I know I promised another in the ongoing series about my writing process, but the Deadline Dames are running a snippet extravaganza this week! So, I’ll be writing more about process next Friday.
Today, you’re going to get a peek at an upcoming book. I went back and forth for a long time wondering which book I should excerpt here. Generally I don’t give excerpts, because I don’t like spoiling books. I prefer to have the story whole, laid out in front of the reader in its complete form as much as possible. Plus, I feel very strongly that each event in a novel, each scene, each piece of dialogue, is integral to every other piece. Taking one out is akin to playing a very dangerous game of Jenga and risking a collapse of the work as a whole.
I take these things too seriously. But then, that’s my job. Anyway.
Then, because it was dark and we were at my teacher’s grave, because the Talisman throbbed like a sore tooth on my chest and I ached all over, especially with the heavy weight of the bezoar in my pocket, I told him the truth. “It would kill me to lose you, Saul.”
He turned his head. Clean beautiful profile presented as he looked down at the city. “I’ve done all right so far.”
Damn touchy Weres. But at least he wasn’t assuming I didn’t need him around and clamming up. That was no good. “I’m not implying you can’t take care of yourself. I just…Jesus, Saul. Please.”
“Look.” He pointed, a swift gesture taking in the lights huddled in the valley, cuddled against the blackness of the river’s flow and the bulk of the looming mountains. The stars were hard cold diamonds, scattered over dirty velvet. “That’s Santa Luz.”
I know that. I lifted the bottle to my mouth, waited for him to make his point.
He waited a beat, as if he’d expected me to say something, then went on. “Every single innocent soul down in that valley is pulling on you from one direction. And I’m pulling from the other. How long is it going to be before we tear you in half?”
Is that what you think? That you’re on different sides? The vodka burned my mouth. I swallowed. Dried blood crackled on my skin. “You’re wrong. You both pull me in the same direction, Saul. The only thing pulling on the other side is…this. The things I’m trained to do. I commit murder every night. Several times, if everything’s hopping and the breed are uppity.” It was a night for uncomfortable truths. I would have expected us to be halfway to a screaming match by now. “Sometimes I wonder what makes me different from them.” It was my turn to wait before giving him the answer. “Then I realize it’s you.”
I wanted to get it all out. “I’m scared, Saul. I can’t retire. This is the only thing I know how to do. The only thing I’m capable of. And if something happens to you, I am going to end up worse than the hellspawn. Because I won’t care.”
Silence, then, between us. I lifted the bottle, let a thin stream dip from it and plash on the headstone. None of us would get drunk—my helltainted metabolism ran too fast, and Weres burn through alcohol like it’s sugar.
And Mikhail? He wasn’t even here. It was just a stone I poured hooch on to make myself feel better.
Most of the time I was glad he was sleeping soundly. Because if he wasn’t I would have to make him. Then there were the other times, when I almost didn’t care.
I wanted him back.
Saul was very still, the charms in his hair glinting. “I wouldn’t take the Long Road without you, Jill.” Quietly, stubbornly. “Not even you could make me do that.”
Sometimes talking to him felt like a cardiac arrest, like my heart was literally stopping. Or just hurting. What do you do when you love someone so much your body does that? You can’t fight it, you can’t shoot it, you can’t do anything but let it happen. “I don’t want to push my luck.”
He stepped close. Paused. Stepped closer. His arm came over my shoulders, and the tension went out of me. I leaned into him, filth and dried blood making small crinkling sounds as my head dropped down. Silver chimed as charms hit each other, and I saw the red glow of the Talisman on my chest had muted to a glimmer. It faded as I leaned into him.
He let out a soft sigh. “It’s not luck. I chose this, and so did you. We made a decision. Even if you let go, kitten, I’m still holding on.”
A hot bubble rose up in my chest. It was a scream. I had to work to keep it locked down, swallowing several times. “Saul?” Again, the high breathless voice. I sounded fifteen again. And terrified.
I did. Heard nothing but the breeze in the trees, whispering over the well-watered grass. Traffic in the distance. My heartbeat, a song in my ears. Silver clinking a little as Saul moved, lifting his chin.
“I’ll go to Galina’s.” Quietly. His arm tightened around me.
Oh, thank God. “Thank—”
“Someone has to look after Gilberto. You’ve sent Hutch there too, I presume?”
I nodded. He could feel the movement against his shoulder. I reeked. He smelled of healthy cat Were, the dry-oily, slightly spicy tang of a brunet male. “Saul—”
“Don’t thank me, Jill. I’m doing this for your peace of mind. I’ll stay there for a day or so, but then I’m back on the job with you. It’s a compromise.”
Yeah, Weres are all about compromise. When you have big claws and teeth, I suppose it’s for the best. Anyway, that’s one of my very favorite scenes between those two crazy kids. Hope you liked it, and be sure to check out the other Dames’ snippets this week!
Over and out.