Excerpt from Winter Fade

Book One - Winter Fade Series

Revelations

GABRIEL FILLED THEM in as they strapped on body armor and checked weapons. There wasn’t much else. Daniel had been assigned to watch the former church, but hadn’t seen evidence of anyone throughout the night.

Gabriel stopped the vehicle a block away. “Good luck.”

They got out, holding their weapons low against their bodies. Imoen scanned the surrounding area with her thermo but detected nothing, which did little to dispel her nervousness. From what she gathered, they were further into Iniye territory than she had ventured during her botched surveillance mission. She noticed Seth and Darya scanning around as well.

They cautiously approached the old church. A modest building, it had fallen on hard times. Stained glass had been replaced with weathered plywood. The grass surrounding it was now suffocating under a heavy overgrowth of weeds. There was a stillness to the air that made her wary. Something didn’t feel right. She tightened her grip on her submachine gun.

They crept along the wall to the main entrance. Seth eyed the doors. He tentatively reached out to a knob. It turned readily. The door began to open, revealing a sliver of darkness.

Imoen and Darya raised their submachine guns as Seth kicked the door open, his own gun up. Silence met them as they scanned, finding no heat signatures in the small sanctuary. They entered slowly, their guns tracking the interior. The low illumination from the doorway failed to penetrate the blackness of the enclosed space.

Seth flicked on a flashlight affixed to his submachine gun. The beam probed the room, and then settled abruptly on a thin figure strapped to a heavy chair. Imoen released the pressure she had begun to take up on her trigger as the sight registered on her. She let her breath out in a slow exhale.

Not a figure. Only clothes, barely raised by what remained inside.

Seth’s flashlight swept left and right. Three more chairs like the first, each with heavy restraints still wrapped around empty shirt sleeves and pants legs.

Seth swore under his breath. Darya switched on a brighter flashlight. She played it around the sanctuary before joining it to Seth’s beam. The glow outlined the four chairs arranged side by side.

Seth switched off his light and slung the submachine gun over his shoulder. Imoen stared fixedly at the chairs. A glint reflected from one of them, barely discernible among the ashes. She walked slowly forward and reached down, lifting the object. A chain trickled away like liquid silver between her fingers. Her fist clenched. She closed her eyes. I’m sorry, Daniel. I’m so very sorry.

“Aisus,” Seth said. He kicked hard at one of the chairs, sending up a cloud of ash. The specks played in the beam of light from Darya’s flashlight. He turned to Darya. “We have to find that hive of theirs.”

Imoen stared helplessly at the empty clothes, held in place with heavy wraps of chain around chair arms and legs. She felt sick inside. What had it been like? And how long had it taken? She turned away, slipping the Saint Anthony medallion into her pocket.

“They’re gone now,” Darya said. “They got what they wanted.”

Imoen heard a clink. She looked to see Darya holding up a bottle. Her light played through its interior, casting a ghastly green glow on the far wall. A small residue of dust sifted inside, stirred by the movement as Darya examined it. She tossed it away. The sound of it shattering broke the stillness.

Darya played her flashlight around the sanctuary, settling on two piles of clothes near a side exit. She swung the beam along the ground, revealing the glint of spent brass near the clothes. Imoen walked forward and picked up one of the casings, turning it in her fingers under Darya’s light.

“These Aisus were sophisticated,” Darya said. She played the beam around the room, pausing on clusters of pockmarks low on the plaster walls. “They used an assault team. They were shooting to incapacitate the Iniye who were inside.” The light played eerily around the remainder of the room, casting long shadows as it sought out the dark corners.

Imoen shivered. “How many do you think there were?”

“At least five. Probably more.” Darya’s light probed around the room, stopping again on the empty clothes bound to the chairs. “They were prepared when they came here. Our scout didn’t stand a chance. They must have detected him in the area when they arrived.” She shone her light on the broken fragments of glass. “They sampled some and took the rest.” She clicked off the flashlight, returning the space to darkness.

“Let’s go,” Seth said.

They filed out of the former church. Its silence seemed to hold a new note of chill and menace. Imoen felt the shape of the medallion in her pocket. Did Daniel have parents? Who besides Toby will care that he’s gone?

Gabriel looked at their still faces when they got in. He started the car without a word and pulled away.

Seth spoke up. “Aisus beat us to it. They got three Iniye inside and our scout. They lost two of their own.”

Gabriel pondered that. “Toby hasn’t had any success locating their hive. I’d like to raise it in priority, but we’re stretched thin as it is. The Iniye are the main focus for now.”

“I know,” Seth said. “But they’re getting pretty bold.”

“Or they’re getting desperate,” Gabriel said. “I’ve seen them work before, Seth. They like this war less than we do. They face two factions that don’t tolerate them. They’re outnumbered and they know it.” He looked thoughtful. “Wherever they’re holed up, it must be further away. That helps a little.”

“We can’t underestimate them,” Darya said. “This was an organized raiding party. It means they have older ones running things. Not just the young ones.”

“I agree,” Gabriel said. “But there’s little we can do about them right now.”

Imoen stared out the window, barely listening. Displays of Christmas lights swept past, their brilliant colors competing with the night. She touched the window with her fingertips, feeling the coolness of the glass. What is immortality, when people you care about can die just the same as when you were human? She didn’t fear so much for herself, but she now sensed loss circling at the periphery of her existence. First Casie, and now Daniel. She couldn’t comprehend the depth of heartbreak Isabel lived with and shared with no one, her only solace found in the starry sky above her bed.

She looked at Seth and Darya. Their grim expressions were outlined by the dim glow of the streetlights they passed. Love is brave, the willingness to risk your very heart on someone else. I lost the few who were close to me, and for a year I had only myself. How would I ever begin to deal with losing another? She tried not to think about it. But the idea kept forcing its way back into the forefront of her mind, daring her to confront it once more. She turned back to the window. I can’t lose anyone else. I won’t risk another when I can risk myself instead.

Copyright © 2011 Matthew Lee Adams

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced without the written consent of the author.

Excerpt from Firefly Kiss

Book Two - Winter Fade Series

Renegade

Imoen blinked, her vision returning just as the car surged toward her. She leaped to the side as it roared past, clipping bumpers of other vehicles and leaving a cacophony of blaring alarms in its wake. She winced at the onslaught of sound and watched the car pause, its brake lights flaring in frustrated purpose. The driver looked back at her over his shoulder. Then the car began to move again.

She kicked off her shoes and vaulted over a sedan, her attention focused on the car as it proceeded up the next row. She began running to intercept, her bare feet ignoring gravel and bits of glass. Her skirt flowed around her legs as she accelerated, her heart pumping in a deceptive calm as she quickly matched the car’s speed. She caught the car just as it rounded the bend, heading for the exit. Her body curved gracefully while she turned inside it, sacrificing haste for balance. She applied one last burst of speed and drew alongside the car just as it neared the street.

Her fist shot sideways, shattering the glass and passing forcefully through toward the driver. He flinched away, hands turning the wheel with his sudden movement. The car veered right and rammed into a parked pickup truck. Imoen flung herself clear of the impact, feeling the bumper skid sideways past her while she sought to slow herself down. She lost her balance and rolled, coming to a tumbling stop on the sidewalk.

A hiss of steam rose behind her from a shattered radiator. She sat up in time to see the driver kick the crumpled car door off its hinges and slide out. He glanced briefly at her and began running. She rolled swiftly to her feet and gave chase, trying to keep him in visual range.

If I had worn pants, my pistol would be available and I could end this. Instead, it’s in my purse flopping around on my back. I may as well have left it at home.

She gritted her teeth and kept running, trying to close the distance. Her bare feet pounded the pavement in a rapid staccato. Her breath drew in and out in rapid pants from exertion, exacerbating the hunger she was already experiencing. She was vaguely aware of the passage of cars down the street as she kept her eyes focused on his fleeing form.

The man ducked suddenly between two buildings. Imoen slowed her pace with new caution as she drew near, her hearing tuned to the pursuit. She drew a breath of relief when she heard the continuing syncopated beat of running footsteps. She accelerated once more and veered into the alleyway.

Halfway down, she dimly registered a dark shape spring out at her from its concealment behind a dumpster. She ducked the knife and locked her hands on the arm holding it, using her momentum to pivot and throw the wielder hard against the wall. She turned to face her opponent, who grasped wildly for the fallen knife and rose up to meet her.

That’s not him.

The sight of the ragged haired woman in front of her had barely sunk in before she felt strong arms close around her from behind, locking her own arms at her sides. Warm breath panted against her hair as the woman in front of her lunged forward with the knife.

Imoen bent hard at the waist and brought her legs up high, scissoring them around the woman’s neck and twisting hard. There was a loud, wrenching crack and the sound of the knife clattering to the ground. A sigh like the wind was accompanied by a cascade of ashes across Imoen’s legs as the woman disintegrated. Her clothes seemed to float downward in a slow motion fall of fabric.

Imoen heard a shocked exhalation from the man who was still pinning her arms, his grip loosening slightly in his dismay. Her feet steadied as they settled to the ground. She felt one of his arms climb upward toward her throat as she bent forward to throw him off.

Two sudden shots rang out, fired so closely together they sounded as one. Only Imoen’s sensitive hearing distinguished their separate nature as they split the air close to her head before stopping with deadly finality. There was a dull thump like a melon being struck a blow, and then a spray of warm ashes against the side of her face. She felt the arms enclosing her lose their substance as the man behind her collapsed into ash.

She turned and watched a woman approach with steady steps from the other end of the alley. Barely older in appearance than Imoen, her blonde hair was secured in a single long braid. Her cool gray eyes appraised Imoen as she lowered her pistol. Imoen heard the faint click of the cocking mechanism of the Heckler & Koch P7 disengage.

“Thanks, Darya,” Imoen said.

Darya slipped the pistol into her waistband and tucked her shirt over it. “I thought you didn’t hunt renegades.”

“I don’t.” Imoen stared at the two piles of clothes. She kicked the knife away, hearing it clatter against the brick wall in the darkness. “He walked in while I was waiting for you. I gave chase without thinking.”

“Looks like he made a friend.”

Imoen exhaled heavily, her heartbeat returning to normal. She nodded, still looking at the forlorn clothes, empty of their former owners save for the scattered flecks of gray and powdered fine ash mixed among them.

“You know what he did,” Darya reminded her.

You know what you have done. Malcolm’s dead voice echoed back to her from the past, her first night in this life she had never asked to be born into.

She nodded again absently, her mind drawn away. And what has this one done, Malcolm?

The clothes lay together, almost touching, their emptiness speaking to her in voices partly remembered, partly forgotten.

Nothing. Yet. But then, you know her provenance.

She shook her head, trying to clear it, and looked away.

Darya walked forward and took her arm. “You’re bleeding.”

Imoen held her arm up and looked at it. Rivulets of blood were running down, the fragments of glass embedded in her skin glistening like rubies in the dim light. She flexed her hand, wincing a little when she did so. Feels like I broke something.

She ran her tongue in a light and sensuous ripple over her arm. She closed her eyes briefly, experiencing a small glow as she swallowed the blood. Her fangs descended slightly in reflex before she lifted her lips from her skin. She smiled and held her arm up.

“Hungry?” she asked Darya.

Darya shook her head. “You’re a mess, Imoen. Let’s get you cleaned up.”

Imoen looked down at herself. Her clothes were shredded. Must have happened when I rolled away from the car before it crashed. She lifted each of her feet, examining the gravel and glass embedded in her soles.

“Where’s your pistol?” Darya asked, as they began walking toward the far end of the alley.

“In my purse.”

“That’s why you wear pants.”

“I prefer skirts. I always have.” Her tone was defensive, but she knew Darya was right.

She leaned forward and shook her hair, watching a rain of ashes fall away. “I’m going to have to take a shower now.” She brushed her fingers through her hair and stared at them. They were now covered with a fine and powdery residue. Her legs were coated with ash from the renegade’s companion.

Darya smiled now. “Would you prefer it be your own?”

Copyright © 2011 Matthew Lee Adams

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced without the written consent of the author.

Excerpt from Snowflake Promise

Book Three - Winter Fade Series

Preparations

“What do you think of Quinn, Isabel?”

Isabel was sitting cross-legged on the edge of the bed. Her scissors flashed in her hand as she repeated a nightly ritual she had performed for years, transforming her shoulder length raven hair into a shortened bob. The style changed slightly with her moods, but it always served to make her look even more childlike, belying the insights and experience she had gained over a century of life.

She appeared to contemplate the question for a moment, although her scissors never ceased their rapid, practiced movement. Wisps of hair floated to the floor where Peter lay between the two beds. His face twitched in sleep as the fine hairs drifted onto his skin. A thin scattering already covered his shirtfront. Imoen eyed the scene warily.

“He is different than Toby. More . . .” Isabel frowned and seemed to search for a word.

“Cerebral?” Imoen offered.

Isabel nodded. Her scissors whirred. More hair joined the growing collection on Peter.

Imoen’s keen eyes noted that some of the earlier cuttings were already fainter, beginning to degrade into dust. Within half an hour there would be no trace. “He seems more forthcoming than I expected, from my experience with the Vigiliae.”

“He is,” Isabel agreed. “But they are not all the same. Only in some ways.”

“I sometimes wonder if our people had placed their trust in Toby, as Gavin has in Quinn, whether a lot of things might have been avoided.” She winced as another snipped feathering of hair settled lightly across Peter’s forehead.

“Trust is a gift of faith in the beginning.” Isabel set aside the scissors and ran her fingers through her hair, shaking loose what remained. “Only afterward can it be regretted or earned.”

Peter stirred. His mouth opened in a wide yawn just as a large lock of raven hair fell into it. He sputtered and jolted up, wiping hard at his eyes and nose as a fine rain of hair continued to fall around him.

He glared at Isabel. He started to say something, and went into a coughing spasm instead.

Imoen helpfully thumped him on the back. “Pretend it’s a hairball,” she suggested.

He made a strangled sound, and his body shook from another round of coughs. “If I was a cat that would make sense,” he managed between coughs. He grabbed a bottle of water from the nightstand and upended it into his mouth. Water streamed around his lips as his throat worked, trying to clear the irritant.

Isabel, unconcerned, picked up her hairbrush and walked into the bathroom. The click of the door lock sounded behind her.

Peter crushed the plastic bottle and hurled it at the closed bathroom door. He wiped his face again. He scowled as he rubbed together more dark hairs between his fingers.

“Where’s Ben?” He stripped off his clothes and shoved them into one end of his duffle bag.

“He went to pick up dinner for the two of you.” She didn’t blanch at his nakedness. During the past year living with Ben’s clan, she had managed to mostly get past that point, and it barely fazed her anymore.

Peter grimaced and rubbed his tongue. He held up another long hair. He walked to the bathroom and banged on the door. “Hurry up.”

“Not until you put clothes on,” Isabel called back.

He looked in annoyance at Imoen. “Hasn’t she ever seen a male body before?”

Imoen was amused. “Not ones she’s not interested in. Better do what she says. She can be far more patient than you.”

He grunted in annoyance. He stalked over to his bag and began to fish through it.

Copyright © 2011 Matthew Lee Adams

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced without the written consent of the author.

Excerpt from Becomings

Winter Fade Series - Stories

Darya

HER RIFLE bucked in her hands. She waited, counting silently to herself, only her eyes moving, searching for any sign she had been spotted. Then she began to withdraw with exquisite slow movements, following a path that would keep her shielded from view. When she reached Alexei, she tapped his shoulder and continued, with him crawling just behind her, his hand occasionally brushing the sole of her boot.

They reached the cellar entrance and slipped inside once more.

“I didn’t see it,” he said. “I didn’t have the vantage point.”

She was making a notation in a small book. “It doesn’t matter.”

“How many?” he asked, indicating the book in her hands.

She finished and slipped it back into a pocket. “I don’t count them. I only shoot them. And record them because that’s what they told us to do.”

He was silent for a moment. “What now?”

“We’ll wait until just before sunset. They sometimes get more complacent then.”

He nodded and sat down, tucking his legs loosely around one another, and rested his hands on his knees.

“You’re in no hurry,” she noted. “That hasn’t been my experience with others.”

“You can’t rush fate.” His smile held a wistful note. “It arrives on its own terms, and never with an invitation.”

“You didn’t join?”

“I didn’t have a choice,” he said simply. “I left just ahead of the Germans, until fate found me once more.” His eyes searched around the small space, as though this represented only the sum of his world according to someone else’s dream, one in which he had been given to participate for only a while. He looked back at her. “What about you?”

She felt something stir inside, beneath his direct gaze, but she met it without changing expression. “I’m just a soldier in a war, like you.”

“You’re like me, Dasha. But you’re no soldier.” His smile transformed his face, warming it in the dim light like a stray sunbeam captured and held as it passes over the water on its journey toward night. “You have something more inside you, but you choose to hide it.”

She smiled shyly at his use of this familiar name, and glanced away for a moment.

“You aren’t like what they say,” he said, still watching her with a gaze that seemed to see past enclosed spaces, into whatever awaited free in the beyond.

“What do they say about me?”

“That your discipline is your strength. I think it’s only your shield, and your passion is your real strength.”

A flicker of uncertainty crossed her features. She sought to distract herself by busying herself with her rifle.

“How old are you Dasha?” he asked, curious.

She hesitated, and answered without turning. “I’ll be twenty-five at the end of the year. If it ever comes.”

“They say twenty-five is the beginning of a long springtime in our lives.”

“I’m a child of winter.” She set the rifle aside. “Spring seems too far away for me.”

“Dasha.”

She turned and looked at him once more.

He undid the top button of his tunic with careful fingers, and then raised up a chain from which a small pendant swayed, reflecting back the candle’s flame with a polished luster all its own. As it settled against the palm of his hand, she saw a turquoise cross inlaid against a background of copper filigree, suspended from twisted strands of small brass and antique glass beads, freshwater pearls, and turquoise.

“My mother left me this.” His fingers traced the pendant with a familiar reverence. “It’s all I have that I can touch. Everything else is gone.”

She stared at the pendant, then up to his face. “Do you miss her?”

His expression turned thoughtful. “I know she’s still with me.” He pressed his hand to his heart. “Here.”

“I never knew my mother.”

“Do you love her, nonetheless?”

Her brow furrowed. “How can I love someone I don’t remember, Alyosha?”

“Because memories are the one thing we will always carry,” he said with a sincerity born from conviction. “Even if we don’t know where to look, they will endure.”

She was silent for a long while, staring away, contemplating his words. “Love is only sorrow,” she said in a soft voice, as if to herself.

“Why do you feel that way, Dasha?”

She was still looking away. “Because it’s only ever meant loss for me.”

Copyright © 2011 Matthew Lee Adams

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced without the written consent of the author.

Excerpt from Glowstar

"Will you accept my gift, Alannah?"

ONE

Eamon watched the slow journey of ice drift in the reflected calm of the lights from the city like a lullaby to the sea. A mirrored moon played among the low wave tops, finding and losing shape, as though taking uncertain measure of the icy water. The Hudson River flowed with a winter’s caress around the rocks beneath his feet, pressing slush and broken ice together like a puzzle finding its own form.

His gaze strayed away to the north, where a steady progression of lights were strung like brilliant diamonds and flashing rubies, moving in a timeless cycle across the graceful spans of the George Washington Bridge. A truck rumbled a low murmur along the parkway behind him, a sound that faded and then merged among the muffled noises of other distant vehicles.

He returned his attention to the water. Something gleamed within its hidden depths, an iridescence he sensed rather than saw, yet was no less unknown to him. It shimmered like the moon held captive beneath the restless surface. He shrugged out of his jacket, leaving it draped over a rock whose smooth face was adorned with a whitened beard of frost.

A light snowfall had begun, delicate flakes swirling in the darkness, captured in the lights like fireflies chasing after one another. His black hair rippled in the low wind that circled around him. He pulled off his shirt and stepped out of his shoes and pants, unmindful of the cold. As the first snowflakes settled with a sigh like feathers across his bare skin, he plunged into the darkened water.

With long strokes, he swept beneath the unformed ice to seek what lay within the depths below. A silvery and wavering glimmer grew before him as he drew his body deeper, a luminescence that held the dark at bay. He kicked harder, sensing the gradients in temperature change around his body as he slipped between them. And when he slowed at last, he paused for a moment, transfixed by the form he saw before him, suspended within the ether.

Dark hair flowed like a fan around her pale face, delicate eyelashes drawn shut as if enraptured by a dream. Her face held an expression of peace that had been found after a night grown too long for hope of respite. Her arms and legs hung relaxed around her body, while the hood of her coat moved slowly back and forth in the unseen current, like an oyster protecting the beauty of its craft from discovery.

Eamon reached out to touch her coat. Grasping it firmly, he kicked upward, drawing her up with him.

When he broke the surface, he folded her body against his in an embrace, and lay back in the water to stare up at the night sky. Stars patterned the darkness above like a field of early snowdrops. Her head lolled on his chest, the cold of her cheek pressing against his bare skin. The strands of her hair were already gathering ice where they lay feathered across him. He hugged her close, while his legs drew a steady rhythm in the water, bringing them to shore once more.

He lifted her up in his arms while his feet found their hold among the ice-covered slickness of the rocks. He carried her forward, and then knelt to lay her across an unmarked patch of snow that fit the length of her body like a bier. Her arms and legs settled with low thumps. Her dark hair clung in random swirls against the whiteness of her face and the snow.

His fingers traced her cheek now, the barest of touches as though reluctant to awaken her, following the path of water whose arrested flow against her icy skin lay like tears frozen in mid-fall. He sighed and closed his eyes, and then leaned forward to brush his lips against her forehead. The whitened and cold skin reflected back the warmth of his breath like the unyielding surface of smooth marble. Yet beneath lay the soft ripple of a slow beat, a subtle movement as each stretched out into time.

He drew his face down until his lips found hers, where they were parted as though still releasing her last breath. He paused, and then he kissed her. A light seemed to form between them, bringing translucence to the joined seal of their lips, his a warm and steady glow of coral, hers a pale topaz.

Her body shuddered with a spasm that worked its way from deep inside. He drew his head back. A gurgling sound was accompanied by a rush of cold water from her mouth, a flood whose dank smell retained the hint of salty essence belonging to the sea. She continued to retch, her chest drawing and pushing as water flowed relentlessly out once more, washing away the snow around her face.

Her eyelashes fluttered with the hesitancy of a butterfly before taking flight. And when her eyes opened, they were like brilliant emeralds captured in the moonlight, finding their focus on his face as he stared down at her.

A final brackish rivulet of water dribbled down one cheek as her pinkening lips sought to form words, her eyes never straying away from him.

“My curse,” she whispered.

“I could not leave you there, Alannah.”

He regarded her as she shuddered, her hands clenched tightly into the snow, the beat of her heart driving sluggish blood through her veins.

He rose. “It’s time to come home.”

Her head turned slowly to follow as he walked to where his clothes lay. She blinked as snowflakes settled onto her face, resisting an urge to brush them away, feeling them begin to melt as her skin regained some of its warmth. The cold press of stone lay undisguised by the thin pad of snow beneath her, as unyielding as the sky above. She turned her head again to where the river lapped calmly against the rocks, a refuge that would never ask of her any more than to lie within its embrace for as long as she wished.

She sensed Eamon’s approach and kept her head turned away. She closed her eyes, listening to the water’s lullaby as his arms slipped beneath her to lift her up.

#

“I can make you something warm.”

Eamon’s voice came to her from the kitchen area of the apartment. She gave a small shake of her head, and began removing her wet clothing. It fell with dank thumps that she barely heard. An inexplicable thirst was building dully inside her, but she acknowledged it little more than she did the light approach of his footsteps.

“I’m going to bed now.” She rolled her wet underwear to the floor and left it lying there.

“You’re beautiful, Alannah. You’ve always been.”

“What is always?” She turned to face him, searching his eyes. “When time has no memory?”

“Not what we believe it to be,” he said softly.

She looked unhappily away. Thin tendrils of heat from the radiator across the room tickled over her bare skin, beckoning her. Her wet hair clung against the nape of her neck, still retaining the chill of the river and eliciting a series of shivers that never seemed to end.

“How long?” she asked.

“Four days. Three nights.”

“I wish you hadn’t found me.”

“That would be impossible.” He slipped his arms around her and drew her into a tender embrace.

She felt some of her tremors go still at his light touch. She rested her cheek against him, nestled in the comforting pocket below his jaw. “Then show me some mercy next time. And leave me there.”

“You know I cannot do that, Alannah.”

“You don’t know how it feels.”

“No, I don’t.” He was silent for a long while. When he spoke again, there was curiosity carried in the softness of his voice. “What was it like?”

She stared past him at the wall, a blank and featureless slate that held no trace of the past or the future, and seemed waiting only to be filled. Her hand extended outward on its own, as though to touch it, and then fell away. “It was beautiful. Because there was nothing. Nothing at all.”

She felt his warm breath caress her skin. His fingers worked with slow deliberation, separating the wet strands of her hair where they lay clumped against her back.

“I know what I am,” she murmured, her eyes half-lidded. “I don’t know why I am. Or why you are.”

“I was chosen for you.”

“Chosen by whom?”

He gave a shake of his head, a small movement that was the only answer she would ever receive.

Her lips moved against his skin, feeling its warmth and the steady beat of his heart beneath. “The puzzles that divide us are no better than the knowledge of what we are, Eamon.”

“Some things can only be accepted, and the paths followed where they may lead. There is no other way.”

She sighed. She felt his arms slip away as she took a step backwards. She turned and walked to the bed, lifting the covers and crawling beneath with slow movements. As she lay shivering, she felt his warmth slide in behind her. His arms encircled her once more, and she snuggled back against him, seeking to dispel the lingering chill that seemed unwilling to abate.

“I hate you,” she whispered. She tested the words on her tongue, tasting them, wondering whether they meant what she thought.

There was no reply at first, and she was uncertain whether he had heard. Then he spoke.

“Not yet. But you will.”

Copyright © 2011 Matthew Lee Adams

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced without the written consent of the author.