With the release date for Fae’s Enlightenment right around the corner (July 14), I thought you might enjoy a sneak peek at Chapter 1. We’re still working on final edits, but it’s soooooo close to being finished.
Just because not everything in life should be difficult…here’s a link to the pre-order (wink wink).
Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086RC193N
Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B086RC193N
Amazon CA https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B086RC193N
Amazon AU https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B086RC193N
Chapter 1–Fae’s Enlightenment
My gaze darted around the table at the motley crew of card-playing-cheating-bastards. Every one of them tried to read my mind but not tonight. I came armed and ready for battle with the theme song from that mermaid cartoon I loved as a kid.
Our resident stone giant, Qeb, efficiently dealt the cards for tonight’s game of Blackjack. I ignored my cards as they landed in front of me and watched the expressions of the other players. The earth elemental repeatedly refused to play, claiming he couldn’t participate in the demoralization of my character. Like that hadn’t already happened.
So, he was relegated to dealing the cards with his large stone fingers. Something he was really good at, to my surprise. Except Blackjack required the elemental to be an active participant, much to his chagrin, which I knew was a bunch of bull. He loved it just as much as the rest of us.
As always, my water elemental, Göksu, picked up his card first and leaned back in the chair across from me. The lamp on the wall behind him flickered through his transparent humanoid form, giving him an eerie glow. His face-up card was a nine. He smiled like always, even when they sucked.
Braden chuckled, the irritating sound that was his nervous twitch. His card had to be really good, or he was bluffing. I couldn’t tell, despite our emotional bond. A queen of diamonds sat next to his face-down card. He must have peeked too quickly for any of us to notice. Damn vampire.
Niyol, my air elemental, flicked up his card peeking at it, then placed it face down on the table next to his two of clubs. He glanced at me and smiled. I grinned, waiting for our final player to check his hand before I started my serenade.
I turned to the fire elemental next to me and he zapped me with his sexy heat, making my insides light up with desire. Braden growled and I laughed.
“Stop it, pervert,” I said, smacking Aviur’s glowing arm. “Look at your card already so everyone can have their half-second to try to cheat.”
Protests erupted around the room, but they were a bunch of liars. They all tried to read my mind as soon as I looked at my cards. It was amazing when I didn’t lose every single hand.
Aviur’s fiery fingers covered his card and swept it towards his chest. He peeked at it, then set it face-down next to a jack of hearts. The first time we played I just knew his cards would turn into a pile of ash. Of course they didn’t. Just like Göksu’s didn’t turn into a watery mush. Even though I was getting used to my magical life, the elementals’ ability to not destroy everything they touched still amazed me.
“Alright, princess,” the fire elemental purred. “Give us our half-second.”
My hand hovered over my face-down card and I started humming the catchy tune.
“That one has a nice rhythm to it,” Göksu said.
“Mhmm,” was my only reply as I belted out the words in my mind. The other three elementals groaned as if it physically pained them to hear. I thought the words were completely appropriate, or not. I hadn’t wanted to be part of their world in the beginning, but nothing could take it from me now.
I peeked at my card and continued singing. A king of spades sat on the table for everyone to see and an ace of hearts rested in my hand. Perfect.
“And you say we cheat,” Niyol hissed.
“I agree,” Aviur said.
“She is merely thwarting your efforts to ensure her loss,” Qeb argued for me, as I continued my song. “I think it’s admirable and rather creative.”
“What song did she pick tonight?” Braden asked, drawing my attention. He could feel my emotions, but he couldn’t get into my head the way the elementals did.
“Something about wishing to be part of your world, out in the sun, and by your side,” Qeb replied. “It’s interesting if not contradictory.”
“Ah, a very popular mermaid among young children a few years ago.” Braden smiled and I momentarily lost track of my song. How did a centuries old vampire recognize a child’s cartoon?
I almost asked him, then remembered I was supposed to be distracting the damn cheaters at the table. I started humming again and pointed at the dealer.
Qeb turned over his face-down card, placing a ten of diamonds next to the seven of clubs. Seventeen for the dealer. His stony face turned to Göksu, who nodded and received another card.
The water elemental turned up the edge and frowned. Busted!
Braden chose to stand, keeping just his two cards. Interesting.
“Hit me,” Niyol said, asking for another card. But he didn’t look at it. He must have had a really low card to go with his two, to be that confident. Or he was bluffing.
Aviur glanced at me and I grinned. They didn’t know what I had, or Göksu wouldn’t have busted his hand. The fire elemental nodded as well and received a card. He picked it up and flames flared around his eyes. Busted!
I giggled, interrupting my tune for a second. But I didn’t care because it worked.
“I stand,” I chirped, then continued singing.
All eyes fell on Braden, then Niyol.
Braden turned over his card revealing a ten to go with his queen. He smiled at me and I blew him a kiss, then gave my attention to Niyol. He frowned and turned over a five and six, not even beating the dealer.
A huge smile spread across my face and I let my song go. I didn’t even have a chance to flip my card before the whining started.
“Cheater,” Aviur grumbled.
Niyol hissed incoherently and Qeb’s rumbling laughter shook the table.
I revealed my ace of hearts. “Pay up boys.”
We used poker chips to bet, but they meant nothing more than a chance to rub it in. Especially for me because I rarely won. The idea to sing a mental tune grabbed me after my first night of losses, when I realized my benevolent elementals didn’t like to lose. So they took advantage of their ability to read my mind. And cheated!
Qeb collected tokens and passed them back to me, The Winner. I couldn’t stop the silly grin on my face. We’d started the card games when I couldn’t get my mind off the hundreds of people I killed during our battle against Jack. Yes, I know they would’ve killed my allies, but it didn’t change the fact that their blood was on my hands, literally. So, card night turned into a welcomed distraction and a fun evening with people who cared about me. I guess they weren’t really ‘people’ any more than I was, but I wasn’t changing the name of those who loved me.
Braden actually suggested poker night but after the first week, we explored Blackjack, pinochle, hearts, and all kinds of stuff. Niyol and Göksu were always there. Gordon sometimes joined us when he wasn’t busy with Braden’s to-do list. Qeb and Aviur showed up when they weren’t training with Kellen, my ex-partner. Three weeks later, our almost nightly card game felt like a tradition. A tradition that was about to end. I didn’t want to think about it.
“How’s the search for a partner going?” I asked, referring to Kellen’s new partner.
“I believe we’ve found a suitable match,” Qeb replied, “but we’re trying to introduce them slowly.”
“Good idea,” I said. “Is he still asking about me?”
“Every chance he gets,” Aviur answered.
I frowned. It wasn’t Kellen’s fault our partnership was dissolved. I blamed it on the creatures surrounding me, but I wasn’t sure it was an entirely fair accusation. I couldn’t remain with the mages even if I wanted to, which meant Kellen and I couldn’t stay partners. But he wasn’t trying to move on, either.
“He knows I’ll be completely out of touch for the next several months, right?” I asked.
“Of course,” the earth elemental rumbled. “We’ll use that time wisely.”
“Thanks. He deserves to be happy.”
“He isn’t the only one,” Braden muttered. I didn’t miss the insinuation.
“You’ve made the last few weeks absolutely fabulous,” I countered, pinning him with my icy blue eyes. He’d taken the time to give me a tour of Europe and I loved it. Topped off with a promise to see the rest of the world’s wonders, he’d made my life pretty good. I’d get over the guilt of killing eventually.
The vampire eyed me but didn’t smile. He felt my less-than-honest statement, thanks to our bond.
“Will we continue our card night when I go?” I asked, tentatively. “I know Braden can’t join us, but it’d be really nice to have company every once in a while.”
The elementals exchanged glances and I frowned again. I hated when they did that.
“Never mind,” I mumbled. “I’ll probably be too tired anyway.”
“We’re already walking a thin line, child,” Göksu said. “Niyol and I will be there to protect you, but a larger show of force will not be taken well.”
I understood. I didn’t like it, though.
“He means to say it’s no fun without the vampire,” Niyol interceded. “We can’t read his mind, which provides a challenge.”
I shook my head and smiled. I couldn’t be mad at them, because I’d asked to go to the fae. I needed to go, and Braden found a way to make it happen just like Göksu said he would. After all, what better way to learn about my fae heritage and magic?
I just hoped they didn’t kill me.