Ythbhäs of Aramyr. The blood of our kin is on his hands. Now you say he remains linked to Aramyr?” Tarin ceased his awkward retreat. “Perhaps we should have listened more closely to Berik. He said we could not trust that treacherous—“
Aedin took a swift step forward, nose to nose with the shorter man, eyes blazing. “You will not question Khyr’s honor. Not in my presence.” He glared, unblinking, until Tarin lowered his head and shuffled aside. Aedin pushed brusquely past. “When we reach Toraine, you should remain there. Return north to your people. You have no place in this journey. Much has been entrusted to Khyr, and your doubt could cost us all our lives.”
Lyndsii’s stomach knotted and she stepped around Tarin, refusing to acknowledge his baleful stare. Her hands clenched into tight balls, struggling against the desire to slap him.
What the hell.
Wheeling, her palm connected with the side of his face with a resounding 'crack' that jerked the group around in surprise. Mouth agape with shock as much as pain, Tarin rubbed at the rising welts on his cheek, and made a grab for her. “Y’ve no call striking an honest man—"
Her hand found her sword as she whipped around to meet him, the silver blade flashing upward to meet his throat. She glared into his startled face and he spread his hands wide in surrender as he stepped back. "Not one word," Lyndsii grated between clenched teeth, sheathed her sword, and strode past the group.
Back turned to their wide-eyed stares, she rubbed her throbbing hand. Served him right.
It’s strange how you can go from thinking the world is ending to realizing that, nope, it’s still going. And not only that, but the thing you thought had shattered your life actually feels normal now. You got used to it. Even if you never thought you would. Even if you never wanted to.
“Rachel? Are you all right? You seem sad.”
Rider’s voice, uncertain and hesitant, pulled me from my thoughts which were quickly turning to Mom.
“I’m fine,” I started to lie, but then shook my head. I wasn’t fine. And even though for the most part, I was used to it, days like today made it painfully clear that life without Mom wasn’t completely normal. I still needed someone to talk to. Why not take a chance with Rider?
He sat very still, as if waiting for me to open up to him. As if he’d wait forever if he had to.
THE LAST ROSE
Rose jumped at the sharpness of Leal’s voice. “Sorry. Were you speaking to me?”
“Come along.” Leal reached out taking her hand in his. “I only have a few minutes before I have to be back at work.” He waited as she picked up the few pieces of clothing she’d managed to tie into a shawl before leaving home then led her down the alley onto the busy street. “Mademoiselle Renee is a nice woman. The room is affordable, one meal a day, breakfast, and she’ll wait until you have your first pay for the rent. You’ll also get a meal at the end of your shift.” He looked her over from head to foot. “You’ll need to take a bath before coming to work. Wash your hair, too.”
With a tug of her hand out of his, she stopped in the middle of the street and placed her fists on her hips. “I don’t need a snotty nosed boy to tell me to bathe. Do not judge me, Leal. You don’t know me.”
Leal leaned back and laughed, his mouth wide with mirth. “I know you sleep in the alley. I know you smell.” His smile waned. “And I know something has happened at home that you had to leave. I see the sadness in your eyes, a longing for that home. Now, come along. I have to get back to work.”
She followed behind him refusing his hand when he offered it. “I will take your job at the cafe' but it is not what I came here for. I wish to destroy the Germans.”
He turned to look at her again. “How old are you Roesia? What has made you so bitter?”
“Everyone calls me Rose. I’m fourteen.” She thought better of answering his second question.
Leal’s face, a mask of indecision, set Rose’s nerves on fire. Who is this boy and what is he thinking? Her feet itched to run and find a place to hide. How did she know if this gangly, wild haired creature wasn’t a spy for the Germans?
“You say you want to help with the war effort? What do you plan to do, shoot every German you see?” He didn’t smile nor did he flinch in his observance of her. “Don’t worry, Rose. I am not a German sympathizer. I am French through and through. I love my country.” He glanced around him for a moment and pointed at a nearly tavern. “When you get off tonight, come here. I’ll be waiting for you. The Germans are just thirty miles north of here at the River Marne. It won’t be long before they take our beautiful city. We must be ready to act.”
She nodded. Adrenalin flooded her veins and her heart raced frantically. “I’m ready. I can shoot a gun, my papa taught me.”
Leal's smile set Rose's nerves on fire. “I don’t think you understand, little bit. It is not a gun you will use to bring down those bastards. Now come along.”
HER NAME IS ANNE
Arthur grasped the earl’s hand a little too energetically, pulling him so that he stumbled and fell against Arthur’s shoulder. Arthur held him upright, looking from the earl to Anne and back to the earl’s open shirt front under his coat.
“What’s going on here?” he asked, frowning. “Everything all right, Annie?”
“Does it look all right?” she snapped, but at a frantic look from the earl, shook her head. “Been a accident is all.”
Arthur stared again at the earl’s exposed chest.
“Is that what they’re calling it now?”
“Don’t be stupid!”
“Yes, just an accident.” The earl let go of Arthur and steadied himself on the doorframe. “Miss Anne was kind enough to help me.”
“Miss Anne?” Arthur wiggled his eyebrows at her. “He gets to call you Miss Anne?”
“Shut up, Artie and go and hail a cab for his lordship.”
Both boys goggled at her.
“He’s the Earl of Dorincourt and he needs a cab. Now go and get one!” She turned Arthur around and with both hands on his back, gave him a shove.
But Arthur spun back around.
“Look, Miss Anne, first of all, I think power has gone to your head. You’re getting awfully bossy. Second of all, we don’t need a cab. I have the gig tied up out front.”
Anne turned to the earl, who was looking a bit blue.
“That all right with you?” she asked. “Gigs jounces so.”
“I shall transport his lordship as a babe in arms,” Arthur said. “The idea of me jouncing anyone.”
“Take this, then.” She handed Arthur the sack of the earl’s belongings and with a hand under the earl’s elbow, led him through the shop.
“How did you know?” the earl murmured.
“Who I am.”
She felt her face grow warm again.
“Found them little cards in your pocket. Got your name on them, don’t they?”
“Oh.” A little silence. “Did you—was there—did you find anything else?”
“No. Well, a flower. It was pretty well crushed, though. I might ha’dropped it.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
Out front of the shop, in the gray light of early morning, the sturdy brown mare that had been Arthur’s birthday present stood hitched to his father’s old gig. Anne knew how proud he had been to have it, but now as he helped hoist the earl onto the seat, he apologized.
“Sorry it’s not what you’re used to. Watch, there’s a bit of a hole there in the footboard. Sorry.”
by Neva F.
A man struggled with the plow in his attempt to keep the furrows straight. Crows burst from the woods, sounding a raucous alarm. Cautious, he studied the billowing steel-grey clouds gathered over the distant, rolling hills. “It’ll be the third time this week,” he muttered to the disinterested mule. “I’ll never get the seed in with all this rain.”
The crows, peppered across the sky, shrieked another warning. "Whoa, there…"
The animal gratefully stopped.
Patrick removed the dirt-stiffened lines from around his neck and draped them over the plow’s darkened, sweat-worn handles. Scanning the dense forest beyond the corduroyed field, raw fear surged down his spine. The emerging storm that threatened on the eastern horizon had nothing to do with the weather.
Turning toward his wife, he barely had time to shout, “Abigail, run!”
Helpless to reach her, Patrick watched Abby gather their two small children and dart for the protection of the root cellar. When she disappeared from sight, he spun to confront the band of marauders close on his heels. He saw the butt end of a rifle, and then a direct blow slammed against his forehead, jolting him off his feet. Sprawled on his hands and knees in the thick mud, the world swayed and darkened as he fought to remain conscious.
Abigail stepped out from behind the house. Trembling, she raised the barrel of the old shotgun and aimed. For a brief moment, Patrick’s bloodied, terrified gaze met hers and he shook his head. She hesitated for a brief moment and the rifle left her hands with a violent jerk. Dragged by her loosened hair to the waiting mob, in defiance, she glared into the gang leader’s face.
Paunchy and balding, he smiled his approval. “Come here like a nice little girl, and we’ll forgit where ya hid them babies.”
For the next two hours, she never uttered a sound, yet the screaming nightmares that followed would last her a lifetime.
Ms. Coleman tells us to open our books to chapter three and picks up where she left off on Friday, with the birth of the U.S. government. I start jotting down the notes she makes on the chalkboard and whisper to Harper, “I can make you a copy of my notes from last week if you’d like.”
She doesn’t have to say anything for me to know she could care less about taking notes based on her facial expression alone. As soon as Ms. Coleman’s back is turned to us, Harper uses her stack of books as a pillow and closes her eyes.
I know how strict Ms. Coleman can be about sleeping in her class. One time last year, she slammed a textbook on Caleb Murphy’s desk, inches from him face, to wake him up. It made the whole class jump.
I can’t help but admire a napping Harper, though. She’s much less angsty this way, almost approachable even. But when Ms. Coleman is about to turn back around, I poke her in the arm with my pen. One eye peaks open angrily and snaps shut just as quickly.
I jab her again, this time mouthing, “You’re going to get in trouble.”
She mouths back, “Do I look like I care?”
No, but I do, I think. What’s she so tired for anyway?
“Milo. Harper. Care to share your conversation with the class?” Ms. Coleman scolds.
Harper has enough sense to sit up –thank God– and play it cool.
“I was just offering to make a copy of the notes from last week,” I say. It’s not a complete lie. And luckily, it satisfies Ms. Coleman enough that she turns back towards the board.
I pull out a spare notebook and pen and slide it across the desk to Harper. She gives me a questionable look and puts her head back down. Frustrated with her, I grab her wrist and lay it on the notebook so it can at least look like she’s taking notes.
She quietly freaks out over me touching her, but I disregard her reaction and sternly mouth, “At least pretend!”
I’ve really pissed her off now; her eyes nearly burn holes in mine. I break our stare and get back to taking notes. Out of the corner of my eye I see her lay her head back down, but at least this time she keeps her hand at the ready on the notepad. I smirk to myself, feeling slightly victorious.
Anytime Ms. Coleman turns around again, I nudge Harper’s foot with mine to wake her. When that doesn’t work, I poke her with my pen again. She doesn’t take actual notes when she comes to, just scribbles on the paper, but at least she plays along enough to not draw negative attention to herself again.
I’m not even sure why I’m going out of my way to protect her. I guess it’s just because I feel some sort of duty to Mrs. Womack. I know it’s what she’d want me to do.
THE WORLD THROUGH DEXTER'S EYES
by Vickie M.
It was so dry and humid. Actually hot. I could see the steam rising from the concrete. It hurt my feet, not to mention I was not myself that day or hadn't been for the last week; but no one noticed. Mom didn't leave me outside for long. She never did, if there was any bit of danger, like a mean sun. Mom took care of me better than Mother Dog. And my dad seemed to love me more everyday. (Even if I chewed the TV wires again.) Dad said it was unusual to have it so windy, without any rain. It was like a dust storm. Inside, everyone was watching cable, talking about the pending Hurricane Ike, soon to hit Texas. It would not touch us, but we were feeling a bit of it, due to the unusual weather we were experiencing. Mom said we were always lucky, because we lived in God's country, not to ever take advantage of that thought but remain humble, because nobody really knows when tragedy will befall them next.
I had this pain for about a week. I would throw up my food, and Mom kept an eye on me, but Dad, true to his nature, said it was just puppy stuff as we eat everything. Yes, all the then 90 pounds of me, and I was still considered a pup. But that day, the pain was worse. I couldn't even lift my leg. And when I did my business, for as hard as I tried, not too much came out of me. Sometimes the urine would just leak out of me. I lived with this pain for it seemed forever, so what did that mean? It was brewing, just like the weather, I guess, getting hotter and hotter. Megan noticed me then, trying to squat in the house. She saw the little puddles. I saw her tell Mom. I was in a daze. No, actually I was delirious.
On the couch, hurting so much, all eyes peeled to the screen, suddenly the wind must have kicked up, as the power went out, and I went out next, and it was the end.